Neighbors and Neighborhoods is a week-long series of lectures, concerts, presentations, community engagements and conversations between Billings neighbors on pressing issues facing our city as we seek solutions to issues that affect all of us. By utilizing various voices and traditions, both from our region and from afar, the Symposium will focus on five areas that unite all of us in the Billings community. The five broad themes of Education, Culture, Civic Engagement (Democracy, Civil Society), Billings Ethnic Diversity, and Human Security will be explored from multiple perspectives with the goal of fostering a better understanding of what Billings, our home, can offer the world and what the world can teach us.

Each day during the week, the Symposium will hold sessions in small groups across the city, in our schools and institutions, culminating in larger community events open and free to all. The goal is to create the space and opportunity for far-reaching conversations between neighbors and to bring in outside voices to share their experiences with us.  The overarching goal is to remember, re-create and celebrate the feeling of neighborly-ness beginning with cross-the-garden, front-porch conversations between neighbors. The organizers great desire is tie into existing community organizations and pave a path toward action and results.


Wednesday April 10th

6:00-8:00pm – A Discussion On Global Affairs – at MSU Billings Library Room 148 – United States Ambassador to Slovak Republic, Gautam Rana, speaks on US foreign policy, followed by Q&A. Facebook Event Page

Thursday, April 11th

Noon-1:30pm – Exploration of Careers in U.S. & Foreign Service – at MSU Billings SUB Banquet A & B – Ambassador Rana and local representatives from the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps will speak with students about exciting career opportunities in U.S. governmental and non-governmental organizations. 

6:00-8:00pm – Education Roundtable – at Great Room at Rocky Mountain College – Moderated discussion on international and global aspects of education in Billings, from K-12 to college/university level. Dr. Paul M. Foster, Executive Director of International Studies at MSU Billings will lead a discussion with the Honorable Gautam Rana, US Ambassador to Slovakia, Montana State University Billings Chancellor Dr. Stefani Hicswa, Rocky Mountain College President Dr. Bob Wilmouth, Billings Mayor Bill Cole and School District 2 Superintendent Dr. Erwin Garcia. The discussion will center on the skills, knowledge and know-how that our students need to compete in the global market place of jobs and ideas. The conversation will also cover such areas as education and civil society, bi-lingual education, diversity and education and how our local education environment is reacting to global disruptors in education.

Friday April 12th

– Mayor’s World Language Dinner (registration full)

Saturday April 13th

7:00-9:00pm – Concert in Cisel Hall at MSU-Billings – Jozef Luptak, Boris Lenko, and Brano Dugovic concert

Monday April 15th

4:00-6:00pm – Guided Exhibit Tour – at Western Heritage Center – Private tour of national touring exhibit Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories

6:30-8:30pm – Concert – at Yellowstone Art Museum – Jozef Luptak, Boris Lenko, and Brano Dugovic concert

Tuesday April 16th

5:30pm – Cultural Networking Event – in Glacier Room at MSU Billings – Presentation of Sarah Keller’s Roma film, followed by short panel discussion and a “Meet Your Neighbors” cultural networking event – Registration necessary – Register for Free Here


For a week in April, Billings will celebrate Neighbors and Neighborhoods.

When Marilyn and I were first married we lived at 2139 Custer Avenue. Orla Taylor lived a few houses down. Her kids were older than ours – they were in school – and occasionally when she was going to run errands, she would call Marilyn and they would pack up our two kids and off they would go. She became a wonderful friend. Next door was another young couple, and he was a fisherman, and we would go out at night in the rain and collect nightcrawlers from the yard and on Saturday hit the Yellowstone.

On the other side was a couple we called “Grama and Grampa”, who were special to the neighborhood. One day our son Patrick, two years old, was pulling his wagon up and down the sidewalk when he stopped, rang their doorbell and said “I need some rope”. A few minutes later he had rope tried to his wagon. On Halloween the 2100 block of Custer was the safest street in the world to Trick or Treat.

I suppose we all have memories of neighbors and neighborhoods where we sat around the kitchen table and told stories and laughed and just visited. We didn’t agree on everything, and sometimes the disagreements would get spirited, but it was never the end of the world. Sometimes we even learned a little something. And I don’t ever remember a disagreement where there was not in the back of my mind the possibility that I was the one who was wrong. For a week in April, Billings will celebrate Neighbors and Neighborhoods. We will get know some new interesting people from around town, and from neighborhoods 8,000 miles away. There will be lectures, concerts, presentations, community engagements and conversations over five broad themes – Education, Culture, Civic Engagement (Democracy, Civil Society), Billings Ethnic Diversity, and Human Security (Jobs, Economy?)

On April 12 the Billings World Language Dinner will celebrate the many languages spoken in our town – last year there were 42! Musical guests will be Jozef Luptak, Boris Lenko, and Brano       , from Bratislava, Slovakia. A special guest that evening will be Ambassador Gautam Rana, the Ambassador of the United States to the Slovak Republic.

You will meet and visit with Bob Wilmouth – President of Rocky Mountain College, Stefani Hicswa – Chancelor of Montana State University – Billings, and Dr Erwin Garcia – SD II Superintendent of Schools. We will meet former Peace Corps Volunteers, current AmeriCorps Vista Volunteers, and other of our neighbors.

The goal for the week is to remember what it was like to visit with neighbors across the fence and on the front porch. And recreate that feeling with new neighbors just as interesting and just as much fun, even though today we look or sound a little different. Neighbors across the street, across town, and even around the world.

 – Bill Simmons