Lilac Chef Named James Beard Award Semifinalist

Jeremy Engebretson, chef and owner of Lilac, has been named a semifinalist for the 2018 Best Chef: Northwest award by the James Beard Foundation. The 2018 James Beard Awards Gala will take place on Monday, May 7, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. 

Established in 1990, the James Beard Awards recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields and furthers the foundation’s mission to celebrate, nurture and honor chefs and other leaders making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse and sustainable for everyone. This year’s awards were selected from a list of more than 20,000 online entries. The prestigious group of semifinalists in 21 categories represents a wide range of culinary talent, from exceptional chefs and dining destinations nationally and in 10 different regions across the U.S., to the best new restaurants, outstanding bar programs, bakers and rising star chefs 30 or younger. 

Lilac, located at 2515 Montana Ave., describes itself as “local, from scratch, responsible cooking. Modern American food with a fistful of approachability.”

Engebretson is also serving as executive chef-in-residence of the Petroleum Club.

For more information on Lilac, visit For a full list of semifinalists and more information on the James Beard Foundation, visit

New Executive Director Takes the Helm at Billings Depot

Michelle Williams has taken over as executive director of Billings Depot as of March 1. She replaces Jennifer Mercer, who has served in the role for the past seven years. 

In her most recent role, Williams worked for A.D. Creative Group for the past nine years. She is currently a board member and marketing chair for Arts Without Boundaries. 

The Billings Depot is a nonprofit wedding and special event center and is the original passenger train station built by the Great Northern Railroad in 1909. It has been rated one of the top 100 venues in the United States and voted the top place to have a wedding five years in a row by Montana residents. For more information, visit

MSU Billings’ Headcount Up for Spring 2018 Semester

MSU Billings achieved a 4 percent increase in headcount enrollment for the spring 2018 semester compared to spring 2017 semester. At its official 15th class-day count, 4,299 students are enrolled, up from 4,122 students in the spring 2017 semester. This is the highest student headcount for a spring semester achieved in three years. Of the 4,299 students, 2,691 are at University Campus, and 1,608 are with City College.

When comparing spring 2018 semester to spring 2017 semester, City College increased enrollment by 14.4 percent, while University Campus had a decrease of less than 1 percent.

When compared to spring 2017 semester, spring 2018 semester enrollment data shows the number of students in science and health majors is increasing, the highest number of in-state students in three years at 89 percent, 56.4 percent of students are from Yellowstone County, a 21 percent increase in Hispanic students on both campuses, Native American enrollment is up 15 percent at University Campus and the number of female students at City College is up 20.5 percent.

The Dual Enrollment program played an important role in improving spring 2018 semester enrollment. The number of high school students taking college-level credit classes through the High School Connections and University Connections programs grew 48 percent for spring 2018 semester. There are 611 high school students enrolled for spring 2018 semester, compared to 413 for spring 2017 semester. The program has grown 122 percent when looking at two-year enrollment (spring over spring).

City College Students Refinish Park City Volunteer Fire 
Department Truck

Eight students in the Collision Repair and Refinishing class at City College at MSU Billings worked during the fall 2017 semester to restore a Type 4 wildland truck for the Park City Volunteer Fire Department. The fire department purchased the truck in Washington to upgrade its fleet of wildland trucks but determined it needed a new paint job. Instructor Steve Wodrich had a small-town connection to the Park City Volunteer Fire Department and got the ball rolling for the class to restore the truck. He obtained approval from City College’s advisory board and approached community partners for donations to keep costs of the project down.

They presented the newly restored fire truck to the Park City Volunteer Fire Department at a reception in February. The reception recognized the staff and students involved in this service-learning project, Park City Volunteer Fire Department and community partners on the 
project, and unveiled the fire truck.

The class worked on the truck for two months. During the project, students learned about the much larger scale of tasks that it takes to restore a truck of this size. They gained experience in planning, time management and spraying of a larger vehicle. This project was a service learning opportunity where students gained real-life skills and gave back to the community.

The fire truck is a Type 4 wildland truck complete with four-wheel drive, which is something that other trucks in the fleet don’t have. While being rugged, it also carries an 800-gallon water supply and can haul five fire personnel. It will be used for wildland firefighting and will be the second vehicle in command for vehicle accidents.

This project was made possible with community support from Billings area businesses including Denny Menholt Frontier Chevrolet, AA Truck Collision, Carstar Auto Body Specialists, Hanks Auto Body and Duck’s Painting Shop.