University Relations and Communications

Finishing at the beginning

May 1, 2014



Aaron Clingingsmith, University Relations, 657-2243 


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Most people express the desire to climb the proverbial ladder and ultimately leave their career on top, having left behind something profound.  Dr. Tasneem Khaleel is not most people, she would rather take the road less traveled and finish where she began, at her roots.


photo of Dr. Khaleel with students in 1980

With the closing of the 2014 academic year Dr. Khaleel and the College of Arts & Sciences will be turning the page and opening a new chapter, together.  Khaleel has been dean for the last decade and will rejoin the faculty ranks once her successor has been appointed this summer.


“My heart has always been with the faculty and students,” Khaleel said. “I am excited about the opportunity to finish my career in the classroom. And, with a little help, I will be teaching in a new state-of-the-art facility.”


A reflective Dr. Stan Wiatr, chair of the department of biological and physical sciences, has the utmost respect for what Khaleel has accomplished as dean.


“The College of Arts & Sciences is far better off now than any time in the past,” Wiatr said. “Dean Khaleel has raised the level of rigor, excellence and success in the College of Arts & Sciences to a standard that should serve as a model for the entire institution.”


Dr. Khaleel with other science professorsDr. Khaleel’s tenure as dean has been remarkable.  From humble beginnings she has etched a legacy of inspiration and perseverance.


“I have a great deal of admiration for Tasneem,” commented College of Education Dean, Dr. Mary Susan Fishbaugh.  “As an Indian woman born in a country and era when women’s rights were near non-existent, she became a doctor and an inspiration for a generation of minority women in Montana.  I am blessed to work alongside such a strong-willed woman like me.”


It is her attention to detail that sets Dr. Khaleel apart from other deans across the country.  Being a dean of a college that has to blend both arts and sciences is no easy task and she does it with effortless grace.


“Dr. Khaleel is the most nurturing person I know,” remarked assistant art professor, Shanna Fliegel.  “As a young faculty member I feel fortunate that she is always there for me and my colleagues in the art department.  When I accepted my position at MSUB I knew her background was rooted in biology but her affinity for the arts won me over.  I knew at that moment I had to be a part of her college.”


Make no mistake about it.  For the last 10-years Dr. Khaleel has shaped the College of Arts & Sciences in her image. The development of research to grants has grown by leaps and bounds under her watchful eye. She is adamant about finding and fostering the best faculty so the students of MSUB can reap the rewards.


Khaleel’s former boss, Chancellor Emeritus Dr. Ron Sexton, knew she was the right person at the right time when he elevated her to dean from department chair.


Dr. Khaleel leading a procession during commencement“She understood that great tenured faculty in research had to be available to students,” Sexton said.  “She made sure students got the best from faculty and in turn faculty got the best from her.  Tasneem is always the first person to tout the success of one of her own.  She took great pride in the success of her faculty because she was always one of them.  Her return to the classroom and laboratory will be smooth and the students will be the beneficiaries.”


When asked about her first day back in the lab, Khaleel said with a wry smile, “I never left.” And, truth be told, she never did leave.  During her time as dean she always maintained an office in the Science Building.

“Each morning I walk through the Science Building before I go to my office in the Liberal Arts Building,” she said.  “It is habit but it is also home.”  With another wry smile appearing on her face, Khaleel says, “after all, this is where my roots are.”


Dr. Khaleel has collected over 16,000 specimens for a growing institutional herbarium.  Once the new dean is in place she has her sights set on bringing her herbarium to life by placing the entire catalogue online.

“This is something I have wanted to do for a long time,” said Khaleel.  “I can’t wait to get to work!”


On Saturday, May 3, Dean Khaleel will lead the processional for the College of Arts and Sciences for the final time.  Behind her will be the class of 2014, comprised of individuals who will be conferred degrees in history, psychology, political science, communication arts, chemistry and yes, general studies.  


What they may never know is that their diminutive leader was a giant in our world.  And maybe, just maybe, she will stand over 5 feet tall during her final march as dean.


The College of Arts & Sciences will host a gathering to commemorate Dr. Khaleel’s time as dean on Tuesday, May 6, from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m.  The event will take place in the second floor foyer of the Liberal Arts building.  All are welcome to attend.


PHOTO (top, above): Dr. Tasneem Khaleel, center, assists Heidi Carter, left, and an unknown student during a lab experiment. (photo circa 1980)