Gems Lecturer Biographies


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Dr. Tom Nurmi


Dr. Tom Nurmi is an Assistant Professor of English in the Department of English, Philosophy and Modern Languages at MSU Billings, where he teaches American and world literatures as well as courses for the Environmental Studies and Native American Studies & programs. Professor Nurmi specializes in nineteenth-century American literature, and his most recent book, Melville and Ecology, is forthcoming in 2020 from the University of Virginia Press.


Mr. Kelly McCoy


Mr. Kelly McCoy (retired) is a 25-year veteran of the fire service.  He has held the rank of firefighter, paramedic, captain, battalion chief, and division chief.  He retired in 2015, having worked in Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona regional fire department systems. He received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Northern Arizona University, including graduate work in philosophy from Holy Apostles College & Seminary. He is an international Chief Training Officer, graduate of the US National Fire Academy, and 2013 Firefighters Beyond Borders, Israel, delegate.  Additionally, he holds several state and national certifications.  Mr. McCoy is Program Director of Fire Science at City College and teaches Firefighter Resilience, Ethics, and Leadership, in addition to entry-level courses in fire and emergency services.


Dr. Jeffrey M. Willardson


Dr. Jeffrey M. Willardson is an Assistant Professor in the Health and Human Performance Department and teaches the Biomechanics, Exercise Physiology, Kinesiology, and Research Methods courses. He was raised in the town of Wellsville Utah and received Bachelors and Masters degrees with an emphasis in Exercise Science from Utah State University.  He then received a Ph.D. with an emphasis in Exercise and Wellness from Arizona State University and was awarded the Outstanding Graduating Doctoral Scholar. He has since authored or coauthored over 90 scientific manuscripts examining different aspects of weight training for improving health and athletic performance. Dr. Willardson has presented nationally and internationally; including on four separate occasions in various cities across the country of Brazil.  He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association and serves as an Education Board Member for the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association.  In his free time, Dr. Willardson enjoys family activities with his wife and four children.


Mr. Brian Gurney


Mr. Gurney graduated from the University of Colorado with a BSBA in Production Operations and an MBA in Information Systems. His post graduate professional experience was primarily in computerized quality control for components produced for assembly in prototype mainframe computers for IBM. He was offered an opportunity to be the Lead Researcher under a contract funded by NASA and the University of Colorado to document and publish the “best practices” for technology transfer. Upon return to Montana, he was employed to manage large projects, including personnel, materials and budgets, for numerous mining clients in the western U.S. He returned to higher education in 1999 as an adjunct assistant professor in Operations Management and Project Management. He has served as principal investigator of four energy projects in the last decade. His clients have included Montana-Dakota Utilities, Stillwater Mining Company and the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers. The emphasis of the current research stream is cyber security for infrastructure. This resulted in a new cyber security course at MSUB.


Dr. Christopher Harrison


Dr. Christopher Harrison is an Assistant Professor of Educational Theory and Practice at Montana State University – Billings. Dr. Harrison received his Ph.D. in Education, focused on leadership, policy, and school improvement, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research interests center on understanding the ways that schools and districts leverage information as they develop, implement, and scale policies and practices. In addition, Dr. Harrison studies the politics of education – in particular, the politics surrounding teacher compensation, evaluation, and contracting reform.