When the Montana Board of Regents hired a corporate executive to lead the University of Montana, it brought a business and military professional into an academic arena.
Less than two months into the UM presidency of Seth Bodnar, the unconventional hire appears to have hit a snag. In an email, Bodnar acknowledged faculty leaders have questioned some entries in his resumé, and he is pledging to update it with "conventions typical of an academically-oriented CV (curriculum vitae)."
"I recognize that in building my resumé in a business-sector style to be as succinct as possible, I did not utilize certain conventions that are typically used in an academically-oriented CV," Bodnar wrote to faculty leadership in an email he shared with the Missoulian.
For example, Bodnar listed himself as an "assistant professor of economics" for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point from 2009 to 2011. An earlier resumé posted on West Point's website lists him as an economics "instructor" in 2009, and a journal article co-authored by Bodnar also identifies him as an "instructor" in autumn 2010.
In an email in response to the Missoulian, Bodnar said he focused his resumé "primarily on the job held and the responsibilities of that job, rather than the rank."
"I was assigned to West Point for two years and had the same duties and responsibilities for that entire assignment," Bodnar said. "As such, I did not delineate on my resumé between my years at West Point to specify different academic ranks held during that two-year period, and my resumé reflects my title as 'Assistant Professor,' the academic rank I received during that assignment.
"This is a common practice for officers in reflecting their West Point time on their resumés."
Through a UM spokeswoman, a retired brigadier general also said the way Bodnar recorded his service is typical in the military.
In an email, Bodnar noted his official promotion to assistant professor was in January 2011, but he said his duties did not change and the title was in recognition of his performance.
In November, after vetting by consultant firm AGB Search and a search committee, the Montana Board of Regents unanimously approved the hire of Bodnar. Bodnar is a Rhodes scholar and West Point class valedictorian who holds two master’s degrees from the University of Oxford.
He does not hold a doctorate, unlike previous UM presidents; a Ph.D. was not required for the job.
In his note to faculty leaders, Bodnar said he would modify his resume "to ensure its clarity and alignment with the conventions typical of an academically-oriented CV" — conventions he said he understands and respects.
"I appreciate the chance to have discussed and clarified questions raised about the manner in which I listed experiences on my resumé," Bodnar wrote. "Thank you for bringing these to my attention; I greatly appreciated the collaborative discussion.''
Faculty Senate Chair Mary-Ann Bowman said the executive committee of the body will likely discuss the matter and gather more information to determine any course of action.
"There is a distinction between instructor and assistant professor, and if this was a faculty member, it would be a concerning thing to suggest one was an assistant professor for a time period when one was not," Bowman said.
She said faculty leadership encouraged the president to disclose the matter to the public himself on Feb. 7, just a couple of days after the issues were raised.
"Faculty is comprised of fair-minded people who seek truth and operate with a high degree of integrity," Bowman said. "I think we’re looking to our leader to share that, and we hope that President Bodnar does."
In his emails to faculty and the Missoulian, Bodnar said he would include in an updated resumé a publication co-author, whose name he omitted in the resumé he submitted for the UM job. He also further described his tenure at GE.
On his resumé, Bodnar identifies himself as "President, GE Transportation Digital Solutions and Chief Digital Officer, GE Transportation," from July 2015 through August 2017.
A story from the Chicago Tribune indicates GE Transportation launched its “new” Digital Solutions business in March 2016. And Bloomberg notes Bodnar served as Chief Digital Officer at GE Transportation since Jan. 18, 2016.
Bodnar described his tenure at GE this way:
"In the summer of 2015, I was named President of GE Transportation’s 'Cab Electronics' business. Shortly thereafter, the decision was made to merge that business with multiple other businesses to create an integrated software business. I was asked to lead the reorganization and create what became our 'Digital Solutions' business. In late 2015, I was named the permanent leader of the business and served as GE Transportation’s first Chief Digital Officer through the summer of 2017."
In a news release from October 2015, GE refers to Bodnar as a general manager of cab electronics; Bodnar noted that GE used both the titles of president and general manager for the position he held.
GE would not provide the Missoulian with details of Bodnar's job titles and responsibilities, citing personnel regulations. However, through UM communications director Paula Short, HR official Adam Yeloushan of GE Transportation confirmed Bodnar had provided factual information in his resumé.
“Seth accurately characterized his employment and leadership role at GE in his resumé," Yeloushan said in the statement provided by UM.
Yeloushan did not describe Bodnar's role as president or general manager or the dates he served in which positions, but he praised his leadership: "Starting in the summer of 2015, Seth began pulling together multiple businesses across GE transportation to create our Digital Solutions business. He grew this business, making a number of acquisitions and was very successful as our first Chief Digital Officer.”
Also in a statement provided through UM, Michael Meese, retired brigadier general, confirmed Bodnar's tenure at West Point. Meese identified himself as head of the Department of Social Sciences when Bodnar was a faculty member.
“Seth Bodnar’s characterization of his time at West Point as an assistant professor is accurate and common practice for military officers serving on the U.S. Military Academy faculty.
"As a result of his excellent performance during his first year of teaching, Seth was promoted to 'Assistant Professor.' Because the duties and responsibilities of an instructor and assistant professor at West Point are essentially the same, officers who are promoted to assistant professor during their assignment list this title on their officer record brief (ORB) for the entirety of that assignment, just as Seth did."
According to the 2014 U.S. Military Academy Faculty Manual, the qualifications for being an instructor include having a master's degree; the qualifications for being an "assistant professor" include "an earned doctorate or equivalent degree." Instructors who have made "significant scholarly contributions" beyond a master's degree may be promoted.
Commissioner Clayton Christian, who led the search committee that selected Bodnar, said the president brought the questions to his attention. Christian said he takes academic integrity seriously, and he knows Bodnar wanted to clear up any concerns.
At the same time, Christian urged the campus to support its new president. UM has struggled in recent years with declining enrollment, related budget cuts, and the lack of permanent leadership in top posts, including a couple of current interim administrators.
"I think the more that we continue to tear ourselves apart, the more challenging it becomes," Christian said. "And I really hope that we don't let too many things get us off track of what we really need to do to heal the institution to move forward."