Interim UM business dean to focus on ‘better life’ for students, investments in technology

Suzanne Tilleman

The University of Montana College of Business named its interim dean last week after an announcement earlier this month that the current dean will leave in June.

Suzanne Tilleman, chair of the marketing, management and international business department, will serve in place of Christopher Shook as the Sprunk and Burnham Dean while a national search is conducted this fall.

“I care very deeply about this college, the students, the faculty and staff and our alumni. I know we have a lot of great people and potential, and because I’ve been here for nine years and I know quite a few people, I think I can help maintain that,” Tilleman said.

Before coming to UM, Tilleman spent seven years working in the natural resources industry for General Electric, Exxon and Monsanto. She taught for four years at Montana State University-Northern and has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a doctorate in business administration.

Shook could not be reached for comment about his departure.

Tilleman said that she will continue to implement the plan that the College of Business Strategic Planning Committee adopted last year, which aims to improve course curricula, invest in classroom technologies and staff support, and focus on student success and career development.

“The strategic plan emphasizes multiple things, but it is about providing experiential opportunities and education to our students to give them the tools to compete and be valuable in our economy and marketplace,” she said.

Specific changes for the next academic year include redesigning the introduction to business classes to be more interactive with students and to improve retention by implementing central advising for all undeclared students interested in business. Sharing the college’s story is another goal.

“One of the things we are doing with our strategic plan is to have more touch points with the freshmen and sophomores who have not declared a major yet, because they can declare for business administration but it’s not major-specific,” she said. “The other thing we’re doing is, any students, incoming freshman onward who say they’re interested in business are being advised by our advisors now, instead of through central advising, with the intention of helping those students be efficient and successful in charting their path toward graduation.”

After Shook started as dean in 2016, the College of Business was ranked the No. 1 college of business in the Big Sky Conference and one of the best in the Northwest. The college offers undergraduate majors in accounting, finance, international business, management, management information systems and marketing.

It offers the only accredited Master of Accountancy in Montana at the graduate level, and the first Master of Science in business analytics in the Pacific Northwest.

Its Master of Business Administration is the only one of its kind in the state.

The college also plans to implement a university chapter of the Distributive Education Clubs of America, or DECA, which allows incoming students to compete nationally on business topics like finance or entrepreneurship and continue work from their high school DECA club.

“We’re really motivated to help our students have a better life,” Tilleman said. “Business is a very broad field and so there are many avenues in which students can pursue a fulfilling career.”

Shook is leaving UM to serve as dean of the Gordon Ford College of Business at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

“The College of Business is a place where students can go to get an education that lets them turn their passion into their job,” Shook said in a press release. “We provide real-world experiences and contacts that they can leverage after graduation. It has been a privilege to work alongside staff, faculty and alumni who are passionate about transforming the lives of students. I know that the great work being done at the college will continue and that the best is yet to come. I am proud to have been a small part of its current and future success.”

Reporter Mari Hall can be reached via email at mari.hall@missoulacurrent.com.