University Relations and Communications

COT department chair named interim dean

October 26, 2010


Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


Vern Gagnon takes over for John Cech, who begins state job in January


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Vern Gagnon, automotive technology instructor and chair of the Transportation, Business, Welding and Sustainable Energy Department at the Montana State University Billings College of Technology, has been selected as interim dean at the COT.


Vern Gagnon

Gagnon, who has been with MSU Billings since fall 2002, will step in for Dr. John Cech, the current dean who will start a new job as Deputy Commissioner for Two-Year and Community College Education for the state of Montana. Cech begins his new job with the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education in January, but Gagnon starts his new job on Dec. 20 to provide some overlap.


In a related move, Tammi Miller has been promoted to Associate Dean at the MSU Billings at the COT and will work with Gagnon on academic and staff issues at the two-year campus.


Cech praised both decisions.


“I have incredible respect for both of these individuals,” Cech said. “Mr. Gagnon has served the college well as department chair for the past six years and he is creative and well respected by the faculty.”


Cech also noted the contributions made by Miller, who has been serving as assistant dean for the past two years. He noted Miller’s work has been significant and she will help provide the college with a smooth transition internally as well as with various statewide two-year education initiatives.


Gagnon said he was honored by the appointment and said his immediate goals will be on maintaining a clear focus on students at the COT.


“I think our primary focus has to be on the student –centered nature of the college,” he said. “We have to keep in mind the reason for our existence, and that is students.”


A Montana native who grew up in the Jordan area, Gagnon received his bachelor’s degree in automotive technology from MSU Northern in Havre and worked for a time as a time for a service technician for a GM dealer on the Hi Line.


He began his career in higher education at MSU Northern in 1998 and came to the MSU Billings College of Technology in 2002. He received his master’s degree in education technology in 2003.


Tammi Miller

Since starting his work in Billings, the automotive technology program has grown along with the other programs at the West End campus. What was once a program with 15 students has grown to a 45-student program in Fall 2010. The overall enrollment at the MSU Billings COT is now at 1,500 students, a record.


Miller, who grew up in Custer, has an undergraduate degree in communications from the University of Montana in Missoula and a master’s degree in public relations from MSU Billings. She started her career at MSU Billings as a student recruiter in 1994 and in May 2004 began work as an academic advisor at the COT. She was director of New Student Services at the COT for a time before becoming assistant dean in 2009.


Both Gagnon and Miller will be working on local and statewide initiatives in the coming year that deal with expansion of the two-year education mission in Montana. Much of that work will involve collaborative efforts on a statewide basis through the OCHE College!Now effort, which is funded by a three-year grant from the Lumina Education Foundation.


For more information on the COT, call 247-3000 or go to


PHOTOS ABOVE: Vern Gagnon has been named Interim Dean at the MSU Billings College of Technology. Tammi Miller, below, has been promoted to Associate Dean.