University Relations and Communications

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

April 4, 2014


University Relations, 657-2269  

Carmen Price, University Relations, 657-2243


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Montana State University Billings honored a small group of outstanding faculty Thursday with special recognition of their achievements in teaching, scholarship, engagement and service during a special celebration in their honor.


About 250 people attended the annual MSU Billings Faculty Excellence Awards celebration, which was held at the Big Horn Resort with an awards ceremony and dinner. Faculty and students were joined by community and business leaders to honor the nine faculty members for their achievements.


Those honored by nomination from fellow faculty members, deans and others were Tessie Rose Bailey, assistant professor of educational theory and practice; Susan Gilbertz, associate professor of environmental studies, social sciences and cultural studies; Tami Haaland, professor of English, philosophy and modern languages; Katherine Pfau, City College instructor of automotive technology; Maggie McBride, associate professor of math; Matthew Anderson, lecturer of geography, biological and physical sciences; Joseph Bryan, adjunct professor of history; Susan Winn, instructor of nursing; and Sarah Knobel, assistant professor of photography and new media.


Profiles of each faculty member follow:


Matthew AndersonDr. Matthew Anderson
Lecturer, Geography, Biological and Physical Sciences
College of Arts and Sciences
Excellence Award for non-tenured faculty


Recognized as an excellent researcher and innovative instructor who shares his expertise and love of geography, Dr. Matthew Anderson introduces students to some of the most spectacular sites in the world.

But, one of the most spectacular sites is right outside his classroom door, Matthew says. “The Yellowstone Valley is indeed a unique place.”


Before coming to MSU Billings in the Fall of 2012, Matthew said he had never visited the Rockies or Great Plains. “I knew very little about the region when I arrived. Now that I know much more, it has stoked great interest in new research topics about how Montana is situated in a broader global context.”


This year’s recipient of the Excellence Award for Non-Tenured Faculty, Matthew teaches multiple undergraduate and graduate courses. The most recent course is one he developed that focuses on political geography. “I strive to breakdown the norms and introduce new perspectives to my students,” he says.


In spite of a heavy teaching load, Matthew has produced an impressive list of scholarly articles, notes Associate Professor of Geography Dr. Susan Gilbertz, including the publication of “Class Monopoly Rent and the Contemporary Neoliberal City,” in the well-respected peer-review journal, Geography Compass.


Not only is Matthew committed to student-centered learning and scholarship, he also values interdisciplinary collaborations. Among many projects, a few examples of this include the Montana Political Atlas Project Matthew is helping to design, which involves faculty from MSU Billings and Rocky Mountain College and his involvement with the Yellowstone Basic Advisory Council, sponsored by the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.



Joseph BryanJoseph D. Bryan
Adjunct Professor, History Department
College of Arts and Sciences
Excellence Award for Part-Time Faculty


Joseph Bryan strives not only to convey the content of history, but also the craft. “It’s important students learn about the substance of the past, but also what historians do,” Joseph says of his teaching philosophy.


This year’s recipient of the Excellence Award for Part-Time Faculty, Joseph aims to instill in his students skepticism and curiosity, which motivates students to want to take a deeper look at the past and present. “Historians are notorious myth-busters and thrive on disproving heroic, triumphant or teleological narratives,” he says. “My goal is to teach students that history is not just one single interpretation, like in a text book. History is much more complex.”


While there are more accurate accounts than others, he says, it is his job to demonstrate to students that the history of Greece or Rome, for example, has been filtered through two millennia of writing.


“It’s important to me that my students learn the importance of coming to their own informed conclusions,” Joseph explains. In order to come to these conclusions, he says it’s important to equip students with the tools of a historian—critical thinking and writing skills; an awareness of continuity versus change; and a respect for the multitude of ways the past either shapes the present or is used by others to shape the present. 


Students appreciate and respect his dedication and willingness to go that extra mile, History Department Chair Keith Edgerton says. “He is an effective teacher, a valued colleague and an impressive contributing member of the academic community who goes beyond the call of duty to serve the students and the university.”


Joseph is a Ph.D. candidate in Early-Modern French History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he taught as a doctoral student before coming to MSUB in 2012.



Katherine PfauKatherine Pfau
Instructor, Automotive Technology
City College, Technology
City College Leadership Award


Katherine Pfau (Kat) has made a significant impact on her students and colleagues at City College in the 12 years she has been an instructor.


This year’s recipient of the City College Leadership Award, Kat consistently demonstrates a superior record of leadership, performance, resourcefulness and dedication to her students and City College.


Students look forward to class with Kat, a colleague says. Perhaps that is because she instills in her students the importance of having passion in everything they do.


“I think students pick up on whether you are passionate about what you are teaching. And if you are passionate, students enjoy the coursework and can’t help but share that enthusiasm.”


Kat’s passion for teaching hasn’t worn off. “Seeing the students excited about new technologies keeps me eager and excited to learn, and helps me stay passionate about teaching,” she says.


An automotive technology instructor, she builds the most current technology, design and engineering principals into her coursework. “The automotive technology industry is at a transition,” Kat says. “A lot has changed and it’s important that technicians leaving our program understand the most up-to-date principals. And they do.”


Aside from teaching several courses, Kat serves as the faculty advisor for SkillsUSA and City College ASMSUB, and accepted the lead role during the recent program re-accreditation preparation and site visit, of which the program received positive recommendation. She also spearheaded this year City College’s first Honors Program—Phi Theta Kappa—of which she serves as co-chair. “I like seeing my students succeed and having a hand in that success.” she said.



Sarah KnobelSarah Knobel
Assistant Professor, Photography and New Media
College of Arts and Sciences
Winston & Helen Cox Fellowship Award


It wasn’t until college when Sarah Knobel discovered the artist within her.


“My best friend in high school was the artist, I was not nor did I ever think I could be an artist.  I thought you had to draw and paint well, which I couldn’t do,” Sarah said.


After taking one photo class, she was soon hooked and on a fast-track as an emerging artist, eventually obtaining her BFA and MFA.  Her work has been featured in solo, group, juried and invitational exhibitions nationally and internationally with upcoming shows in Portland, Ore., Washington D.C., and at the Yellowstone Art Museum.


Sarah joined the MSUB faculty as an assistant professor in 2012, teaching courses in photography, video and new media, and is this year’s recipient of the Cox Fellowship Award.


“I have never before seen such exemplary student evaluations, both in numerical scores and comments, as those received by Sarah,” Art Department Chair Dr. Patricia Vettel-Becker says. The most common remarks regard Sarah’s dedication to her students making sure they understand the difficult technical processes and software applications they need to learn.


In addition to teaching a full load of courses, Sarah chairs the department’s Scholarship Selection Committee, works as its recruitment coordinator, represents MSUB on the College of Education Council and serves on the university’s technology committee.


Sarah loves working with students, especially mentoring the Art Students League as a co-faculty advisor, and helping students to find their own artistic vision and voice. “I encourage my students to find their own voice and explore their identity,” Sarah says. “It’s important to listen to criticism, but not to the point where it will affect what one would intuitively do.”


Tessie Rose BaileyDr. Tessie Rose Baily
Assistant Professor, Educational Theory and Practice Department
College of Education
Faculty Excellence Award


Dr. Tessie Bailey’s “can do” attitude makes her the “go to” person in the Educational Theory and Practice Department.


Highly regarded by her colleagues, Tessie is said to be generous and gently attentive to her collaboration with others. She is a leader in curriculum development in the department and within MSUB’s Special Education program.


In just two years at MSUB, Tessie has made a significant impact on special education. She has conducted more than 40 presentations, keynotes and workshops, published her third national special education law update in the Education Law Reporter, and will soon share her CARE grant research regarding Response to Intervention Implementation in Rural Communities during a keynote presentation at an upcoming conference.


For 20 years, Tessie has worked to improve outcomes for individuals with disabilities. She consistently works in the background establishing not only an understanding of special education issues within her interdisciplinary department, but also takes this message on the road both regionally and nationally. She co-chairs the Higher Education Consortium, a cross-disciplinary organization with members from every higher education institution in Montana. She also serves on the Special Education Advisory Board at the Office of Public Instruction in Helena.


Tessie’s scholarship and service has provided her students with unique opportunities in local schools and in state projects, access to the most current national research and resources in the field, and involvement in research­.  Her scholarship and teaching are greatly admired by her colleagues as well as her students. A student summed up this admiration: “I often recommend Dr. Bailey to peers in the program. Her scope of knowledge goes well beyond the scope of the class and I appreciate this passion.”



Susan GilbertzDr. Susan J. Gilbertz
Associate Professor, Environmental Studies, Social Sciences & Cultural Studies
College of Arts and Sciences
Faculty Excellence Award


Dr. Susan Gilbertz has distinguished herself regionally and nationally for her work in environmental studies and geography, and continues to build her excellent reputation in several diverse areas of social sciences and cultural studies.


Among her impressive body of scholarship, perhaps her crowning achievement is her book on the superfund site in Milltown, Mont.

Colleague Dr Jeffrey Sanders said it is within the realm of the Yellowstone River—the hallmark elongated natural feature of this region—where Susan shines the brightest and is acknowledged as an expert on issues regarding the political, agricultural, recreational and cultural uses of the river. “We all need Susan’s work because she has the ability to synthesize hard scientific data with more complex human emotions and socio-economic dynamics.”


Her scholarship and extensive service, coupled with her creative approaches to teaching, sets her apart. Besides teaching students to think objectively and apply theories to solve real-life problems, she is an outstanding scholar whose research has appeared in leading journals in her field. “Prof. Gilbertz is challenging the next generation of leaders to think, feel and solve problems differently than past generations. The most amazing part will be the future and what she accomplishes next,” a student’s evaluation states.


As impressive as her teaching evaluations are, more impressive is her quest to prepare creative thinkers. 


“I believe that by fostering curiosity, responsible scholarship, self-reflection, participation, and an appreciation for research and service, we encourage students to overcome parochialism, to enrich their personal lives and to prepare themselves for the complications of a fast-paced society,” Susan says.



Tami HaalandTami Haaland
Professor, English, Philosophy and Modern Languages
College of Arts and Sciences
Faculty Excellence Award


Since the age of 12, Tami Haaland was certain she would be a poet for all of her life. She carried a notebook with her everywhere she went, collecting pages of verses and prose.


Today, she serves as Montana’s poet laureate—a position appointed by Gov. Steve Bullock in 2013. With the mark of distinction, Tami continues to build a community of writers and readers, a commitment she’s made evident at Montana State University Billings for two decades as a professor in the English department.


“I teach what I know about poetry, and hope some students resonate,” Tami says. “Not everyone will. But, I can help them with their craft and encourage them to try new things. I strive to instill curiosity and confidence, and hope students will stretch and explore.”


In addition to teaching a full load of courses at MSUB, she continually develops new courses and contributes to the online and Honors programs, Tasneem Khaleel, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said. “She is a strong teacher, a valued colleague and an impressive contributing member of the academic community.”


For the past five years, Tami has also taught creative writing and literature courses at the Montana Women’s Prison, and in 2012, helped launch a writing project at McKinley Elementary School through the Arts Without Boundaries program.


She has published two books of poetry, Breath in Every Room, which won the Nicholas Roerich Prize from Story Line Press, and When We Wake in the Night, a finalist for the May Swenson Award. The 2010-11 Innovation Award in Literature from the Montana Arts Council, and the Humanities Hero Award from Humanities Montana further attest to her continued scholarship and excellence.



Maggie McBrideDr. Maggie McBride
Associate Professor, Mathematics Department
College of Arts and Sciences
Promoting International Student Success Award


Recognized as an excellent teacher, and for making statistics exciting and relevant to her students, particularly the international student population, Dr. Maggie McBride has been awarded the inaugural Promoting International Student Success Award.


As the Math Department’s Chair for five years, Maggie has garnered outstanding student evaluations. “Maggie loves to come to our events and learn about us more than any other teachers,” an international student states in an evaluation. “She also helps us to better understand American culture.”


Perseverance is something Maggie brings to her teaching and mentorship of international students. Most recent, she implemented a pilot program for tutoring the Arabic student population—a commitment to seeing the comparatively high percentage of students from the Middle East through their coursework successfully.


“I hope they do well in my statistics class, but I also hope they gain a rich experience—a good sense of what it is to learn and be a part of a great educational system,” Maggie says.


One colleague observes that Maggie puts in hours of her own time to tutor international students, knowing that language challenges can make for a difficult learning experience. “Maggie is extremely generous with her time and her knowledge when it comes to international students.”


Her passion and commitment for teaching extends further into her efforts to learn more about the Arabic culture and language so she can better understand and relate to students. “While international students are learning from us, we need to remember they, too, are providing us with important life lessons. We need to pay attention to what we can learn from them in return.”



Sue WinnSue Winn, RN
Instructor, Nursing
City College, Health Sciences
Outstanding Service Learning Faculty Award


As the inaugural recipient of the Outstanding Service Learning Award, nursing instructor Sue Winn attests that there cannot be true holistic nursing without community service.


“While students may learn the science of nursing from text books, lectures and skills practice, I believe they learn the art of nursing by the connections they build through service learning projects, especially those where the needs of the body are met while the mind and spirit are also lifted in positive ways,” Sue says.


Orchestrated by Sue, The Service Learning program benefits students and families within our community and adds to the positive perception of the City College Nursing Program, a colleague states. Since its inception in 2012, the program has been added as an active learning component in three of the seven required courses in the practical nursing curriculum.


As part of the Fundamentals of Nursing course, students participated in the Salvation Army’s “Night on the Van”, helping deliver meals to homeless people and various impoverished areas in Billings. A second service learning project, a component of the Gerontology course, entails students visiting Highgate Senior Living and presenting various healthcare informational sessions to residents.

“My desire to make sure patients are treated with equality and fairness was reinforced by this project,” a student said. “The service learning project is one that brings together the community and the students in such a mutually beneficial way.”


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