March 21, 2008



Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269
Summer Egan, University Relations, 657-2266


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Fourteen members of the Montana State University Billings faculty will be honored next week for excellence in teaching, research and service to the community during a special celebration in their honor.

The annual MSU Billings Faculty Excellence Awards celebration will be held Thursday, March 27, 2008 at the Student Union Building ballroom. Events start with a reception at 5:30 p.m. and dinner at 6 p.m.

Faculty and students from across the university will be joined by community leaders and others to honor 14 faculty members for achievement.  In addition, dozens of other faculty members will be recognized for their years of service.

Those to be honored are Dr. Barbara Wheeling, assistant professor of accounting; Ms. Brenda Dockery, a part-time marketing instructor and assistant director for the university’s Center for Business Enterprise; Dr. Rachel Shaffer, professor of English; Dr. Steven Wiles, assistant professor of biological and physical sciences; Dr. James Barron, assistant professor of biology; Ms. Susan Baack, English and communications instructor; Ms. Tami Haaland, assistant of English; Ms. Patricia Holman, adjunct professor of business and marketing; and Dr. Stuart Snyder, assistant professor of physics.

Profiles of those to be recognized follow:



Dr. Barbara M. Wheeling
Assistant Professor in Accounting
College of Business
Faculty Excellence Achievement Award

Barbara WheelingIn just four years, Dr. Barbara M. Wheeling has made a significant impact on her students and colleagues at the College of Business. Her students consistently rate her between “Above Average” and “One of the Best.” According to one of her colleagues, “her best quality is that when she accepts a task, which she often does, she does an outstanding job”.


Recently, Wheeling published a groundbreaking textbook entitled, “Introduction to Agricultural Accounting,” which is the first of its kind. The book is directed toward students interested in agricultural business. “This book wasn’t about making money,” she says. “It was about making a contribution”. In addition to authoring the book, she prepared instructional materials, including more than 300 PowerPoint slides and 700 exam questions.


Colleagues view Dr. Wheeling as an expert in assessment, and point to her role in the college’s quest to gain elite accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). After attending numerous AACSB conferences, Wheeling worked with business faculty members and developed a new assessment plan, including rubrics, an alignment matrix and details for collecting assessment data.


Wheeling loves working with students, especially mentoring them for the American Indian Business Leaders competition or helping them identify their own best learning style.

She takes great pride in this recognition of her teaching and research efforts. “It feels good to know that I’m making an impact, inspiring others, and that I’m helping”, she says.



Brenda B. Dockery
Marketing Instructor, Assistant Director of the Center for Business Enterprise
College of Business
Excellence Award for Non-Tenured Faculty

Brenda DockeryBrenda Dockery’s students look forward to class—especially to the touch of curiosity, mystery, and excitement Dockery builds into every lesson. Whether it’s teaching the understanding of market perception using fake eggs, pretending to be a student in order to convey the definition of a gatekeeper, or employing mystery shopping to illustrate marketing research, Dockery frequently adds an element of surprise to her classes to keep her students on their toes.


“Theory is great in books, but life doesn’t happen that way. I choose to give them a real life experience,” she writes in her teaching philosophy. In one of her class projects, students practice making cold calls, while benefiting the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life fundraising event. “Largely due to the cold calling skills and persistence of her students, the number of sponsor teams increased from 165 to 204 in just a year—an outstanding performance,” notes department chair, Mike Campbell in a support letter.


Dockery instills in her students the importance of having passion in everything they do. “Ms. Dockery encouraged each of us to grow as individuals, focusing on our strengths, consistently providing feedback, and providing a non-threatening forum for us to explore our potential as salespeople,” a former student says. 


Dr. Rachel Schaffer
Professor of English
College of Arts and Sciences
Faculty Excellence Achievement Award

Rachel SchafferFor some faculty members, a sabbatical is a time for rest. For Dr. Rachel Schaffer, her sabbatical was a time to produce eight articles and reviews, one of which will soon appear in an international anthology on mystery writer Minette Walters.


To say that Schaffer loves mystery fiction is an understatement. Currently, she is on the editorial board for CLUES: A Journal of Detection and is a lifetime member of the Popular Culture Association. “Dr. Schaffer is a popular and dedicated member of the crime and mystery international scholarly community. Her work is marked by integrity and enthusiasm in addition to a breadth and depth of knowledge,” says Margaret Kinsman, Executive Director of CLUES.

Schaffer also contributes immensely to her students and the campus community. “She is celebrating her 20th anniversary as an advisor to the English honor society, Sigma Tau Delta, and she oversees two major projects each year—Writers Roundup which funds textbook scholarships, and the spring campus poetry contest,” twin sister and colleague Dr. Deborah Schaffer writes in a support letter. She enjoys giving her students the opportunity to be published and calls the experience “thrilling”.


Although described by students as a “tough” grader, a former student comments that she also “makes me want to work harder, and I’m more appreciative of my successes.” With lots of humor and goofy examples, Dr. Rachel Schaffer has developed an exciting way to bring her English courses to life.



Dr. Steve A. Wiles
Assistant Professor
Biological and Physical Science
Excellence Award for Non-Tenured Faculty

Steve WilesDr. Steve Wiles encourages his students to not only answer the question, but more importantly, to question the answer. “My primary objective as a teacher is to teach students how to learn,” Wiles says of his teaching philosophy. He instills skepticism and curiosity, which motivates his physics and chemistry students to want to learn.


“He teaches a remarkable diversity of rigorous courses,” Biological and Physical Sciences Department Chair Stan Wiatr said. Due to his versatility, Wiles has molded the minds of students in both chemistry and physics and at varying academic levels. He approaches each class with high energy, meaningful lessons, and resources so that his students will have the intellectual tools to prepare them for anything they may face in the future.


Determined to help each individual student learn, Dr. Wiles tries to put himself in their shoes when planning his lessons. “This allows me the opportunity not only to see things from their perspective, but also to identify weak points in my plans,” he notes. Students appreciate his devotion toward their learning and his passion for building their confidence in such difficult subjects as physics and chemistry. One student says, “Dr. Wiles is a very caring and enthusiastic instructor. He has helped me enjoy learning a subject I had feared for many years”.



Dr. James Barron
Assistant Professor of Biology
College of Arts and Sciences
Winston & Helen Cox Fellowship Award for excellence in College of Arts & Sciences

James BarronAlthough his title is professor of biology, many people know Dr. James Barron as the “Professor of Creepy Crawly Things.” Whether it’s lizards, fish or scorpions, Dr. Barron is always getting down and dirty to collect his data. Currently he’s working with a high school science teacher to investigate the population ecology of the short-horned lizard in Montana.


The research cannot be found in a textbook. Rather, he’s exploring the western side of the Pryor Mountains for up to 40 hours a week during the summer looking for these creatures. “Although it’s labor intensive, I’m willing to go the extra mile to collect this unique data,” Barron says. The research was supported by an MSU Billings Research and Creative Endeavors (RACE) Grant and an external grant from the M.J. Murdock Trust.


When he isn’t knee deep in research, Barron is advocating for the university and for his students. He is co-chair of the Advising Task Force and works closely with Rita Kratky, director of advising, in making student advising more efficient and more effective. Because of their efforts, many students now look forward to Advising Week, when they can meet with their advisors and plan their schedules.


When Barron was elected president of the Montana Academy of Sciences last year, he didn’t see it as just an opportunity for himself.


He quickly found ways to involve his students; one of them presented a poster at the Montana Academy of Sciences in 2005. “I believe hands-on scientific experience, whether through actual research projects or simulated laboratory exercises, is one of the best ways to teach science,” he says of his teaching philosophy.



Susan Baack
Instructor, English & Communication
College of Technology
College of Technology Leadership Award

Susan BaackIf there was one perfect job description for Susan Baack it would be that of “leader.” Her colleagues describe her as articulate, elegant, tireless and one who has blazed a path for the rest to follow.


As a leader at the College of Technology she has taken many “first steps.” She was the first COT faculty member to be granted a sabbatical, the first to use assessment software as a component in a course, the first to instruct an online course, the first to create, maintain, and teach from a faculty website and the first to serve as advisor to the COT component of the Associated Students of MSU Billings.


In whatever role she is placed in, “she accepts the challenges and works positively to channel everyone’s energies toward productive results,” notes colleague Barb Pedula in a nomination letter.


When she isn’t serving as liaison for the Continuous Quality Improvement/Northwest Accreditation committee, or participating in college meetings, Baack is busy developing new initiatives such as enhanced email access for her students and recycling programs for the campus.


As a teacher, she strives for good rapport and interaction with students. “All the things we do in class are realistic and based on real-life experience. I want my students to see how they’ve grown in my classes, and I feel good when they’re proud of themselves,” Baack says, expressing her passion for teaching.



Tami Haaland
Assistant Professor, English and Philosophy
College of Arts and Sciences
Faculty Excellence Achievement Award

Dream big and be open to possibilities. Those are qualities Tami Haaland seeks to instill in her students. She serves as a perfect role model for those attributes in all that she has accomplished.


According to Tasneem Khaleel, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, “Haaland is an outstanding teacher, a nationally recognized poet, a valued colleague, and an impressive contributing member of the academic community.”


Haaland’s book of poems, “Breath in Every Room,” has been collected by 73 libraries and was recently listed in the “Recommended Books of Poetry” in American Poetry Now. She was awarded the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize for the book, which was published in 2001.


In addition to her book, Haaland has published 36 poems, some of which are included in “Letters to the World: An International Women’s Poetry Anthology” and “Montana Women’s Anthology: Geography of the Heart.” She collaborated with the state’s first poet laureate, Sandra Alcosser, to create an anthology of Montana poets, and she is currently researching statewide poets to establish a website documentating Montana’s poetry.


Haaland has an inner drive to inspire her students to see the opportunities that can come from studying English. “Tami got me interested again in English. I would really like to thank her for being such a great, enthusiastic instructor,” a former student says.


Several of her students have written reviews for The Billings Gazetteand others look forward to compiling their own anthologies.



Ms. Patricia Holman MS, MBA
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Business/Marketing
College of Business
Excellence Award for Non-Tenured Faculty

Pat Holman“In a perfect world, what do you want to be doing the year after graduating from MSU Billings?” Ms. Holman asks every student she advises. After a few minutes she is able to direct them in their coursework, resume preparation and internship possibilities.


After serving on the College of Business advisory board for ten years and interacting with businesses throughout Billings, she can make a quick phone call to place students into an internship they are truly passionate about.


Holman’s passion for students extends further into the College of Business where she serves on eight committees, including the Scholarship Committee and Academic Programs Committee. “Online education is a hallmark of MSU Billings’ academic programs and I’m proud to have been one of the pioneers in the effort,” she says.


One of her significant milestones is the development and teaching of the first two College of Business online courses. In 2005, students from Holman’s Applied Business Decisions class won an international business simulation competition, and another one of her students won in the spring 2006 competition.


Completing the circle of being a well-rounded instructor, Ms. Holman recently received the Gold Award for Best Case for the “Custom Rides” case, co-authored with Dr. Tom Hinthorne. Together, the two have published numerous pieces in the Case Research Journal, which accepts only 16 percent of its submissions.

Dr. Stuart C. Snyder
Assistant Professor of Physics
College of Arts and Sciences
Faculty Excellence Achievement Award

Stuart SnyderSince the fourth grade, Dr. Stuart Snyder knew he wanted to be a scientist. Now, eight years after joining the MSU Billings science faculty, he has become a pioneer, a leader, and a professor admired and respected by students.


Among his many accomplishments, Snyder established the first MSUB research program in experimental physics. His research, as part of the Montana Platinum Research Initiative, uses a new high-powered state-of-the-art laser spectroscopy laboratory to study platinum group elements.


Another project he directs, called BOREALIS, is a visual documentary of undergraduate student participation in experimental physics. Since fall 2002, this student-driven program has provided 24 students the opportunity to engage in laser-based research—and it has stimulated interest in the study of atmospheric science.


“Dr. Snyder has an impressive list of publications and a patent for Ambient Method and Apparatus for Rapid Laser Trace Constituent Analysis,” notes Dr. Tasneem Khaleel, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in a nomination letter.


Snyder said he feels at home at MSU Billings. “Physics is a difficult class for many students. If I can increase their awareness of the importance of physics, stimulate their intellectual growth, and actually convince them that physics is fascinating, then I feel that I have had a positive impact on them that lasts for a lifetime,” he says.


Faculty members to be honored by the Associated Students of Montana State University Billings with Outstanding Faculty Awards are Mr. Tom Dell, university lecturer in rehabilitation and human services; Mr. Brian Gurney, adjunct instructor in management; Dr. Dixie Metheny, professor of educational theory and practice; Dr. Susan Balter-Reitz, associate professor of communications; and Mr. Jim Hughes, instructor in process plant technology.



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