Sheila Stearns, Montana’s former commissioner of higher education, will serve as interim chancellor at Montana State University Billings.
Montana State University President Waded Cruzado made the announcement Friday.
Stearns will replace Rolf Groseth, who is retiring as chancellor following MSU Billings’ commencement on May 3. Stearns will take over May 5.
MSU Billings announced four finalists for chancellor on April 15. Those interviews begin Monday on campus.
Stearns was Montana’s commissioner of higher education from 2003 to 2012. Since retiring, she has been a senior fellow and consultant for the Association of Governing Boards, providing advice to boards of trustees and governing boards of colleges and universities throughout the United States and the Pacific Islands.
A native of Glendive, Stearns said she was happy to be able to spend time in Billings, where several members of her family live.
“I’m happy for the opportunity to spend time at a beautiful campus with people I know and care about, and help in the transition,” she said.
Cruzado said the MSU Billings campus could not be in better hands.
“Stearns has an encyclopedic knowledge of higher education in the state of Montana and beyond,” Cruzado said. “We are extremely pleased that she is available to put that experience to use on behalf of MSU Billings as we move through this interim period.”
Cruzado said MSU Billings is in the middle of a search for a permanent replacement for Groseth, and expects to have a new chancellor in place July 1.
Prior to serving as Montana commissioner of higher education, Stearns was president of Wayne State University in Nebraska. Before that, she was provost, and then chancellor, of Western Montana College in Dillon.
Stearns received all her degrees from the University of Montana, including bachelor’s degrees in English and history, a master’s degree in history and a doctorate in educational administration and supervision. She worked six years as a teacher and librarian in middle schools before becoming an administrator at UM. She is married to Hal Stearns, a retired Missoula public school teacher.
The finalists for chancellor, in the order they’ll visit campus, are:
Ricardo Maestas, special assistant to the Texas State University System chancellor. He is also a professor at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas and has a doctorate from the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education at the University of Michigan.
His open forum will be held at 4:30 p.m. April 21 in the library building, room 148.
Michael Droge will visit campus April 22, and his open forum begins at 4:30 p.m. in Library 148.
He is president of Park University in Parkville, Mo., has worked at Texas Woman’s University and has a doctorate in physiology and biophysics from the University of Texas Medical Branch.
Margaret Madden’s visit will be April 23, with a 4:30 p.m. public forum in Library 148.
Madden is provost and vice president for academic affairs and a professor at State University of New York. She has previously worked at Long Island University, Lawrence University and Franklin Pierce College and earned a doctorate in psychology from the University of Massachusetts.
The final visit will be from Mark Nook on April 25, with a 4:30 p.m. public forum to be held at 148 Library. Nook is the senior vice president for academic affairs for the University of Wisconsin System. He previously held positions at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and St. Cloud State University. He has a doctorate in astronomy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.