Dr. Sheila Stearns is a native Montanan who has served in a variety of senior administrative positions in higher education, including president of the University of Montana, vice president of the University of Montana, chancellor of UM-Western, president of Wayne State College in Nebraska, and commissioner of higher education in Montana.
Stearns served as interim president of the University of Montana from December 2016 through January 2018, bringing much-needed stability during a time of transition. She served previously as interim chancellor of MSU Billings (2014) and as commissioner of higher education (CEO for the governing board of Montana’s public universities) for nine years. Hallmarks of her leadership include connecting to community and tribal colleges; fostering retention, online delivery, dual enrollment, and tuition freezes; and promoting research at the graduate and undergraduate levels.
Stearns, Montana's longest-serving commissioner, was named commissioner emerita by the board of regents in 2012. As a senior consultant for AGB, she has assisted boards from Guam to Florida, and many states in between.
Stearns holds bachelor’s degrees in English and history, a master’s in western history, and a doctorate in educational history and leadership, all from the University of Montana.