Nov. 2, 2022

Dear Campus Community:

It’s time to nominate outstanding Faculty for the 2022-2023 Faculty Excellence Awards!

Please take a moment to submit nominations for Faculty Excellence. Electronic submissions will be accepted for seven awards:

  • Dr. Tasneem Khaleel Award for Mentoring Young Female Professionals
  • Promoting International Student Success Award
  • Part-Time Faculty Award
  • Outstanding Service Learning Award
  • Excellence Award for Non-Tenured Faculty
  • City College Leadership Award
  • Faculty Excellence Award

Nominators should read the award calls in this Box folder to determine the criteria that will be evaluated by the committee, and must submit their recommendations via this form.

DEADLINE: November 28 at 5 p.m.

Pippenger Award Nominations

At this time, we are also opening nominations for the Walter and Charlotte Pippenger Excellence in Innovation Award. The nomination process for the Pippenger award is different than the Faculty Excellence Awards process, as the Pippenger is NOT electronic. Pippenger award call and application can be found in the same Box folder.

Pippenger DEADLINE: December 9 at 5 p.m.

If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Cheri Johannes, Registrar at 657-2880 or cjohannes@msubillings.edu.

Sincerely,

Sep Eskandari, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Oct. 26, 2022

Dear Colleagues:

This is a call for proposals to purchase new instructional equipment through the student instructional equipment fee fund. All departments are encouraged to submit proposals.

Per Montana Board of Regents of Higher Education Policy 940.3 – Mandatory Fees: “Equipment Fees – support the purchase, maintenance, or lease of equipment which will provide a primary benefit to an educational program including libraries, and other related capital acquisitions.”

Equipment requests should include items that will positively impact the quality of learning for our students by providing rich experiential learning experiences. The requests should also align with priorities identified in department strategic plans. Examples include production or video equipment to enhance learning for students in marketing, or cutting edge scientific equipment that enhance the learning experience for science students. Requests for classroom furnishings will be considered, however, priority will be placed on instructional equipment.

Please refer to the MSU Billings Fixed Asset Guide for definitions and procedures regarding equipment and other fixed assets.

All known or anticipated current or future ancillary costs of the equipment must be included in the request. These could include any installation costs, licensing costs, service or maintenance contracts, warranty costs, Information Technology or Facilities support costs, etc. Any new space requirements for installation or storage, floor plan changes, or renovation costs must be included with the request. Please contact Business Services/Purchasing, Facility Services or Information Technology for assistance in completing your requests.

Equipment requested for this purpose should have a minimum cost of $250 per item. Consumable supplies and materials and all items under this amount should not be included in this request but instead be charged to departmental budgets. Items should not be bundled together to meet the minimum cost requirement unless they are pieces of a component unit (i.e., a computer, monitor, mouse) and necessary for the operation for the central piece of the equipment.

Attached is an Excel spreadsheet template to submit equipment request proposals. The narrative section should include a brief justification and rationale for the equipment being purchased, how it will impact students, and the number of students it will serve. Requests should be ranked in priority order. Examples are included in the template.

Please submit your request for instructional equipment to the appropriate Dean, Director, or Vice Chancellor, ensuring that the request arrives at the Vice Chancellor level by December 16, 2022.

Please note that the Equipment Fee Reserve fund will be used to pay for repair and replacement of equipment previously purchased through the Instructional Equipment Fee process. Requests to use the equipment fee reserve funds may be submitted throughout the fiscal year (independent of this call for proposals); and must provide specific information as to the nature of the repair, as well as the original purchase date, and the equipment asset tag number if applicable.

Please contact Heather Hanna (at x1634 or by email at heather.hanna@msubillings.edu) if you have questions or need additional information.

Sincerely,

Sep Eskandari, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Sept. 15, 2022

Dear Faculty Colleagues:

Hello and I hope that this email finds you well, and that your fall semester is off to a great start.

I am writing to announce the availability of the Provost’s Faculty Professional Development Grants in academic year 2022-2023. These funds may support conference expenses, workshop attendance, residencies, professional travel that might not be funded by other means, or other activities that advance professional development and growth for our faculty. Faculty in all five colleges are eligible to apply for this funding opportunity. This year, the Division of Academic Affairs has allocated a total of $40,000 in support of faculty professional development grants. The linked document describes the purpose, process, and deadlines for these professional development funds. Information related to this program can also be found by visiting the Provost’s web page.

While proposals may be submitted at any time, please note that that there will be three application due dates:

  • Fall 2022: Monday, October 3, 2022
  • Spring 2023: Monday, February 6, 2023
  • Summer 2023: Monday, April 3, 2023

Following each due date, the Faculty Professional Development Committee will convene, review proposals, and make funding recommendations to the Provost. The Faculty Professional Development Committee is composed of one faculty representative (appointed by the Academic Senate) from each of the five colleges at MSU Billings: City College, College of Business, College of Education, College of Health Professions and Science, and College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely and best wishes,

Sep Eskandari, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Sept. 14, 2022

Dear Campus Community:

I write today to share a few updates regarding the Center for Teaching and Learning at MSU Billings. I am very happy to announce that Eric Gilbertsen, general education and math instructor, has been selected as the new City College faculty co-director. I remain grateful to Joy Honea, Ph.D., professor of sociology, who will continue as the university campus faculty co-director. I would like to thank Heather Thompson-Bahm, Ph.D., for the innovative and thoughtful leadership she provided last year as the City College faculty co-lead.

Sue Balter-Reitz, Ph.D., will serve as the Interim Executive Director of the Center until the search for a permanent Executive Director is finalized. Once the Executive Director is in place, she will return to her regular role as professor of communication and special assistant to the provost. I thank her for providing solid and outstanding leadership to the CTL, ensuring continuity of functions and services.

The CTL staff and I would like faculty to participate in the selection of the new Executive Director. Recruitment is in progress and the advertisement for the position closes this week. Faculty members interested in serving on the search committee for the permanent Executive Director position are encouraged to email the Center at CTL@msubillings.edu by Sunday, September 18.

The Center for Teaching and Learning is faculty-driven and provides support for the full spectrum of faculty professional development, including pedagogical innovation, curriculum design, assessment efforts, instructional design, and onboarding of new faculty. The Center also plays a key role in student success initiatives, especially MSU Billings’ retention and graduation initiative, and offers programming related to inclusive, equity-minded, and growth mindset pedagogy, faculty early alerts, and data-informed strategies to support student learning.

I thank Eric and Joy for taking on the role of Center faculty co-leads and look forward to seeing the Center’s continued success. I am confident that their leadership will take the CTL to new heights, supporting the professional development and growth of all faculty at MSU Billings. Faculty success and student success go hand in hand, and the Center will help to continue to unite and align our faculty and student success initiatives.

Sincerely,

Sep Eskandari, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Aug. 30, 2022

Dear Faculty Colleagues:

We are very excited to announce the implementation of the EAB Navigate student success platform at MSU Billings. Navigate manages processes such as Early Alerts and appointment scheduling for students. We believe faculty and staff will appreciate the streamlined approach to submitting early alerts, as well as the convenience Navigate offers for student appointment scheduling. Navigate is user friendly and improves the communication pathways for students to connect with us to utilize the services we provide. Highlighted below are some of the Navigate features and the users who have access to those features in the program.

Navigate Feature Faculty Users Staff Users Student Users

Calendar syncs with programs like Outlook

Create to-do’s

Access Navigate through web browser

Schedule appointments with students

X

Conduct appointment campaigns

X

Issue Early Alerts and Kudos

X

X

Schedule appointments with Faculty & Staff once their availability is set up

X

X

Connect with campus resources

X

X

Find Study Buddies

X

X

Where can you learn more and begin to use Navigate?

You can attend one of the overview training sessions below – or if those times don’t work, send an email to navsupport@msubillings.edu.

You may access the Navigate Intranet page, which includes tutorials such as a quick start guide, a guide on submitting early alerts, as well as other useful information about Navigate.

How can you access the Navigate program?

  • www.msubillings.edu/navigate
  • A link has been added to the MSU Billings home page (next to the MyInfo link)
  • In MyInfo under the Faculty Services tab
  • Students can access Navigate at the website above or by downloading the Navigate Student App

We are excited about the possibilities Navigate offers as we continue to enhance our student success strategies. Launching EAB Navigate is an important step toward meeting the MSU Billings retention and graduation goals. If you have questions about Navigate, please feel free to reach out to Becky Lyons and Ed Brown at navsupport@msubillings.edu.

We recognize there are a lot of tools and technology available to us (examples: MyInfo, D2L, Degree Works, etc.) and our hope is that Navigate can augment and be a partner technology with the existing programs that we are using.

Thank you for all that you do for MSU Billings and for our students.

My best wishes,

Sep Eskandari, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Aug. 25, 2022

Dear Faculty Colleagues:

Welcome to the 2022-2023 academic year! I hope that your summer was restful and intellectually productive, that you enjoyed quality time with friends and loved ones, and that you were able to devote time and attention to activities that make you happy!

As we start the academic year, I am very excited to continue our partnerships to advance initiatives in support of student and faculty success. Working together, we accomplished a great deal last year, and I thank each and every one of you for your steadfast devotion to MSU Billings, our students, and our academic mission. Here are some highlights for the new academic year:

  • We are welcoming fifteen (15) tenure-track faculty colleagues to MSU Billings. Please take the time to get to know our new faculty colleagues and serve as support and community to them.
  • Our Center for Teaching and Learning has planned very exciting programming for the year, and I encourage you to take advantage of these professional development opportunities.
  • We continue to be committed to supporting you as engaged teachers and scholars, so look for announcements for opportunities coming from your college, Grants and Sponsored Programs, Provost’s Office, and other areas.
  • We made tremendous strides last year developing and launching a comprehensive student retention and graduation plan, ensuring that we are intentional about implementing best practices in support of student success. In the coming year, we will actively engage in operationalizing our retention and graduation plan.

To hear more about our collective accomplishments as well as a vision for the new year, please attend the Chancellor’s State of the University Address tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. in Petro Theatre. Also, tomorrow at 4:00 p.m., please join Chancellor Hicswa for an All-Campus Open House at the Chancellor’s Residence.

I wish you a wonderful, engaging, productive, and successful academic year. I look forward to working together as we serve our students and advance our academic mission.

Thank you for all that you do for MSU Billings, for our students, and for our community.

My best wishes,

Sep Eskandari, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Aug. 9, 2022

Dear Faculty Colleagues:

Hello and I hope that you are doing well and that your summer has been, and continues to be, restful as well as intellectually productive.

I am writing today to share the Fall 2022 Convocation Calendar with you. As you examine the calendar and take note of the meetings related to your college, I would like to encourage you to attend the Chancellor’s State of the University Address on Thursday, August 25, 2022. Also, on the afternoon of the same day, please join Chancellor Hicswa for an All-Campus Open House at the Chancellor’s Residence.

I look forward to seeing you all as we celebrate the start of the 2022-2023 academic year.

My best wishes,

Sep Eskandari, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

June 27, 2022

Dear Campus Community:

Effective July 1, 2022, and for the 2022-23 academic year, Jim Barron will assume the role of Interim Associate Dean of the College of Health Professions and Science, in order to support College of Health Professions and Science Dean Kurt Toenjes, as he assumes the additional duty of Interim Dean of the College of Education.
 
Jim is a professor of evolutionary biology in the College of Health Professions and Science and has taught at MSUB for 19 years. During his time at MSUB, he’s served as chair of the General Education Committee and the Academic Senate. Jim has been a member of the Board of Directors for the Montana Academy of Sciences for 18 years where he served as President for five years and Executive Director for the past seven years. Jim is also currently serving on the Board of Directors for the Science and Conservation Center as Treasurer.
 
Jim has a bachelor’s degree in geophysics from Purdue University and a Ph.D. in zoology from Indiana University. Prior to joining MSU Billings, Jim taught at Ohio University-Athens and at Ohio University-Lancaster. His research interests focus on reproductive and evolutionary ecology of ectothermic vertebrates (no birds or mammals), and arthropods (insects and arachnids). 

Jim Barron

His current research centers on evolutionary ecology of an asexual minnow in Montana (Redbelly-Finescale Dace Hybrid) and venom composition of the local Northern Scorpion. Jim has been published in numerous scientific journals and has presented at many high-level conferences throughout his career.

I am grateful to Jim for serving the College of Health Professions and Science and MSU Billings in this capacity. His vast experiences as a long-standing faculty member and academic leader will be invaluable as we address our goals and initiatives in support of students, faculty, and staff. Please join me in congratulating Jim in his new role.

Sincerely,

Sep Eskandari, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

June 20, 2022

Dear Campus Community:

Effective July 1, 2022, Cheri Johannes will be appointed as the Executive Director of the newly created Office of Academic Success. She will continue to maintain her role and duties as the University Registrar. Her formal title will be University Registrar and Executive Director of the Office of Academic Success.

What is the Office of Academic Success?

MSU Billings has engaged in a comprehensive review of the academic support services that are essential to achieving our desired student success outcomes. As a result, through a reorganization within the Division of Academic Affairs, four existing areas will be clustered within a newly created Office of Academic Success.

The Office of Academic Success will be composed of the following areas: (1) Registrar’s Office, (2) Advising Center, (3) Academic Support Center, and (4) Career & Employment Services. While each of the four offices will maintain its own identity, the explicit goal of this reorganization is to promote a shared vision, synergies, closer partnerships, collaborations, and efficiencies to better serve the academic success needs of our students.

The Office of Academic Success will be led by the Executive Director of Academic Success, which reports directly to the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. The leadership within each of the four areas within the Office of Academic Success will report directly to the Executive Director of Academic Success. This new structure will better serve our students as we strive to improve student retention and graduation rates.

Cheri Johannes

Cheri has worked at MSU Billings for 21 years. In that time, she’s held various enrollment positions and served as the Director of Advising, Director of Admissions and Records, and worked on special projects for the Office of the Provost. She was most recently the Interim Associate Dean of Operations for the College of Education and has served as the University Registrar since 2005.

Her family owns a ranch — her husband is a 4th generation rancher — and are all active in their local community, especially in agriculture. Cheri serves on various agricultural boards and committees such as Yellowstone County 4-H, chairs the Outstanding Exhibitor Contest at the Montana Fair, and works with Huntley Project Future Farmers of America Alumni Association where she chairs their fundraising Sweetheart Ball which raises approximately $20,000 annually.

Cheri received a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and biochemistry, a Master of Public Administration, and a Doctor of Education in Higher Education Administration all from Montana State University in Bozeman.

I am grateful to Cheri for assuming this key leadership role in support of the academic success of our students at MSU Billings. Cheri’s vast experiences related to all aspects of student success will be instrumental as we intentionally improve existing processes and design new frameworks to better serve our students.

Please join me in congratulating Cheri in her new role.

Sincerely,

Sep Eskandari, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

June 16, 2022

Dear Campus Community:

Effective July 1, 2022, and for the 2022-23 academic year, Kurt Toenjes will assume the role of Interim Dean of the College of Education, in addition to serving in his role as the Dean of the College of Health Professions and Science. Also, effective July 1, 2022, and for the 2022-23 academic year, Tom Manthey will assume the role of Interim Associate Dean of the College of Education, in addition to serving in his role as the Director of the Montana Center for Inclusive Education.

Kurt Toenjes

Tom Manthey

Kurt (pictured left) and Tom (pictured right) have an extensive and long-standing record of partnership and collaboration with the College of Education. They bring a wealth of knowledge and experiences to their respective roles, making them uniquely qualified to lead our College of Education in the coming year.

With significant experience in the fields of molecular and cell biology, Kurt Toenjes has worked at MSU Billings since 2005. He has a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona, postdoctoral training in Pathogenic Fungi from M.B.L. at Woods Hole, Mass., and postdoctoral research in Fungal Cell Biology from the University of Vermont. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Genetics from the University of California at Davis.

Kurt previously served as the deputy incident commander for COVID-19 response at MSUB, Biological and Physical Sciences Department Chair, and the Vice President of the MSUB Faculty Association, Professor of Cell Biology, Chair of the General Education Committee, and the faculty representative to the MSUB Foundation, to mention a few. He has been the recipient of several awards including Faculty Excellence in 2013, Winston & Helen Cox Fellowship in 2010, Science Mentor of the Year in 2009, and Walter & Charlotte Pippenger Excellence in Innovation Award in 2008.

Kurt holds MSUB’s first patents, earning three for the university thus far. Working with the National Institute of Health (NIH) as well as the IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), he has garnered 15 years of research and internship funding totaling over 2.8 million dollars.

Tom is currently the Director of the Montana Center for Inclusive Education at MSUB, which is celebrating their 75th anniversary this year. Tom, an MSUB alumnus, began teaching high school in Casper, Wyoming and after seven years, went back to college, obtaining a master’s degree in special education and a Ph.D. in special education and school leadership at the University of Kansas.

Before returning to his alma mater, he directed statewide projects for the Virginia Department of Education and raised $23 million through successful grant proposals. His work focused on making schools more effective in meeting all students’ instructional needs in inclusive settings.

Tom has worked to increase services for children with disabilities and championed transition services for high school students with disabilities interested in attending college. He wrote a successful State Personnel Development Grant proposal with staff from the Montana Office of Public Instruction and serves as the evaluator for this large state project. Most recently he worked with faculty from the Applied Behavioral Analysis Program to establish the MSUB Institute for Neurodiversity. Additionally, Tom serves on numerous boards and committees across Montana to build visibility of the Montana Center and MSUB.

We are very fortunate to have such highly talented and qualified people such as Kurt and Tom at MSU Billings, and I thank them for assuming these critical interim roles for this coming academic year. I am confident that under their leadership, the College of Education will continue to make significant progress advancing initiatives in support of students, faculty, and staff.

A search for a permanent dean will be launched September 2022.

Sincerely,

Sep Eskandari, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

June 15, 2022

Dear Campus Community:

I am very pleased to announce that for the 2022-23 academic year, Ed Garding will continue as Interim Dean of the College of Business and Dr. Susan Gilbertz will continue as Interim Associate Dean of the College of Business along with continuing a portion of her duties as a faculty member in the Department of Social Sciences and Cultural Studies. 

Ed and Susan bring a wealth of knowledge and experiences to leading the College of Business. Working closely and collaboratively with the College faculty, Advisory Board, and other internal and external constituents, they have made significant strides advancing the strategic priorities of the College of Business and MSU Billings, including in areas related to curriculum development and review, student success, faculty hiring and development, strategic planning, and preparation for reaccreditation by AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), the gold standard for accreditation for schools and colleges of business around the world.

Ed Garding

Susan Gilbertz

Ed previously served as the interim dean of the College of Business from 2018-2019. He was most recently the corporate and government relations officer with First Interstate BancSystem and previously served as president and CEO from 2012 to 2015. Garding began 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), where he also served as chairman. He is also the immediate past YMCA board chairman. Most recently, Ed has been appointed to the board of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines, Iowa.

Ed is an alumnus of MSU Billings, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration. Since then, he stayed engaged with MSU Billings, serving as a current board member and past chairman of the MSU Billings College of Business Advisory Board, and is a member of the Montana Football Hall of Fame Board. Garding also previously served on the MSU Billings Foundation Board and was a recipient of the Outstanding Alumni Award in 2004.

Susan has taught at MSU Billings for almost twenty years in geography and environmental studies. Her primary area of interest is how individuals become attached to particular places and landscapes and how those attachments influence environmental philosophies and actions. Susan was the principal investigator for the project, “The Yellowstone Cultural Inventory—2006,” and oversaw interviews with three hundred people living near the Yellowstone River. Over 200 of those recorded interviews are now archived with the Western Heritage Center of Billings, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution of Washington D.C. Susan has also studied how local committees influenced development along the Upper Yellowstone, the Madison, and the Big Hole Rivers of Montana. Another focus area has been the superfund clean-up at Milltown, Montana. Susan has also studied water quality and community perceptions of risk to water resources in the Bakken area of eastern Montana.

Recently, she updated the Yellowstone River Cultural Inventory via new interview data and co-authored a book that was published in January of 2022: "Bringing Sustainability to the Ground Level: Competing Demands in the Yellowstone River Valley.” Susan grew up on a cattle ranch in northeastern Wyoming. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wyoming and her Ph.D. in geography from Texas A&M University. She also currently oversees the Environmental Studies program at MSUB.

I want to thank both Ed and Susan for their willingness to continue serving in this capacity and for the hard work they have done for the College of Business and our university. We are very fortunate to have such experienced and talented individuals in these roles.

A search for a permanent dean will be launched in September 2022.

Sincerely,

Sep Eskandari, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

June 14, 2022

Dear Campus Community:

After a thorough national search, Tami Haaland has been named the permanent Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences at Montana State University Billings. Her new position is effective, July 1. A professor of English, Tami has been teaching at MSU Billings for 27 years. During this time, she’s held various positions: From 2008-2011, she served as Director of the University Honors Program and from 2014-2018, she chaired the Department of English, Philosophy, and Modern Languages. In 2020-21, she served as Special Assistant to the MSUB Dean of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences and then as Associate Dean. In 2021-22, she served as Interim Dean of both MSUB’s College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences and the College of Education.

Tami Haaland

Tami Haaland, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

A little bit more about Tami and her accomplishments:

In fall 2018, Tami took a sabbatical from MSUB and taught at Ludwigsburg University of Education in Germany. She also traveled to England on several occasions to work with colleagues at the University of Winchester and taught at the University of Winchester Writing Festival.

Since 2016, Haaland has co-directed the Elk River Writing Project, an affiliate of the National Writing Project, which sponsors annual programs for teachers like Worlds Apart But Not Strangers, a Holocaust Education and Indian Education for All Seminar, and a Yellowstone Institute focused on cultural and scientific knowledge of the park. She also directs Young Poets, a program she founded in 2012, to bring poetry instruction into elementary school classrooms in Billings and surrounding areas.

In addition to teaching creative writing at MSUB, Tami taught poetry and literature at Montana Women’s Prison for five years. During that time, she collaborated with psychology and social work colleagues to develop a narrative therapy course and worked with artist Dennis Kern to assist the students in developing their own literary magazine. She also frequently offers writing workshops for schools and community groups.

Tami is also the author of three poetry collections, What Does Not Return, When We Wake in the Night, and Breath in Every Room, which won the Nicholas Roerich First Book Award. Her poems have appeared in many periodicals and anthologies, including, Ascent, Consequence, “The American Journal of Poetry,” “The Ecopoetry Anthology,” and “Healing the Divide.” Her work has also been featured on The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, American Life in Poetry, and The Slowdown. Her essays have appeared in “The Strategic Poet” and other teaching anthologies; another is forthcoming in “The Art of Revising Poetry: 21 US Poets on Revision, Craft, and Process.” She has also been a contributing writer for Best American Poetry Blog.  

Recently, Tami was invited to guest lecture at the Department of English at Vellore Institute of Technology in Vellore, India, and the Department of English at Northwest A & F University in Xianjiang, China.

Originally from the Hi-Line, Tami received her Master of Arts in English Literature from the University of Montana and her Master of Fine Arts from Bennington College. She served as Montana’s Poet Laureate from 2013-2015 and has received a Governor’s Humanities Award, an Artist Innovation Award from the Montana Arts Council, and was awarded writing residencies from Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Foundation and Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center.

Tami has an extensive record of accomplishments as a faculty member, scholar, and academic leader. I am very pleased that Tami will continue to be an integral part of our leadership team. Her strategic, thoughtful, collaborative, and inclusive leadership will play a key role in advancing our initiatives in support of students, faculty, staff, and the community.

Please join me in congratulating Tami in her new role.

Sincerely,

Sep Eskandari, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

May 9, 2022

Dear Faculty Colleagues:

As the 2021-22 academic year comes to a close, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your commitment and dedication to our students, our academic mission, and our MSU Billings community.

The commencement ceremony on Saturday filled me with inspiration, happiness, and hope. The event was a terrific reminder of our core purpose of serving our students and, of course, your tremendous role in guiding and facilitating our students’ successes.

Thank you for a wonderful and productive academic year. It is truly my honor and privilege to serve as your Provost, and I look forward to many more years of collaborative work together.

Thank you again for all that you do! I wish you a relaxing, restful, revitalizing, and intellectually productive summer.

With gratitude,

Sep Eskandari, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Oct. 21, 2021

Dear Reviewer:

The coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) continues to have a significant impact on our professional and personal lives. At Montana State University Billings, we are committed to ensuring the safety, health, and well-being of our campus community and, moreover, we remain committed to our mission of providing “a transformative education that empowers students from diverse backgrounds to succeed.” Currently, in academic year 2021-22, the sustained high level of community transmission risk in Yellowstone County has necessitated that we continue observance of risk mitigation factors, including a face mask requirement within indoor instructional spaces and other indoor spaces where faculty and students gather during class meetings. We have also requested that faculty adopt measures to assist contact tracing efforts, including maintaining class seating charts and reduced movement in the classroom.

I recognize and appreciate the hard work, determination, and resiliency of MSU Billings faculty during these extraordinary times. I am grateful to our faculty for being innovative and resourceful as they have adapted to unusual circumstances that have impacted their teaching and learning spaces. I know that faculty have had to adopt and apply new and innovative pedagogic approaches to achieve the high-quality instruction they expect of themselves and aligned with the engaging and enriching educational experience we provide to our students.

While student ratings of teaching effectiveness should not be used as the sole basis to assess teaching effectiveness, I acknowledge concerns raised by some faculty regarding the potential negative impact of the changes and challenges noted above, and that student evaluations obtained during Spring 2020 and academic years 2020-21 and 2021-22 may not accurately reflect teaching effectiveness and commitment to quality education. The purpose of this letter is to ask that you, as reviewer/evaluator, take a holistic evaluation approach and consider the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and the adjustments faculty have had to make to serve their students. Faculty will continue to administer student evaluations for their courses in academic year 2021-22.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about this guidance.

Sincerely,

Sep Eskandari, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Oct. 21, 2021

Dear Faculty Colleagues:

As members of the COVID-19 Task Force, we are reaching out to you regarding the mask requirement within indoor instructional spaces. Overall, we have received positive feedback on mask wearing compliance and we are certain that your example and collaboration have significantly contributed to this success.

We wish to remind everyone that we continue to require face masks for students and faculty within all indoor instructional spaces and recommend wearing face masks in all other indoor spaces on both campuses. In cases of noncompliance with regard to mask wearing within indoor instructional spaces, we ask that we all extend respect and collegiality to all campus community members and not confront anyone not wearing a face mask. Also, classes should not be canceled due to mask noncompliance, but instead concerns and noncompliance issues should be submitted to covidquestions@msubillings.edu. These concerns and noncompliance issues will be reviewed by members of the COVID-19 Task Force and we will work diligently to resolve them. Finally, please continue to maintain date-stamped seating charts for your classes in order to facilitate contact tracing should it become necessary. For additional information, please consult the COVID-19 FAQs, which are updated regularly and provide a wealth of information related to classroom and other protocols.

The COVID-19 Task Force continues to closely monitor campus and county data and will provide additional updates to the campus community as appropriate.

Thank you for your hard work and dedication in all you do and for creating an enriching learning environment for our students.

Sincerely,

Joy Honea, President, MSU Billings Faculty Association, Professor, Social Sciences & Cultural Studies
Vern Gagnon, Vice President, Montana Two-Year College Faculty Association, Chair, Nursing, Health, and Public Safety
Kurt Toenjes, Dean, College of Health Professions and Science
Sep Eskandari, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Sept. 7, 2021

Dear Faculty Colleagues:

Following our previous message, we write to you today to provide additional information regarding our face mask recommendation in all indoor spaces. In particular, we would like to share and emphasize the attached set of recommendations designed to encourage mask-wearing on campus. Chancellor Hicswa sent these recommendations to all university students and employees, and you are welcome to share them with students in your classes. The recommendation to wear face masks indoors is based on the continuing rise in the number of active COVID-19 cases in Yellowstone County. MSU Billings strongly recommends that all campus community members, regardless of vaccination status, wear face masks indoors on University and City College campuses. This recommendation is aligned with guidelines from our local public health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We continue to monitor this situation closely and will provide appropriate guidance if the situation deteriorates.

To ensure the safety of everyone on campus and in the community, and to reduce the likelihood of additional COVID-related restrictions, we ask you to do the following:

  • Consult the COVID-19 Central Faculty FAQs, which address important issues related to classes. As appropriate, please feel free to use materials from these FAQs in your syllabi, including the following language about mask-wearing in class:
    • MSU Billings recommends that everyone wear a face mask indoors to protect the health and safety of our campus community. Due to the continuing rise in the number of active COVID-19 cases in Yellowstone Country, local public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a face mask indoors to keep our campus community safe. Collective partnership and collaboration are needed to keep our case numbers low so that we can continue engaging in high-quality, in-person teaching and learning. According to the CDC, vaccination offers the best protection against COVID-19 severe disease symptoms, hospitalization, and fatality.
  • Set an example for your students by wearing a face mask in your instructional space and inside all campus buildings. The most effective way of ensuring that your students wear a face mask is by modeling the desired behavior.
  • If you feel comfortable doing so, at the start of every class session, respectfully and politely ask your students to join you and their classmates in wearing a face mask. Ask for their partnership.
  • Always have spare face masks available for those who have forgotten to bring theirs. Your department can request disposable masks and make them available to you.
  • Please remember that the campus has recommended that we all wear face masks within indoor spaces. There is no requirement to do so. Noncompliant students shall not be singled out or shamed. There shall be no consequence for noncompliance. No academic reward shall be based on a student wearing a face mask. No punitive measure shall be based on a student not wearing a face mask. Likewise, there shall be no disparate treatment of students based on their vaccination status.

We believe the simple actions mentioned above will encourage more individuals to wear a face mask within our instructional spaces. While participation may not be 100%, we believe the collective goodwill expressed by the majority of individuals will significantly increase safety in our classrooms.

We continue to monitor this situation daily, including the number of positive cases in Yellowstone County and on our campus. If we start experiencing a high rate of COVID-19 infections on campus, we will revisit our health and safety approach and make appropriate recommendations.

We thank you for your tireless and never-ending care for our students, and for always providing the highest quality learning experiences to ensure our students continue to grow personally, academically, and professionally. Please do not hesitate to contact any one of us if you have any questions or if you require additional information.

Sincerely,

Joy Honea, President, Faculty Association, Professor, Social Sciences & Cultural Studies
Jen Lynn, Chair, Academic Senate, Associate Professor, History
Vern Gagnon, Vice President, Montana Two-Year College Faculty Association, Chair, Nursing, Health, and Public Safety
Sep Eskandari, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Sept. 1, 2021

Dear Faculty Colleagues:

Welcome to the 2021-22 academic year! We hope your summer was restful as well as intellectually productive. You, the faculty, play a pivotal role in supporting our students and advancing our academic mission, and we express our gratitude to you for the heroic work done last year under challenging conditions.

As we prepare for the start of classes and for welcoming our students back to campus, we would like to share some information related to COVID-19 and our campus readiness for the fall semester. The safety of our students, faculty, and staff, and ensuring that our faculty and students remain engaged in high-quality teaching and learning experiences remain our top priorities.

Due to the recent rise in the number of active COVID-19 cases in Yellowstone County, MSU Billings recommends that all campus community members, regardless of vaccination status, wear face masks indoors on University and City College campuses. This recommendation is aligned with guidelines from our local public health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We recognize that you have many questions on how to conduct your classes this fall. Our COVID-19 Central page provides answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) for students, faculty, and staff. Because the situation changes frequently, please check this page regularly for the latest updates. Please work with your Department Chair and College Dean to address any issues not covered in the FAQs. And, of course, send any questions you may have to covidquestions@msubillings.edu.

As you finalize your course syllabi for the fall semester, it may be useful to adopt standard syllabus language provided by our future Center for Teaching and Learning, found under eLearning (see Syllabus Resources under the Policy Resources tab). It may also be helpful to your students to provide a link in your syllabi to the Student Resources A-Z page. This is a very useful one-stop resource page for your students.

Thank you for all that you do in support of our students and our academic mission. We wish you a fulfilling, productive, and safe fall semester and academic year. Please do not hesitate to contact any one of us if you have any questions or if you require additional information.

Sincerely,

Joy Honea, President, Faculty Association, Professor, Social Sciences & Cultural Studies
Jen Lynn, Chair, Academic Senate, Associate Professor, History
Vern Gagnon, Vice President, Montana Two-Year College Faculty Association, Chair, Nursing, Health, and Public Safety
Sep Eskandari, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs