University Relations and Communications

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

March 13, 2015


Carmen Price, University Relations & Communications, 657-2266 


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


About 250 people attended the annual MSU Billings Faculty Excellence Awards celebration, which was held at the Northern Hotel with an awards ceremony and dinner. Faculty and students were joined by community and business leaders to honor the 11 faculty members being recognized.


Those honored by nomination from fellow faculty members, deans and others were Paul Cook, director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Education in the College of Allied Health Professions; Lyle Seavy, professor of health administrations; Vern Gagnon, automotive technology instructor and department chair; Kathe Gabel, professor of health and human performance; Stephen Eliason, professor of sociology; Tom Regele, assistant professor of modern languages and literature; Melinda Tilton; university lecturer, communication department; Reno Charette, American Indian Outreach director; Sarah Keller, Communication Department associate professor and department chair; Jennifer Lynn, assistant professor of history; and Ken Miller, College of Education professor and department chair.   


Profiles of each faculty member follow:


Paul CookPaul Cook, MD
Director, Interdisciplinary Education for Allied Health Administration
Excellence award for non-tenured faculty


Though still relatively early in his career at MSU Billings in the College of Allied Health Professions, Paul Cook has more than 30 years experience in healthcare as a provider and administrator in a range of practice and organizational venues.


“Paul’s work in the Health Administration program in just two years has been significant, and he has worked to move the Master’s in Health Administration program toward a stronger reputation of quality,” Diane Duin, College of Allied Health Professions dean, remarked.


Paul was appointed in 2013 as the Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Education in the College of Allied Health Professions.

“I mostly enjoy teaching because students are very inquisitive and challenging—they keep me sharp,” Paul said. “I find that my students are always digging deeper.”


Paul has maintained an extraordinary level of scholarly productivity, while also demonstrating an impressive commitment to the classroom.


“Paul exemplifies excellence in every aspect of his work,” Diane said. “His overall qualities include a strong reputation for honesty, compassion and intelligence.”


She said he brings a strong record of excellence and expertise to MSUB including holding numerous positions with the University of Missouri Health System faculty practice and School of Medicine, served as the Executive Dean for Clinical Affairs at the Indiana University of Medicine, and was the President of the Rocky Mountain Health Network.


Most recently, Paul was appointed as a trustee for the newly created Montana Healthcare Foundation, which will provide about $7 million annually in grants focused on improving the health status of Montanans, and increasing the quality and accessibility of healthcare.


“Dr. Cook’s participation as a member of the Board of Trustees for the MHCF is a testament to his commitment to healthcare, to research and his integrity,” Diane said.



Lyle SeavyDr. Lyle Seavy
Professor of Health Administration
College of Allied Health Professions
Excellence Award for Part-Time Faculty


Lyle Seavy is a leader in the field of psychiatrics. His professional distinction within the Billings healthcare community is complemented with a remarkable level of service to MSU Billings.


“Dr. Seavy is a powerful advocate for mental health in the state and region,” one of his nominators remarked. “He is passionate about improving mental health of the population, and specifically mental health services for the poor and disadvantaged.”


Lyle serves as the Chairman of the Psychiatry Department at Billings Clinic and maintains an active clinical practice while teaching part-time at MSUB in the Health Administration program. He serves on several boards, including the Billings Clinic Legislature committee and the steering committee for the Community Crisis Center.


He teaches undergraduate and graduate students online in the areas of health statistics for administrators, health operations, healthcare management and healthcare systems.


Lyle’s students often praise his ability to foster inclusive, issue-based discussions that incorporate the relations of “theoretical concepts to real life healthcare.”


“He brings to the online classroom a strong academic background and the up-to-date expertise of a practicing health administration professional,” a nominator stated.  “Lyle consistently holds engaging discussions and elicits highly positive responses in his student evaluations.”


A Billings native and Eastern Montana College alumnus, Lyle said he values “giving back” to his alma mater.


“I felt like I had a great opportunity going to EMC. Helping others get to their goals is very fulfilling,” he said. “And, it’s great to see so many students working as CEO’s and professionals right here in Yellowstone County after they graduate.”



Kathe GabelDr. Kathe Gabel
Health and Human Performance Dept. Chair
College of Allied Health Professions
Faculty Excellence


As a teacher, mentor, advisor and scholar, professor Kathe Gabel has proven to be an outstanding member of the MSU Billings community.


“Kathe is the embodiment of excellence,” one of her colleagues remarked. “Her passion for teaching is exemplary.”


Serving as the department chair in the Health and Human Performance Department since 2012, Kathe has distinguished herself as a leader in the continuing advancement of the department and College of Allied Health Professions, the college’s dean, Dr. Diane Duin, said.


“I believe she exhibits the qualities we at MSUB are able to hold out to other faculty as examples of excellence in teaching, research and service,” Diane commented.


One colleague noted that Kathe is found in her office early in the mornings, late into the evenings and on weekends—always with a smile on her face.


“She works tirelessly, putting in long hours to accommodate the needs of students, colleagues and the HHP Department,” the colleague said.


Kathe’s dedication and teaching garners some of the department’s highest evaluations. Several students have noted that she is “the best instructor at MSUB.”


“She cares about her students more than anything,” one student said. “She expects a lot from her students but puts in equal effort herself,” another student wrote.


Not only does Kathe excel in the classroom, but she continually involves herself in scholarly development including publications, grants and international visits.


She also provides invaluable service to the college and university as a whole serving on various committees.



Tom RegeleDr. Tom Regele
Assistant Professor, Modern Languages & Literature
College of Arts and Sciences
Faculty Excellence


Spanish professor Tom Regele has been enriching the living languages and cultures studied in the College of Arts and Sciences for more than seven years.


“Teaching students to appreciate and enjoy languages, literatures and cultures is my passion,” Tom remarked. “I’ve had very encouraging professors along the way, and it’s an honor to come full-circle in bringing the same level of enthusiasm to my students.”


Tom’s travels and exposure to other cultures through studying, working and living abroad in Spain, Mexico and Austria have been particularly instructive in developing a keen awareness and sensitivity to different perspectives, all of which have been instrumental in fostering mutual respect and productive communication in the classroom.


After graduating with a degree in Latin from the University of Montana in 1990, he returned to his hometown of Billings to earn a Spanish degree from MSUB. Before coming back to teach at MSUB, he earned his master’s and doctorate’s degrees focused on languages and literature from the University of Oregon.


Nominators say students feel that they are able to learn effectively from Tom. His colleagues regard his dedication not only in teaching, but mentoring the part-time instructors who work in the Spanish program.


“Dr. Tom Regele is a valued colleague in our department with a strong record of teaching excellence and a growing record of publication and service,” his nominators stated.


In addition to several publications and presentations, Tom has for years translated for the community and regions based on myriad requests, including legal documents, birth certificates, letters and academic publications.


His current research focuses on literature from Mexico and Central America, which deals with myths and traditions of indigenous cosmologies (Mayan) as viewed through the lens of (Lacanian) psychoanalysis.



Steve EliasonDr. Stephen Eliason
Professor, Sociology
College of Arts and Sciences
Department of Social Sciences and Cultural Studies
Faculty Excellence


As a sociologist, Stephen Eliason appreciates MSU Billings’ diverse student population.
“I find it invigorating to hear all the different perspectives brought to my classroom on social issues,” Stephen said.

Department Chair Joy Honea said that Stephen’s courses are always full because students thoroughly enjoy the style of his teaching and curriculum.


“I believe it is my responsibility to impart knowledge as well as to stimulate interest in subject matter of the courses I teach,” Stephen remarked. “My goal as an instructor is to help students learn and understand the material in my courses so that it will be useful for them in their lives.”


In 2007, Stephen implemented a new Criminal Justice program to the department and it has since become one of the fastest growing programs at MSUB.


“It is no small measure that our Criminal Justice major continues to grow because of Dr. Eliason’s presence on our faculty,” colleague Jeff Sanders wrote.


“His contributions are crucial to both the success of the Criminal Justice program as well as the Sociology Program,” Joy commented.

As an avid outdoor enthusiast, Stephen said Montana is a great state for his present research that focuses on wildlife law violators and the jobs of game wardens.


This semester, he again added a new seminar class to the curriculum titled “Sociology of Hunting and Poaching” and also presented in early March on the topic at the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences conference in Orlando, Fla.


Stephen has developed a distinguished record of teaching, scholarship and service in his 11 years at MSU Billings. In just recent years, he has had 13 scholarly articles published in peer reviewed journals; two book reviews published; has served on several boards and committees; and, most recently, wrote an entry about poaching for the Encyclopedia of Social Deviance.



Vern GagnonVern Gagnon
Automotive Technology Instructor & Dept. Chair
City College at MSU Billings
Excellence Award for City College Leadership


Vern Gagnon goes beyond the four walls of his classroom and the 8-5 workday to help his students succeed and provide strong leadership and initiative to City College.


“With a consistently superior record of leadership performance, resourcefulness and dedication, Vern has proven to be a bastion of stability at City College,” a colleague said.  “He can be counted on for dedicated leadership.”


Since coming to City College at MSU Billings in 2002 as an instructor of automotive technology, Vern has impressed his students with his effective teaching methods based on the values of respect, honesty and responsibility.


“The most gratifying thing for me is to watch the light bulb turn on for students where they are really engaged in the learning and you can see their excitement and passion,” Vern remarked.


A Montana native who grew up in the Jordan area, Vern received in 1992 a bachelor’s degree in automotive technology from MSU Northern and a master’s degree in 2003 in educational technology from MSU Billings.


In addition to teaching, Vern has played key roles in the advancement of academics at City College including serving as the college’s interim dean in 2011. In addition to serving on nine campus committees, Vern has been the SkillsUSA faculty advisor for 12 years, during of which he has been a mentor to numerous state gold award winners and students who have placed in the top 10 at the national level.


He also serves as the principal investigator for the Strengthening Workforce Alignment in Montana’s Manufacturing and Energy Industries project (SWAMMEI), a $25 million grant initiative to create cost-effective training programs, assessable anywhere within the state.


With Vern’s dedicated leadership, the automotive technology program has grown along with many other programs at the West End campus. What was once a program with just 15 students has tripled in size.



Sarah KellerDr. Sarah N. Keller
Department of Communication, Chair & Associate Professor
College of Arts and Sciences
Outstanding Service Learning Award


Recognized as an outstanding service-learning educator, Sarah Keller is a skilled and passionate teacher and superb mentor of both undergraduate and graduate students, combining classroom instruction with meaningful community service.


Sarah has been dedicated to service learning at MSUB for more than a decade, sharing her expertise and passion for communication, public relations and social marketing with students and the community.


Within her instruction, Sarah strives to educate students using mass media campaigns to benefit the community while students apply knowledge and assess real world problems to create solutions with community partners.


She has dedicated her research and teaching to understanding the risk factors involved in health behavior, and developing interventions to influence such risk factors. Her health communication curriculum has been well attended by students and enthusiastically received by the community, resulting in mass media campaigns for HIV testing, domestic violence prevention, suicide prevention, pedestrian transportation, and reducing other risk behaviors.


“The passion, focus and creativity that our students bring to applied problems brings new possibilities for solutions that our community partners would not otherwise be able to access,” Sarah said.


Sarah is extremely prolific outside the classroom as well, having written more than 20 articles in the past 10 years, in addition to 31 paper presentations and 24 grants.


“She has a passion for teaching and it shows in her classes and scholarly productivity,” graduate student Danielle Arnoux remarked. “I have enjoyed the experiences and the diversity she has brought to my coursework.”



Melinda TiltonMelinda Tilton
University Lecturer
Department of Communication
Promoting International Student Success


Melinda Tilton’s passion for teaching and engagement is universal and knows no bounds.


This year’s recipient of the Promoting International Student Success Award, Melinda has demonstrated leadership in providing an atmosphere of success in and out of the classroom for the growing number of international students on the MSU Billings campus.

“Melinda is a remarkable instructor,” her selection committee remarked. “Her passion for communication and determination for student success is felt by all who take her classes.”


In 2006, she spearheaded introducing a new course focused on intercultural studies into the communication curriculum. That course, Introduction to Intercultural Communication, is now included among course options to fulfill the cultural diversity, general education requirement.


Whether it is Introduction to Public Speaking or Intercultural Communication, Melinda has integrated international perspectives into her teaching since she began teaching at MSUB in 1990.


“Her classes have served as excellent examples of how MSU Billings faculty can contribute to the academic success of international students by fostering international communication and understanding among class participants,” the nomination letter states.


Her support for international students goes beyond simply integrating international cultural perspectives into her class; Melinda actively seeks the international students out and engages them in conversations during and after classes, a colleague said.


Outside of the classroom, Melinda has taken on and mentored international students, many of whom to this day credit their success to her role in their academic life.


“The richness of intercultural studies and relationships are important so we can learn from one another,” Melinda said. “And, the more we learn, the more we find out what we don’t know. Experiencing different cultures helps us to learn to appreciate our diversities.”



Reno CharetteReno Charette
Director, American Indian Outreach
Social Sciences & Cultural Studies
Mentoring Young Female Professionals Award


Recognized for her unwavering support of advancing the position of girls and women, Reno Charette has been awarded the inaugural Mentoring Young Female Professionals Award.


The award honors an individual who endeavors to provide support, programs or resources related to women and education, career opportunities, women’s health, elevating the image and self-esteem of women and promoting gender equality.


Nominators say Reno continually encourages young female professionals to become leaders within their communities and beyond.


“As the Director of the Office of American Indian Outreach and a long-time advocate for women and girls, Reno has demonstrated her tireless service to the campus and the community,” Joy Honea, Social Sciences and Cultural Studies department chair said. “She is an excellent role model to young women.


Since coming to MSU Billings in 2007, Reno has enriched the Native American Studies program through the development of four upper division courses, including her favorite “History of Indian Women.”


As a member of the Crow tribe and descendent of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa, Reno has worked to enhance student support services for American Indian students across the state.


Reno regularly takes on additional responsibilities focused on girls and women. She has served as a speaker on numerous panels organized to address women’s issues, is a member of the Women’s Studies Advisory Board, teaches a course in the Women’s Studies program and attends nearly all functions and events hosted by the Women’s and Gender Studies Center.



Jen LynnDr. Jennifer Lynn
Assistant Professor, History
College of Arts and Sciences
Winston & Helen Cox Fellowship Award


 In just three years, Dr. Jennifer Lynn has made a significant impact on her students and on the College of Arts and Sciences.


“I believe Jen is an outstanding junior faculty member who shows exceptional promise as a teacher, a scholar and an institutional leader,” the college’s dean Christine Shearer said. “She has accomplished a great deal, only now just beginning her fourth year at MSUB.”


In addition to teaching a full load of courses, Jen serves as the first Women’s and Gender Studies Center director, co-advises the History Club/Phi Alpha Theta and is the lead program organizer for the 2015 Northwest Regional Phi Alpha Theta conference that will be held in Washington.


A Montana State University Billings alumna, Jen was named this year’s recipient of the prestigious Winston & Helen Cox Fellowship Award.


After receiving her Ph.D. in 2012 from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, she joined the MSUB faculty as an assistant professor in 2012, teaching courses in Modern European History and Women’s and Gender History. Her current publications and research project, “Contested Femininities: Representations of the Modern Woman in the German Illustrated Press, 1920 – 1960, explores how different political and social groups used visual images to construct their understanding of modernity.


Jen’s student evaluations are strong, with students remarking that she makes history “interesting and engaging, drawing them out and encouraging their participation.”


 “Her accomplishments in all three areas of teaching, scholarship and service are stellar, and her enthusiastic contributions are incredibly valuable not only to her department but to the College of Arts and Sciences and the university as a whole,” Shearer said.



Ken MillerDr. Kenneth Miller
Professor & Department Chair, Education
College of Education
The Walter and Charlotte Pippenger Excellence in Innovation Award


Ken Miller, department chair and professor of science education and educational theory and practice, received this year’s Walter and Charlotte Pippenger Excellence in Innovation Award.


Recipients are recognized for efforts, projects or programs that clearly and objectively demonstrate improvement in the undergraduate teaching and learning experience.


Miller has had a successful career at Montana State University Billings as an educator and leader, bringing in several million in grants for Montana educators and students alike.


And after having been involved in the teaching world for well over 30 years, his primary focus has not changed from that of day when he began his journey: “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.”