University Relations and Communications

MSU Billings faculty honored for excellence in teaching, service, scholarship

March 16, 2009


Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Eight members of the Montana State University Billings faculty have been honored for excellence in teaching, research and service to the community during a special celebration in their honor.


Nearly 300 people attended the annual MSU Billings Faculty Excellence Awards celebration on Friday, March 13at the MSU Billings Student Union Building ballroom.  Faculty and students from across the university were joined by community and business leaders to honor the eight faculty members for their achievement. 


Those who were honored by nomination from fellow faculty members, deans and others were Dr. Lisa Kemmerer, assistant professor of philosophy; Mr. Brian Gurney, adjunct professor of management; Ms. Melinda Tilton, lecturer of communications and theater; Ms. Kathleen Hansen, adjunct faculty member in music; Mr. Tim Urbaniak, instructor of drafting and design; Ms. Dorothea Cromley, professor of music; Dr. Sarah Keller, associate professor of communication and theater; Dr. Ken Miller, professor of education theory and practice.


Profiles of each faculty member follow.


Lisa KemmererDr. Lisa Kemmerer
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
College of Arts and Sciences
Winston & Helen Cox Fellowship Award


Philosophy Professor Lisa Kemmerer could be best described as a world-class ambassador. She has traveled through 35 different countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and South America to get a real sense and feel for what different cultures around the globe have to offer in terms of beliefs, lifestyles, philosophies, religions, cultural roots and customs.


“I would not be who I am if not for my early travels,” she says. “It was on these trips that I seriously began to explore religions.”


Kemmerer takes her job to a different level.  To her, the best part of teaching is all of the great ideas that her students come up with. “Ideas can help re-envision their culture.” Kemmerer said she believes that working, challenging and questioning her students about controversial issues are all things that help them see society more clearly.


Students who take her philosophy, ethics and eastern religion courses know that they are learning from one of the university’s finest faculty members.


“I encourage all my students to express themselves, to share different experiences and feelings, so that together we can try to see things they have not seen before,” she said. 


 When she is not offering interesting issues for classroom discussion or getting ready to pack bags to explore mother earth, Lisa focuses on her writing and publications. She has published 29 articles, 24 book reviews, six chapters in books, two books and has eight books in progress.



Brian GurneyMr. Brian Gurney
Adjunct instructor of management
College Business
Excellence Award for Contract Faculty



Brian Gurney takes a real-world approach to teaching. In fact, it is so ingrained in his Project Management classes in the College of Business that students are able to hit the ground running upon graduation.


From reviewing proposals, budgets, reports and communicate strategies — often via e-mail only — Gurney wants each student to be prepared for success.


“Once employers see students being so well-prepared for the business world, this will immediately have a very positive reflection on us,” he said.  


When his students take that first step into the classroom, they know that at the end of each class they will have a strong sense of how it feels to manage their own business project. Students are given a six periods of class to carefully structure their projects’ tasks, durations, dates and costs. “Students rave about his classes and consider his Project Management course as one of cornerstones to their real education in business,” says Gary Amundson in a nomination letter.


“The core of my teaching philosophy is to introduce the material/topics as presented in the text and take those topics to an applied setting,” said Gurney.


When not in the classroom, Brian works on his research and energy-related projects. He has written and managed over $2.4 million in projects as of May 2009. He has teamed up with Montana Dakota Resources, Stillwater Mine, Plug Power in New York, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Reserve on applied fuel cell research.


Gurney takes great pride in what he does for students and companies interested in his research. “I want students to have a passion for whatever it is that they are doing, so that they can truly have a positive impact in their field.”



Melinda TiltonMs. Melinda Tilton
University lecturer in communication and theater
College of Arts and Sciences
Excellence Award for Contract Faculty



Melinda Tilton cares so much about each of her students, that as soon as she walks into the classroom her primary goal is to immediately establish a common ground so that she can begin to build a personal relationship with each student.


“I always ask myself, ‘What it is that can I do to make my teaching more relevant?’ ” she said.  


Tilton firmly believes in Confucius’ wisdom: “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.”  Her teaching  philosophy states that the more she engages students and challenge them to be active participants in the collaborative learning process, the more they learn; relationships are improved , communication apprehension us reduced, mindfulness increases and students are more willing to embrace diversity. 


“I set high standards for myself and my students. I work diligently to ensure that the objectives, guidelines, evaluation criterion, and desired outcomes are very clearly communicated in all my classes,” she said.


Her passion for teaching communication has allowed her carry out her instructing skills to the University of Montana School of Law Advanced Trial Advocacy class, where students focus on academic materials on communications and trial practice. Throughout the course, students also study different topics including jury selection, opening statements, direct and cross examination of fact and expert witnesses, and closing statements.


“More than 500 Montana Lawyers are better serving their clients because of the education they have received from Tilton and her colleagues for nearly 20 years” commented E. Edwin Eck, the Dean of the School of Law at the University of Montana.


Determined and confident about each of her student goals, Tilton said she takes pride in making sure she fulfills expectations as a University Lecturer. “ I currently teach 11 to 12 classes per  year, all of them are lower division classes, which means that most often I have anywhere from 25-35 students on each class — and I enjoy every moment of it.”



Kathleen HansenMs. Kathleen Hansen
Adjunct faculty, Department of Music
College of Arts and Sciences
Excellence Award for Part-Time Faculty



All Kathleen Hansen wants and expects out of her students is for them to find their limits and push beyond them while being at peace following their own bliss.


Before implementing and carefully instructing each of her music students perhaps what is known as the one of the most fundamental concepts in music theory the “Circle of Fifths,” Hansen fully engages herself into her very own philosophy of teaching: the ‘Circle of Joy.’


“Educators must love what they do. They must be nourished and enriched by it. With a joyous attitude in their teaching, educators inspire enthusiasm in their students,” she said.


Hansen said she sees music instruction as a means of building personal relationships with her students. “Above and beyond everything else is the necessity for educators to listen to their students, to understand what they think and how they perceive the world. Only then may an educator actually teach something of value.” 


More than just a music teacher, Hansen said she sees herself as a diversity advocate. She sees one of the most important functions of an educator is to help students see past their cultural biases. According to her philosophy of teaching, students must understand that as adults they will have to participate in such a world.


“Presenting other cultural views and requiring students to respect ideals and customs foreign to their own personal experience may be challenging and difficult for students to accept,” she said. “Yet, the necessity for understanding one’s role in a multi-cultural society, one that includes compassion and a vision of shared humanity, is imperative for flourishing national and global communities.”



Tim UrbaniakMr. Tim Urbaniak
Instructor of drafting and design technology
College of Technology
College of Technology Leadership Award


“If you can believe it, you can pursue it,” Tim Urbaniak tells his Drafting and Design 228 Advanced Project students at the beginning of each semester. 


To some of them at first, this may seem a rather confusing, yet powerful statement. Though often they do not know it at the time, they will eventually have a hand in creating models to real-life infrastructure and other projects for various community-based entities around the state.


Through Urbaniak’s interest in research and technological synthesis across disciplines, he has encouraged students to apply cutting-edge technologies to different projects such as the Belgrade Emergency Response Project; the Lisa/Colter Inscription Shelter; the Jesse Elliott Station; the Billings Community Development Mapping Project; and the Drafting and Design Relocation Remodel.


Urbaniak is also responsible for having applied for the Save America’s Treasures Grant, to document Historic Inscriptions on the Northern Plains. Through this grant, students in the Drafting & Design Technologies program at the MSU Billings College of Technology were able to use some of the $65,400 for state-of-the-art equipment that benefited their education.


He says that “the thing about technology and what makes it so unique is the fact that it changes a lot, changes fast and it is never boring. It keeps all of us very interested in the field; which at the end, it creates great opportunities for the students of this department.”



""Ms. Dorothea Cromley
Professor of Music
College of Arts and Sciences
Faculty Excellence Achievement Award


If there was one perfect word to describe Dorothea Cromley’s interaction with her students, it would be “family.”


In her 30th year working as a faculty member at Montana State University Billings, Cromley has excelled at giving the music department a home feeling to anyone who walks into Cisel Hall.  Her professional vita resembles impressive notions of accomplishments that is a perfect complement to her personal touch in assisting students. She has performed solo recitals in major cities in the Midwest as well as major cities in Italy. She has also participated as a soloist with the Chicago, Milwaukee, Florence and Billings symphonies.


Besides appearing frequently as a performer, clinician and adjudicator, Cromley has enjoyed a great deal of success with her teaching. Her students have won local, regional, national and international competitions, honors and awards. In addition to her teaching, performing, and related activities, Dorothea has published articles discussing the role of women in music and presented numerous workshops and clinics on women performers.


Former Faculty member, retired Professor Gary Behm, comments on Dorothea’s natural teaching endeavor and the love she offers to each of her students “For years she has taught her piano students, without credit or remuneration, throughout the summer months, winter holidays and nearly every weekend. She does so because she feels that it is necessary for the development these young pianist’s talents. To me this demonstrates an incredible commitment to her students, and by extension, to the department and university.”



Sarah KellerDr. Sarah Keller
Associate professor of communication and theater
College of Arts and Sciences
Faculty Excellence Achievement Award


Sarah Keller has a very goal-oriented mindset. Her strong will of providing leadership and encouraging each of her students to make a change and leave an immediate positive impact in the community; is almost as great as her willingness to finish a 50-kilometer running race. She has accomplished both the former and the latter.


Among the wide array of scholarly accomplishments Sarah has achieved along her professional career, perhaps two of her most important are the creation and development of the Communication & Theater Department’s newest courses Media for Social Change and Health Communication. 


With the help and input from students, Keller has been able to launch four major health campaigns in the Billings area.


“These two courses have collectively produced four mass media campaigns (with a fifth under way) to promote different public and health behavior and attitude change objectives,” she said.


Those campaigns are “Get Tested” to promote HIV testing; “Open Your Eyes” to promote awareness of domestic violence; “Go Play” to promote trails and bikeways; “Go Play!” to prevent childhood obesity and global warming and ‘Go Play Seniors’ to promote senior citizen health.


“Many students here have intact talent, interest and potential, especially those who fully engage themselves in the different social marketing campaigns,” she said.


On his recommendation letter, Keller’s colleague Dr. Steve Coffman adds “She comes to class very well prepared, creatively teaches current material, obviously has great rapport with her students and clearly presents material. Dr. Keller is a demanding, fair, approachable instructor who clearly is deeply involved in her subject matter.”



Ken MillerDr. Ken Miller
Professor education theory and practice
College of Education
Faculty Excellence Achievement Award


Ken Miller doesn’t take teaching lightly. After having been involved in the teaching world for over 30 years, his primary focus has not changed from that of day one: “It is my responsibility to not only maintain an atmosphere in which learning is possible, but to create a classroom in which students can direct their own learning process.”


Miller took an unusual approach to becoming a role-model caliber college professor of education. He taught in the public school sector for 15 years, when he decided it was time for him to become the teacher of future teachers.


“Teaching for that long in the public schools required that I not only teach the content, but that I reach out and change the lives of children,” he said. “While those components have not changed, my university teaching now has an inclusive multiplier effect and is to a greater extent a significantly higher stakes venture.”


When Miller’s students leave his class, he wants them to awaken to a new understanding that teaching is about making a dent in students’ basic understanding so that their world is different than it was before they walked into the classroom.


After having observed Miller challenge the minds of bright and multi-talented future teachers, History Professor Dr. Matthew Redinger comments on Miller’s approach of teaching: “He is a gifted, inspired (and inspiring) educator. It was manifestly clear to me that his students honor him and respect him as a great teacher and commented glowingly about his passion about teaching.”



Faculty members honored by the Associated Students of Montana State University Billings included Kemmerer; Dr. Chris Sheppard, assistant professor of music; Dr. Kathe Gabel, instructor of health and human performance; Dr. Barbara Wheeling, assistant professor of accounting and Dr. David Davison, professor of educational theory and practice.


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