Sally Johnstone came to Montana several times while she worked for the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Learning, or WICHE, in Boulder, Colo.
WICHE is a regional organization of 15 Western states that works to expand the quality of and access to higher education.
Johnstone directed WICHE’s Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications that integrated technology in higher education.
In that role, she worked with Montana legislators and the Montana Board of Regents.
“She is an exceptional talent,” said Johnstone’s former boss, David Longanecker, WICHE president. “Any community would be lucky to have her.”
When Johnstone joined WICHE, the Internet was fairly new. She became a national expert in the field, helping Western states, including Montana, manage and assess online-learning programs, Longanecker said.
The unit also provided information about technology media in classrooms and educational resources offered for free over the Internet.
Johnstone also has worked with U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Longanecker praised Johnstone for her intelligence, ability to quickly absorb rapid changes in technology, skill at public speaking and charismatic leadership.
While working in Colorado, Johnstone and her family became big fans of Montana, she wrote in a cover letter to her application.
“We all appreciate Billings in particular. ... Montana State University Billings also offers a wonderful blend of opportunities for students from job-specific training to liberal arts and masters-level studies,” she wrote.
Johnstone said she applied for the chancellor’s job because her career has focused on service to schools, like MSU Billings, that make the most difference in students’ lives and in communities in which they are located.
As provost at Winona State, a regional comprehensive university with a branch campus, she is working on some of the same challenges confronting MSU Billings.
During a telephone interview, Johnstone said the two biggest higher education issues in Montana — tighter budgets and rising tuition — are ones that Winona State and most other campuses across the county are dealing with, too.
Johnstone said her work experience has prepared her to take on the top leadership role at MSU Billings.
“As my resume indicates, I have had the good fortune to serve in many different types of leadership settings and have learned from each one,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Gazette.
She has learned to address challenges by understanding all information related to the situation, work collaboratively to resolve issues, learn from the experience and change processes if necessary.
Contact Mary Pickett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 657-1262.