Brock Tessman, Ph.D.
A Michigan native, Dr. Brock Tessman currently serves as the Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education for the 45,000 students, 8,000 employees, and 16 campuses that comprise the Montana University System (MUS). In this role, Tessman is responsible for driving success across the wide ranging sectors of Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, and Research & Economic Development. Since April 2020, Tessman has also coordinated Montana’s systemwide COVID-19 response and planning as chair of the Healthy MUS Task Force.
Although he has faculty roots and significant experience as a campus leader, Tessman’s more recent work at the system level is driving expanded college access for rural communities and adult learner populations across Montana. Under Tessman’s leadership, the MUS is substantially narrowing opportunity and achievement gaps for low-income, first generation, and Indigenous students in the state. In the past year, the MUS has achieved record enrollment, retention and completion rates for Indigenous students, and new transfer partnerships with Montana’s Tribal Colleges. Over the last three years, Tessman has overseen the design and launch of the Montana 10 Student Success Initiative, which employs targeted financial aid, student incentives, comprehensive advising, mental health, and academic momentum strategies to increase retention rates by 24% and more than double on-time completion rates for program participants across multiple campuses. Tessman also oversees the $345 million MUS research enterprise and is responsible for statewide development of new accelerated degree programs, business and industry partnerships, rapid workforce training programs, public-private ventures, and Career & Technical Education operations. In his role, Tessman is also the statewide director for Montana’s community colleges.
Tessman is a visible and active presence at the state level. He works very closely with the seven-member Montana Board of Regents, and he frequently represents the Montana University System in communications, negotiations, and collaborations with the Montana Governor’s Office, the Montana Legislature, the Office of Public Instruction, school districts, the Montana Chamber of Commerce, the Montana Department of Labor & Industry, private foundations, national higher education associations, and through service as part of the State Workforce Innovation Board, the board of the Montana Digital Academy, and the Montana Early Childhood Advisory Council.
Prior to his current position, Dr. Tessman served as a Professor of Political Science and Dean of the Davidson Honors College at the University of Montana in Missoula. During his time as Dean, Tessman greatly expanded private giving and community partnerships, increased enrollment, revised the honors curriculum, and added new facilities. Tessman also added the groundbreaking Climate Change Studies Program to the Honors College, and launched a number of new programs including an interdisciplinary Teaching, Research, and Mentoring Postdoctoral Fellows Program, a comprehensive Career Development Program, a community problem-solving think tank (DHC QUEST), and a Global Experience Fund for Native American Students. Tessman was also active as a cross-campus leader, chairing the UM Strategic Planning Coordinating Council and the UM Undergraduate Research Committee.
Tessman began his academic career at the University of Georgia, where he earned tenure in the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) for his research and teaching on national security, foreign policy, and the relationship between environmental conditions, risk tolerance, and leadership decision making. He has published extensively in political science journals like the Journal of Conflict Resolution, Security Studies, International Studies Review, and Foreign Policy Analysis. Tessman has also authored a widely adopted teaching text (International Relations in Action). At the University of Georgia, Tessman earned a number of teaching awards at the departmental, college, and campus level, including the Richard B. Russell Award for Undergraduate Teaching, which is the highest early-career teaching honor at UGA. In 2014, Tessman was inducted into the UGA Teaching Academy. He served as Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Global Studies, Undergraduate Program Director, Graduate Program Director, and led study abroad programs to Oxford, Japan, China, Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.
Tessman was born at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and was raised downstate in nearby Plymouth. He graduated with an honors degree in International Relations from Brown University and received both his MA and PhD (Political Science) from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Dr. Tessman and his wife Kristin, have two young daughters, Frances and Leona. He is an avid trail runner, a board game enthusiast, and - though it is hard to admit - a lifelong Detroit Lions fan.