Ride the Talk: MT to MN

About the MA Program


Consider it decided. I’m committed. The ball’s rolling.

Beginning in September, I will ride 1000+ miles from Montana to Minnesota as an effort to raise need-based scholarship money for the fully online Sustainable Design program that I direct at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) as well as to raise awareness about sustainability challenges and opportunities that we face today.

I’ll be taking my old-school, circa 1982, silver-blue 310 Miyata -who I affectionately call “Sky”- on the journey with me. (Well, actually, it will be taking me.) I think it’s always been ready; me, not so much. We have made a few long weekend trips together, including completing the recent RATPOD (Ride Around the Pioneers in One Day) out of Dillion, Montana. RATPOD a beautiful ride through the Pioneer mountains that 650 riders raise money to help send kids that are battling cancer or cancer survivors to Camp Mak-A-Dream. This ride and the thrill of riding for a purpose inspired me to make this longer ride from MT to MN this fall.

So, why Montana to Minnesota? Because the program I direct (and teach within) is 100% online, I have the luxury of living and telecommuting from wherever I want (thanks to my incredibly supportive bosses!). I make my home and strive to live a sustainable life in Missoula, Montana. Just one of the examples of how MCAD is a progressive school. Imagine, a program director that not only telecommutes but can live anywhere? Pretty amazing and the situation affords me the opportunity to make sustainable life choices. I grow and preserve most of my own food, am an all-season bicyclist, and am able to connect with nature on a daily basis.

Anyhow, each semester I travel to Minneapolis for in-person meetings with my colleagues and other design faculty members at MCAD. Each time I make the journey I am disheartened by the ecological impact this trip makes. Then it dawned on me…I could really “walk the talk” or, in this case, ride the talk by getting on my bicycle and pedaling my way to work this fall semester. The “commute” would be a very long one but I am confident I can make the fully self-contained and unsupported journey with the right gear. I have been soliciting specific gear donations to support my ride (see a list of amazing contributors below) but all financial donations will go 100% to student scholarships which I am raising through my Ride the Talk: MT to MN Indie Go-Go Campaign.

I see this journey as a stellar opportunity to raise awareness about current issues in sustainability, to create a platform to discuss the power of making personal commitments that lead to a sustainable life, and to do something to help to raise money for need-based scholarships for students that are devoted to creating innovative product and service designs that focus on solving sustainability challenges that face humanity today.

Butterflies in the belly.

I’m a bit nervous about riding solo for so many miles (will I make myself crazy? where will I pitch my tent exactly?), about my bike breaking down in the middle of no where (how do I adjust a derailer again? how many spare tubes to carry?), and about being able to finish (um, how many miles left? how many hundred?). I am excited about what I’ll learn about sustainability and patience along the way, what I’ll see, who I’ll meet, and the potential to raise enough scholarship money to help new students join the Sustainable Design Online program at MCAD that would otherwise be unable to attend.

Stay tuned for updates!


Adventure Cycling: Missoula, MT

Alchemy Goods: Seattle, WA

Backcountry Boiler: Pittsburg, PA

Baladeo: Bagnolet, France

Bike Doctor: Missoula, MT

Bike Fixtation: Minneapolis, MN

Good Food Store: Missoula, MT

Hellgate Cyclery: Missoula, MT

Mike McDonald: Corvallis, OR

Nice Ride: Minneapolis, MN

Pacific Outdoor Equipment: Bozeman, MT

Teko: Boulder, CO

Bike tire image courtesy of Flickr CC @oedipusphinx- – – – theJWDban

Cindy Gilbert

Cindy Gilbert is the founding director of MCAD’s Sustainable Design program which is home to the fully online, multidisciplinary MA in Sustainable Design (MASD) that is the first of its kind in the world. In this role, she fosters a culture of awareness and creativity through sustainable, innovative and collaborative design. The MASD program blends theory, practice and leadership into a holistic, hands-on learning experience that culminates in student-driven thesis work that brings novel, sustainability-focused products and services to fruition.

Cindy has taught numerous courses and workshops, around the world and online, in the fields of biology, sustainability and biomimicry. She is founder of a consultancy that specializes in innovative online and sustainability education projects with recent clients that include VentureWell, the Biomimicry Institute, the University of Montana, Canvas.net, GeekPuff, and the Green Building Research Institute. Most recently, she served for nearly four years as the founding director of university education at the Biomimicry Institute where she developed and managed all higher education programs, including the biomimicry professional certification program, annual biomimicry education summits, biomimicry affiliate and fellows programs, and biomimicry design challenges. Cindy is based in Montana.