Meet Our Team
Allen Yarnell Center for Student Success
Dr. Carina N. Beck
Vice Provost - Allen Yarnell Center for Student Success
& Director, Hilleman Scholars
Carina Beck serves in the role of Vice Provost and Director of the Hilleman Scholars Program at Montana State University. In her role, Dr. Beck is responsible for several offices and programs that work toward a common goal of creating transformational learning, development, and engagement opportunities for MSU students.
Beck oversees the MSU Hilleman Scholars Program, a scholarship and leadership program for Montana Pell-eligible students. In addition to personalized student success support, the program serves as a living laboratory to research and develop innovative practices that promote better outcomes for all students who attend Montana State University. Through its innovative curriculum program design, and partnerships with individuals and programs across Montana, the MSU Hilleman Scholars Program is well situated to produce Montana’s future leaders.
In addition, Beck oversees the Allen Yarnell Center for Student Success, which is comprised of the following offices: Career, Internship & Student Employment Services; Office of Student Success; Office of Financial Education; Office of Return-to-Learn; Bobcat Mentoring; Montana’s Own Scholarship Program; and Faculty Early Alert Program. In support of the public land grant mission of MSU, the offices and services are designed to collaborate to advance the institution’s strategic plan, Choosing Promise.
During her time at MSU, Beck also helped establish other MSU offices including Blackstone Launch Pad, MSU Leadership Institute (co-founded with Jim McCray) and re-established the
U. S. Department of Education TRIO SSS program.
Along with her husband, Lawrence, Carina has called Montana home for over 30 years. They share two boys – Lawrence & AJ - and love for the Montana seasons and outdoors.
Lori Oakley, M.S.
Systems Management Program Manager
As a graduate of a land grant university and family of educators, I knew I wanted to continue the legacy and mission. Montana State University has allowed me to provide services to the students at MSU through supporting the Allen Yarnell Center staff and offices. I support Student Success with targeted interventions tested in data analytics, metrics, budgeting, the ChampChange program, scholarship support via the CatScholarship system, computer systems and hiring and supporting staff that exemplify the servant leadership. As a team member that supports all offices within the Allen Yarnell Center, I see my co-workers exhibit the common thread of service on behalf of students, in advocating for action, providing services, understand circumstances, and celebrating successes.
Wendy Soeweno, M.S.
Associate Director for AYCSS Communication
In January 2020, Wendy joined the team at the Allen Yarnell of Student Success (AYCSS). As the Associate Director for Communication, Wendy's mission revolves around ensuring that Montana State University (MSU) students have access to the resources vital for their academic success. Within AYCSS, she leads the communication team, orchestrating strategies that span various platforms to effectively engage students, faculty, and employers.
Drawing from her rich experience as a branding strategist for TEDx Bozeman, as well as her tenure at companies such as Unilever and WPP Group, Wendy has adeptly applied her skills to develop and implement brand strategies and digital communication techniques aimed at boosting MSU's retention and graduation rates.
Wendy's academic background includes a B.S. in Business Administration, specializing in Marketing, and an M.S. in Administration Studies, both of which she earned from Boston University.
Rebekah LaCroix, B.S.
Assistant to the Vice Provost and Front Desk Operations Manager
Inspired by the positive influence faculty and staff had on her during her own time in college, Rebekah eagerly joined the Allen Yarnell Center for Student Success team in July of 2022 as Front Desk Operations Manager and Assistant to the Vice Provost. Rebekah works supporting the different departments within the AYCSS, ensuring MSU students have access to the variety of resources the department offers them. Rebekah received her B.S. in Business Administration and International Development at Point Loma Nazarene University, and has experience in administration support, nonprofits, and working with students. Outside of work, she enjoys spending lots of time outside and exploring new hobbies, food, and places.
Career, Internship & Student Employment Services
Jennifer Shore, M.A.
Director of Career, Internship & Student Employment Services
Jen serves as the Director of Career, Internship & Student Employment Services. Prior to MSU, she spent many years in the corporate world with Boeing and Travelocity. While she enjoyed the business work, she felt the tug to social enterprise work, followed by various leadership roles within nonprofit organizations. Jen is passionate about helping students grow and thrive through education, resources, and community, and feels it is a privilege to be a part of student support and growth at MSU. She believes guiding students early in their college experience as they think about their career path in alignment with their degree path is of great value. In her role, Jen is also focused on developing relationships with Industry & Employers, connecting students with internships and employment opportunities, and providing additional resources as Bobcats transition from college to a meaningful career. Jen has a B.A. in Business Management and an M.A. in Organizational Management. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with family exploring the beautiful nature of Montana on the hiking trails and ski slopes.
Crissina Quinn, M.Ed
Associate Director, Career Education and Development
Crissina serves as the Associate Director of Career Education and Development in the Allen Yarnell Center for Student Success at Montana State University. As an MSU grad, she is thrilled about the opportunity to give back to the institution that helped develop, shape, and cultivate her love for education and Servant Leadership. Crissina obtained a B.A. in Secondary Education from MSU-Bozeman in 2014, a B.A. in English from UM-Missoula in 2019, and a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from UM-Missoula in 2020. Prior to returning to Bozeman, Crissina acted as coordinator and director of a 21st Century Community Learning Center after-school program and taught high school in a small rural town, as well as served as the Dean of Students at a large AA high school in Montana. She believes education can be transformative for students and develop successful and contributing members of society and looks forward to being a key component in MSU students’ search for and attainment of vocations and careers, as well as impacting others in the same positive way she experienced here at Montana State University.
Halley Perry, M.S.
Assistant Director, Industry & Employer Relations
Halley is a 3rd generation alumnus from Montana State University and has worked in the nonprofit sector for 10 years. During her time as a student at MSU, Halley worked as a student associate for Career, Internship, and Student Employment Services. She is excited to return to The Allen Yarnell Center of Student Success and to apply her skills she learned throughout her career.
As the Assistant Director of Industry & Employer Relations, Halley is excited to help students find their career path by connecting them to industry leaders. She knows MSU students have a reputation of being innovators, critical thinkers, and all-around talented individuals. She will be working hard to develop on-campus recruiting efforts and opening opportunities to MSU students.
Joan Ghassemi, J.D.
Graduate Programs Career Educator
Nicole Bachich, B.A.
Career Education Coach
Nicole is a Career Education Coach within the AYSCC. With a strong philosophy of work/life balance, Nicole is excited to guide students through resources and self-exploration to choose a career path.
Nicole is looking forward to introducing as many students as possible to the services provided within the AYSCC, ensuring that all students have access to the tools that can help guide them to a more holistic approach to career exploration.
Nicole attained her Bachelor of Arts from Humboldt State University in Recreation Administration and has worked in the Outdoor Industry for over two decades.
Grace Hernden, B.A.
Career Education Coach
Grace joined the Allen Yarnell Center for Student Success in 2023. Her background in counseling, resource navigation and marketing gives her a unique perspective to guide students through career exploration. Grace enjoys collaborating and learning from students, while assisting them along their career path. Grace earned her B.A. in Communications from the University of Colorado at Boulder and completed an Addictions Counseling graduate certificate through Montana State University. Outside of the AYCSS office you’ll find Grace camping, reading and playing with her mutt Dexter.
Kristen Gregg, MPH
Career Education Coach
Kristen grew up on a working cattle ranch in Eastern Oregon where she was introduced to hard work early in life – by age 11 she was running a tractor and rake in the hay fields! She enjoyed the lifestyle and learning that came along with ranching alongside her family. She attended Oregon State University (another land grant university!) and received her Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health. She spent a year working at an assisted living facility before moving to Washington, DC where she received her Master’s Degree in Public Health from George Washington University. In 2019, Kristen and her husband and three children moved to Bozeman to pursue career opportunities and enjoy the amazing Southwestern Montana lifestyle.
Kristen’s experiences have helped her understand how to collaborate, communicate and problem-solve with people. She has engaged with diverse groups and populations throughout her career and enjoys connecting with them all. She is excited to continue this engagement with students at MSU as they navigate the world of higher education and transition to their next steps in her role as a career education coach. Her varied career and life experiences in agriculture, youth coaching, public health, event management and planning, and education help her connect with students across many different areas of interest.
Kristen enjoys spending time with her family in her spare time. They enjoy hiking, skiing, fishing, and camping together. She also enjoys fitness, reading, volunteering her time for the Alzheimer’s Association and in Bozeman’s public schools, and cheering on her kids at sporting events.
Tyler Tennant, M.Sc.
Career Education Coach
Prior to their position as Career Coach at MSU, Tyler completed their Bachelor of Arts in English and Spanish from the University of Portland (2017), followed by their Master’s in Science in Outdoor Education from the University of Edinburgh (2019). As a collector of disparate experiences and lover of learning, Tyler has held multiple positions across numerous organizations – from food prep and customer service, to university housing and business ownership. This wide array of opportunities has given Tyler a unique perspective on the meaning of “career”, and helps guide them in pursuing each student’s unique needs.
Tyler is excited to work with each student to help them better understand their career path, their changing identities, and new opportunities available to them. When meeting with Tyler, please remember it is a safe space for exploration and questions – all are welcome!
Tracy Novak, M.S.
Career Education Coach
After a 35-year career as an environmental and natural resource scientist, Tracy is excited to now support and empower college students with tools, strategies, mindsets, relevant resources, and helpful feedback as they navigate career planning. She believes strongly that a fulfilling career, with all its twists and turns, adds immeasurably to a fulfilling life.
In her role as a consultant scientist, Tracy mentored and trained college-aged students in the areas of field investigations, data analysis, and developing recommendations – all to produce high-quality natural resource investigation reports for clients. From this experience, she understands students’ need for support and information on how to navigate their unique career path. She is thrilled to work with this age-group through MSU AYCSS.
Tracy has lived in Bozeman since 1990 and enjoys ALL of Montana’s natural resources—especially the snow! She has an M.S. in Land Rehabilitation from Montana State University (1999) and a B.S. in Forestry from Michigan State University (1984).
Bruce Campbell, J.D.
Industry Expert and Guest Resume Coach
Bruce Campbell is a retired attorney who practiced law for nearly 40 years at the firm of Perkins Cole. His area of practice was product liability litigation. Bruce represented aircraft and other manufacturers in government investigations and litigation pursued throughout the world. In his final years of practice, Bruce headed the 70-lawyer Product Liability Practice Group at Perkins Cole.
At MSU, Bruce serves on the Honors College External Advisory Council, moderates the “After College, What’s Next?” program (now in its eighth year), assists in teaching a seminar on Constitutional Law, and works with the Office of the Provost in mentoring students and preparing them for entry into the job market.
Bruce and wife Galen reside part-time in the Gallatin Valley. Bruce received his Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from the University of Washington and his Juris Doctorate degree from Willamette University College of Law.
Industry Expert and Resume Coach
Jon Ventura has 35 years of national security experience working in private industry (ANSER), the federal government (U.S. Department of Energy) and Los Alamos National laboratory. He has a detailed understanding of the Nation's nuclear deterrent, the capabilities of the weapons systems as well as the leading-edge science and technology (S&T) at the Nation's national security laboratories to ensure the continued credibility of the nuclear deterrent. His responsibilities have included: Congressional and legislative affairs, liaison activities with the National Security Council and elements of the Nation's intelligence community. He has extensive experience in briefing military officers on the S&T portfolio of Los Alamos and has lectured at the U.S. military academy at West Point and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He remains a guest scientist at Los Alamos and retains an active security clearance.
Office of Financial Education
Keith Hamburg, B.A.
Senior Financial Coach
Keith serves as the Senior Financial Coach in the Office of Financial Education at Montana State University and has done so since August of 2013. Keith’s goal is to help his student clients pay for school while taking on as little debt as possible, allowing them to “Live like a college student today, so they don’t have to tomorrow.” He has the privilege to work with students, assisting them to engage and take control of their finances with budgeting, scholarship searching, credit, and more. Keith has been in Bozeman since 1994, and before coming to MSU, he owned his own business and also worked for MetLife Financial Services.
Keith’s belief is to always meet a client where they are at on their financial journey. He is a first-generation college student with a degree in Communications (1990).
Jennifer White-Dobbs, M.A.
Jennifer joined AYCSS in 2019. She enjoys working with students to learn strategies for successful budgeting, find creative ways to pay for school, and develop their future financial goals. Engaging with students through coaching as well as offering clinics and teaching class sessions are her favorite parts of the job. Feeling confident about finances is a challenge and a valuable life skill to learn in college. With a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Maine, Orono and a M.A. in Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program, Jennifer’s previous work experience is in museum education and collections. She moved to Bozeman with her family to enjoy the beautiful outdoor lifestyle. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, skiing, horseback riding, and exploring.
Vanessa Chau, MBA
Career Services & Financial Education Program Manager
Vanessa serves as the Career Services & Financial Education Program Manager in AYCSS.
Prior to joining MSU, Vanessa worked at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas
for 16 years and served in multiple roles such as, Human Resources Professional, Business
Operations Manager, and Project Manager. Now Vanessa will be bringing her experiences
to work closely with administrative leadership, faculty, staff and students.
As a Career Services & Financial Education Program Manager, Vanessa will focus on supporting her teams and with minimal contact with the students. However, she is available to answer questions over the phone or walk-ins who needs help to navigate AYCSS website, studentaid.gov, search for CAT scholarships, complete FAFSA financial aid, and federal loans forgiveness information. Her goals are to develop, plan, and implement strategies to expand the Career Services and Financial Education programs in 2023.
When not in the office, Vanessa enjoys experimenting with cooking at home, horseback riding when the weather permits, and traveling.
Pam Bittner, MBA
Pam Bittner joined the Office of Financial Education in 2022 after a career in the private sector. She is an Accredited Financial Counselor candidate. Mostly self-employed, her finance career has included real estate finance, tax preparation, private wealth accounting, business start-up accounting consulting, acting as CFO for a private hedge fund, and financial coaching for Gen-Z professionals. She has streamlined these experiences into sharing her enthusiasm for a successful financial life with young people. Pam received her MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and her degree in Civil Engineering from The Ohio State University. Pam loves spending her time skiing, hiking, biking and backpacking, and spending time with her sons (one of whom is a Bobcat). Nala, the dog, often accompanies her adventures.
Office of Student Success
Assistant Director for Student Learning Management
SmartyCats Tutoring Program Manager
Chip Ritter, M.A.
Student Success Advisor
Chip is thrilled to be at MSU and back in Higher Education after 20 years in the tech sector. He believes earning your college degree is a long-term investment in yourself — and that the more you put into your college experience, the more you’ll get out it. The entire campus is your classroom, offering the opportunity to learn more about how you like to work, play, and socialize while you gain the skills and knowledge you need to propel yourself into the future. Every member of the faculty and staff at MSU wants to set you up for success. Come see us at AYCSS to take advantage of what we have to offer.
When not in the office, Chip can be found hanging out with his wife and daughter, singing with the Bozeman Symphony Choir, or banking as many turns as possible at Bridger Bowl. He also cherishes his visits to Minnesota, where his son is attending college.
Chip earned a bachelor’s degree in Clinical and Counseling Psychology with a minor in Vocal Music Performance from San Jose State University and a Master’s in Student Affairs Administration from Michigan State University. He has special insight into Residence Life, Study Abroad, and the international student experience, having lived and worked outside the United States.
Becca Burgmeier, M.P.P
Second Wind Program Manager
Becca is excited to be part of the AYCSS team after recently relocating to Montana. She manages programming for students on suspension and academic warning but is always happy to work with any student that wants support. She enjoys helping students reflect, problem solve, and create habits that will help them succeed in college and for years to come.
Becca has spent time living in Germany and Ghana and is passionate about travel, culture, and language. She also loves cooking, yoga, hiking, and a good Love is Blind marathon. In 2021 she received her Master of Public Policy in Berlin, Germany and prior to that was working in refugee resettlement in Missoula, MT. Both Becca’s professional and personal life are guided by the values of connection, curiosity, and community. These values drive her to continually seek new ways of supporting students on their journey at MSU.
Janet Barkow, M.A
Student Success Advisor
Janet graduated from Colorado State University in Psychology and eventually received a M.A. in Experiential Education from University of Colorado/Boulder. She taught elementary education for 14 years in Broomfield , Colorado. Reconnecting with the family’s Montana roots, Bozeman seemed like a great place to thrive with her family, with a university and mountains all around.
Janet joined AYCSS as a Success Advisor, a perfect fit with her enthusiasm and passion for education. She enjoys working with students, supporting their academic experience and challenges through efficient effective ways to learn. In success advising, Janet helps students connect with all the amazing resources MSU offers so she can support their educational journey right onto graduation!
William C Kuba, ED.D., CPC
Student Success Advisor
Dr. Kuba has over 30 years of experience in education which includes K-12 / Higher
Ed in public and for profit environments. His most recent work before returning to
Montana was at a small University in Iowa as the Department Head / Professor for Physical
Ed, Exercise Science, and Recreational Leadership.
Student Success Advisor
Whether teaching math and science at public schools on the Kitsap Peninsula of Washington, instructing mathematics at Gallatin College or even teaching preschoolers their letters and numbers, Sonja relishes the joy of students understanding something new. She joined the Allen Yarnell Center for Student Success in the fall of 2021. After growing up in California, Sonja began her Montana adventure, earning her Bachelor of Science degree at Rocky Mountain College (emphasis in Mathematics and a Minor in Art) and her teaching certificate from MSU Billings. Sonja moved to Bozeman after meeting and marrying her husband, Doug, and perhaps most of her experience advising and teaching is with her own four children, who attended Bozeman Public Schools, the University of Montana, and the University of Utah. These combined experiences have cemented her passion for helping students succeed and knowing that the factors for success are widely varied. In her spare time, Sonja loves to travel, hike, work on a building project or two and spend time visiting with family and friends. She is energetic and optimistic that all students can be successful and education is a beneficial element toward that goal.
Toots Taszut, M.S., R.S.
Student Success Advisor
Toots retired from Montana State University in 2017, as an Environmental Health Specialist/ Health Inspector. Her love of being a part of MSU’s mission as a land grant university and engaging with students led to her to return to MSU.
In addition to working as a Student Success Advisor in the Allen Yarnell Center for Student Success (AYCSS), she has a Food Safety consulting business. Toots received her B.S. and M.S. degrees from MSU and has worked with students, staff, and faculty on the MSU campus for 17 years.
Before retiring from MSU, Toots worked with various departments on campus such as Auxiliary Services, Safety & Risk, Facilities Services, Office of Sustainability, and the Dean of Students. Connecting with a culturally diverse student population, she provided support to many student-led campus events which included the International Food Bazaar, Catapalooza, “Bug Buffet,” and the American Indian Council Pow Wow.
Toots is passionate about helping students develop strong life skills, build confidence in their capabilities, and form relationships for the goal of advancing and receiving full benefit of their education.
Toots enjoys spending time with her 2 dogs and 4 cats, floral designing, painting, gardening, reading, and spending time on her family farm in Wyoming.
Noelle Harrison, J.D.
Student Success AdvisorNoelle joined MSU’s Office of Student Success as an Advisor in the spring of 2023. Noelle’s work at MSU is motivated by a strong belief that every student on campus has a mind with the potential to achieve excellence. Based on that belief, she wants to help students develop confidence, lean into their dreams, and not give up. As a member of the Allen Yarnell Center, Noelle wants students to understand that help-seeking is positive – it shows a mature ability to strategize, and studies show it increases the likelihood of long-term mastery and that it usually averts failure. As a Student Success Advisor, Noelle offers support and guidance with learning and test-taking skills, time-management, communication, health, motivation and mindset. She is enthusiastic about helping students graduate with the best possible college experience and loves being part of a team that helps students succeed while having the opportunity to continually learn and work in a higher education environment. Noelle earned a Bachelor of Arts from MSU in 2005 and a Juris Doctor from the University of Montana in 2010. In addition to her career at the Office of Student Success Noelle works with legal counsel at the film licensing and distribution technology company called Nimia. When Noelle is not working, she loves to play outside with her daughter and Labrador, garden, run and cross-train, ski, play tennis, read and enjoy a movie night with her family. Noelle is grateful to live in Montana and appreciates the beauty outside every day.
Hilleman Scholars Program
Assistant Director of Scholar Success - MSU Hilleman Scholars Program
Kristin serves as the Scholar Success Program Manager for the Hilleman Scholars Program. She received her B.A. in Psychology and Education from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and has spent the last decade working with youth in a variety of settings. Kristin was drawn to the Hilleman Scholars Program’s mission to support scholars on their paths to becoming the world’s future problem solvers and leaders. She is passionate about encouraging students to discover their full potential through a combination of leadership development, peer mentoring, and mindset coaching. Kristin strives to create a caring and supportive environment to help guide Hilleman Scholars as they explore their purpose and ways to transform their communities for the better. Outside of the office, Kristin enjoys trail running, traveling, and going on adventures with her pup.
MSU Hilleman Scholars Success Advisor
After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a Bachelors of Sociology, Zak found himself drawn to Bozeman’s beautiful outdoor recreational opportunities and tight knit community in 2018. Since arriving in Bozeman, he has spent the last four years involved in several local nonprofit organizations focusing on efforts to alleviate housing insecurity in the valley. Zak was drawn to the position as a Success Advisor with the Hilleman Scholars program after spending three years working with a college ministry program through the Methodist Church. During that time, he came to admire the dynamism and energy college students brought to the table, especially in times of difficulty.
Outside of his work and pursuing his Master of Public Administration, Zak can be found enjoying hiking in the backcountry, cross country skiing or participating in trivia nights.
Jennifer White-Dobbs, M.A.
Jennifer joined AYCSS in 2019 and Return-to-Learn in 2021. Working with returning students is a fantastic opportunity and it is always exciting to learn someone’s story and find out their goals as they work to complete their degree. She enjoys helping students navigate campus resources, build a plan for a successful school/life combination, and develop the college experience they desire. With a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Maine, Orono and a M.A. in Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program, Jennifer’s previous work experience is in museum education and collections. She moved to Bozeman with her family to enjoy the beautiful outdoor lifestyle. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, skiing, horseback riding, and exploring.
Deborah Albin, M.S.
Assistant Director for Montana’s Own & 1893 Program
MSU students are the problem solvers and leaders of tomorrow, and it is Deb Albin’s privilege to help prepare them for these roles. Having previously spent over a decade working as an educator for the MSU Extension Service, being a native Montanan, and a proud two-time alum of MSU (Sociology ’09 and Public Relations ’16), Deb knows first-hand the importance of investing time and resources in Montanans and supporting students from communities throughout the state.
As the manager of the Montana’s Own and 1893 scholarship programs, Deb identifies promising MSU juniors and seniors and works with them to shape their life and career goals and complete their undergraduate studies feeling strong and confident. Utilizing one-on-one meetings, group workshops, networking events, and personalized action plans, scholars in these two programs spend their final semesters examining their personal interests, strengths, and skills and combining them with their academic knowledge to embark on lives and careers of meaning and purpose.
Gold Standard Program &Student Employment Manager
Lauren serves as the Gold Standard Student Employment Program Manager in the Allen Yarnell Center for Student Success. Prior to MSU, she spent time with various companies including The Four Seasons Hotel and Pepperdine University. Lauren has worked with individuals at different stages of their professional careers and has seen what strong leadership and work experience can do when shaping the future of one's career path.
Lauren is passionate about helping others through education, work experience and professional development. The Gold Standard Program is designed to match students with best suited on-campus jobs based on the students' interests, experience level and overall career goals while also providing leadership and professional development opportunities. Lauren has a BA in Communicology and an MS in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. She hopes to use her education and experience to guide students through working while in school and preparing for a career after graduation.