June 1, 2021

Dear Campus Community,

Now that it’s been a month since our commencement ceremonies and we’ve been able to take a breath, I’d like to take a moment to recognize and celebrate our successful spring semester. I appreciate all that you do for our students. Your passion for student success is evident across campus.

A special thanks to our Incident Command team who has managed COVID-19 issues efficiently this entire time. Thanks to them and all of you, we managed to keep our cases low. I know it has been challenging, but your continued dedication to keeping everyone healthy and safe paid off.

Commencement ceremonies went really well. A big thank you to all who were involved in the planning, execution, and volunteering. I know our graduates and their loved ones were thrilled to have in-person commencement.
Additionally, I want to include some of our spring semester highlights. I am pleased with what we accomplished together:

  • Student James Unzaga was named a Goldwater Scholar. He is our third Goldwater Scholar.
  • Our new provost, Sep Eskandari was hired. He is coming from California Polytechnic University, Pomona, CA. He starts July 1.
  • We formed business articulation agreements with Miles Community College, Northwest College, Western Wyoming Community College, and Central Wyoming College.
  • Our congressman and both Montana Senators visited the university campus and toured our new COVID-19 testing lab.
  • We held an ROTC Commissioning Ceremony where Cadet Robin Cunningham was commissioned to a second lieutenant.
  • Over 800 of our students made the Spring 2021 Dean’s list! It is clear that we attract and support aspirational students with strong abilities.
  • Ed Garding was hired as the interim College of Business dean. He starts July 1.
  • Tami Haaland was hired as the interim College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences dean.
  • The Yellowstone Science & Health building construction is progressing nicely. Stay tuned for more information about the ribbon cutting ceremony and opening date.
  • Yellowstone Public Radio’s Spring Fund Drive was a tremendous success (and fun to listen to).
  • City College’s paramedic program was reaccredited. This is a big deal.
  • City College’s Radiologic Tech program received the high-level JRCERT accreditation. We have the only Radiologic Tech program in Montana with this accreditation.
  • We held on-campus vaccination clinics and plan to do more this summer.
  • HyFlex courses were offered this spring semester and we continue to be the leader in Montana for online learning.
  • Weekly COVID Town Halls were held to keep everyone informed and included.
  • Virtual Coffees with the Chancellor were held. These will continue.

I have mentioned my priorities during our virtual coffee sessions but want to reiterate them. It’s important that we focus our energy and efforts to increase student retention and graduation. I am seeing many good initiatives on campus. There is no question in my mind that we can move the needle on student success.

Our current mission and vision remain relevant:

Mission: Delivering a transformative education that empowers students from diverse backgrounds to succeed.

Vision: Educating students to impact an evolving global community.

As you already know, it is everyone’s job to support our students and empower them to succeed by encouraging them to utilize our support services on campus and by being available should they need our help.

We exist to serve our students. Our north star is student success. How cool is that? We get to come to work every day and do this important work.

I hope you take time off this summer to rest and recharge, so we can be at our best and present for our students this fall.

Thanks again for all your work this past semester.

Sincerely,

Stefani Hicswa

May 5, 2021

Dear Campus Community,

I am pleased to announce that Dr. Sep Eskandari, has been selected as our new Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. He will assume his new role on July 1.

Dr. Eskandari is currently the Associate Provost for Academic Planning and Faculty Excellence at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona in Pomona, California.

Dr. Eskandari has a doctorate in Physiology from the University of California, Los Angeles and a master’s degree in Biology from California Polytechnic University, Pomona. His previous academic administration positions include Associate Vice President for Faculty Affairs, Academic Senate Chair and Vice Chair, and Chair of the Biological Sciences Department.  As a faculty member, he led an active, externally-funded research program resulting in numerous peer-reviewed publications with student co-authors. His research focused on the molecular physiology and pharmacology of brain neurotransmitter transporters.

In his current position, he works closely with the Provost in all matters related to the day-to-day operations of academics as well as long-term planning for the Division of Academic Affairs. He is an active contributor to key divisional and cross-divisional initiatives, including student and faculty success; multi-year plans related to enrollment, budget, and faculty and staff hiring; university strategic plan; academic master plan; campus master plan; assurance of learning and accreditation; and academic policies, to name a few.

I am excited for Dr. Eskandari to join our team. He brings a wealth of knowledge with him that will benefit our institution and assist in taking MSUB to the next level. I would also like to thank Dr. Sue Balter-Reitz for serving as our Interim Provost this semester and for all the work she has done during this time.

Sincerely,

Stefani Hicswa

April 22, 2021

Dear Campus Community,

I hope to see as many of you as possible tomorrow via Webex between 11:30am-12:30pm for "Virtual Coffee." I look forward to having great conversations with you. Use this link to join.

As a reminder, there is no COVID-19 Town Hall today, but tune into COVID-19 Town Hall next Thursday!

Sincerely,

Stefani Hicswa

April 19, 2021

Dear Campus Community,

As you know, Governor Gianforte signed into law HB 102, which allows concealed carry and open carry in public places, including Montana University System (MUS) property. For MUS campuses, the law has an effective date of June 1, 2021.

Currently, the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education (OCHE) is beginning work on a system-wide policy to implement the provisions outlined in HB 102. This work is just getting underway, with current emphasis on a review of similar laws in other states and any corresponding campus policies. By early May a draft policy proposal will be developed, and a final policy proposal will be presented to the Board of Regents for approval at their May meeting (scheduled for May 26-27).

As a reminder, both OCHE and the Board of Regents would like to hear from you. Below are two main ways to provide them with your valuable insight and feedback:

  1. In writing, by emailing oche@montana.edu from either your MSUB email address or personal email. All emails to this address are saved and read by those working on the draft policy, and will be made available to the Regents. 
  2. During a virtual listening session with the members of the Board of Regents Academic, Research, and Student Affairs (ARSA) Committee on Wednesday, May 12 from 3-5 p.m. via Zoom. The public is invited to this session to listen, and/or to offer commentary and feedback. Details on how to access and participate in the May 12 session will be made available at a later date. 

Both methods of feedback are valuable to those who are working on an implementation policy, and to the Regents as they consider adoption of that policy.

Thank you for considering further engagement on this incredibly important matter. We can also chat more about this at the upcoming Virtual Coffee this Friday at 11:30am. Use this Webex link to join.

Sincerely,

Stefani Hicswa

April 1, 2021

Dear Campus Community,

As a reminder, all employees are required to take a Title IX Mandatory Reporter Training on a biennial basis. Everyone must complete this training by this August so please plan accordingly.

The MSU Bozeman Office of Institutional Equity has created multiple opportunities for you to take this training via WebEx and has provided a tracking mechanism for the attendance of MSU Billings employees.

Please talk to your supervisor and sign up for the 1-hour training using the registration steps below. Supervisors, please ensure that your employees register for this training.

The training: All Montana State University Billings employees are required to report Discrimination based on sex and Sexual Harassment, including Sexual Assault, Domestic/Dating Violence, and Stalking involving students. This training will provide you with knowledge of the university’s policies regarding discrimination, harassment, and retaliation as it relates to students, faculty, staff, and guests on campus; clear direction on your mandatory reporting duties; the consensual relationships policy; and tools to have the difficult conversations about discrimination and harassment.

Steps to Register for the Mandatory Reporter Training via WebEx:

Visit Equity and Mandatory Reporter Trainings and click the Registration Link for the Webex date you want to attend

Click on the RSVP link

Click the Register button

Fill out/submit the form on this page using the following info:

  • Your Net ID number is the number/letter combination that you use to log into your computer, MyInfo, etc.
  • Select: Yes you are a mandatory reporter if you are an MSUB employee (the only exceptions include: counselors, nurses, doctors, clergy, lawyers, or similar confidential positions.)
    • Even if your MSUB role meets the exceptions (listed above) you should still take the training to understand the topic and its applications to campus.
  • You must report sexual assault, sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and stalking.
  • Your Title IX Coordinator is Jody Stahl, Director of Human Resources

Contact Jody Stahl at jody.stahl@msubillings.edu with questions.

Sincerely,

Stefani Hicswa

March 31, 2021

Dear Campus Community,

I am happy to announce that Ed Garding has been named interim dean of the College of Business for this upcoming academic year starting July 1, 2021.

Ed previously served in this role in 2018. He is currently the Corporate and Government Relations officer with First Interstate BancSystem and previously served as their president and CEO from 2012 to 2015. Garding started his career with First Interstate in 1971 and has held several management positions including branch president, regional president, and chief risk officer. He has held various board positions with the Montana Bankers Association, Wyoming Bankers Association, and Pacific Coast Banking School (Seattle, WA).

Our current Interim Dean Richard Beer is unable to stay on for another year due to prior commitments. I want to thank him for the great work he has done this past year and wish him well. We are delighted Ed has agreed to serve in this role once again and look forward to having him on board.

A search for a permanent College of Business dean will commence next spring.

Sincerely,

Stefani Hicswa

March 30, 2021

Dear Campus Community,

After nine years as MSUB’s athletic director and 25 years overall at MSUB, Krista Montague is announcing her resignation effective June 30, 2021.

I have only known Krista for a short time, but she is one of the best athletic directors I have worked with. MSUB has been lucky to have her, and she will be greatly missed.

We will share plans for the new Athletic Director search in the next few weeks.

Please feel free to reach out to her to wish her well.

Sincerely,

Stefani Hicswa

March 25, 2021

Dear Campus Community,

I wanted to reach out to you personally and apologize regarding the payroll direct deposit delay that occurred yesterday. Vice Chancellor Simmers, the payroll staff and I worked hard to determine the cause of error and will do everything in our power to ensure this does not happen again. You are all valued and appreciated and this error in no way reflects the way I feel about our Yellowjacket family.

If you incurred overdraft charges due to this error, please email Jennifer.briggs2@msubillings.edu for information on how to get reimbursed for those charges.

Again, my sincerest apologies. I am so proud to be a part of MSU Billings and to have such dedicated and loyal Yellowjacket family members.

Sincerely,

Stefani Hicswa

March 5, 2021

Dear Campus Community,

I am happy to announce that we plan to hold in-person spring commencement on Saturday, May 1, 2021 at MetraPark. To maintain COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, two separate in-person ceremonies will be held on May 1.

The first ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. and will include graduates from City College and from the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences. The second ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. and will include graduates from the Colleges of Business, Education, and Health Professions and Science.

Face coverings are required for all graduates and attendees to help reduce the virus spread.

To assist with social distancing, tickets are required for all guests and must be secured in advance. Tickets are free and there is no limit to the number of guests who can attend, however families and other groups will be seated in “pods” with distance from other groups. Guests can secure commencement tickets on the MetraPark website starting tomorrow, March 5 at 10 a.m.

I know it was difficult for our graduates from 2019 and 2020 and their loved ones to not have an in-person commencement, and I invite those graduates to participate in our May in-person commencement ceremony. These graduates must email registrar@msubillings.edu or call 657-2158 to RSVP.

Both commencement ceremonies will be streamed live for those who are unable to attend in-person. Please refer to MSUB’s commencement webpage for FAQ’s and email registrar@msubillings.edu for more information.

I am excited to celebrate our students’ success this May and to give them the recognition they deserve!

Sincerely,

Stefani Hicswa

Jan. 11, 2021

Dear Campus Community,

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a nice and restful holiday break and are getting back into the swing of things again. I am happy to officially be on board as your new Chancellor and look forward to a healthy, safe, and successful spring semester.

Even though we are just coming into the second week of January, much has happened in our country and I want to ensure you that I will emphasize unity and compassion within our Yellowjacket family and in the Billings community.

I am committed to serve MSU Billings for the long term and promise to work hard to position us for continued success.

I look forward to “seeing” you virtually this Friday, January 15 for Virtual Coffee between 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Stop by for a few minutes or stay the entire time. Access this Webex link for the Virtual Coffee visit.

Sincerely,

Stefani Hicswa