Sheila M. Stearns - 2016- 2018

Sheila M. Stearns

December 2016-January 2018

"My vision was to energize and empower the University to live up to its potential."


  • B.A., University of Montana, 1968
  • M.A., University of Montana, 1969
  • Ed.D., University of Montana, 1983

Accomplishments as President

Stearns brought deep experience in higher ed administration to the role of interim president. She provided a steadying influence during a difficult time for UM, working on enrollment and budget challenges, and initiating a program prioritization process for academic programs and administrative services.


Background History

Before becoming UM’s 18th president, Stearns served as Montana’s Commissioner of Higher Education from 2003 to 2011. Prior to that, she served as vice president of University Relations at UM, chancellor of the University of Montana-Western and president of Wayne State College in Nebraska. After her tenure as commissioner, she served as interim chancellor at Montana State University Billings in 2014, and from 2012 to 2017, she served as a senior consultant for the National Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.


Following the Presidency

In 2019, Stearns was appointed presiding officer of the 2020 Montana Redistricting Commission, a group of five individuals authorized by the Montana Constitution to draw the boundaries of congressional and legislative districts every 10 years using population data from the U.S. Census.


Sheila M. Stearns

Landmarks Erected

  • Renovation to the Liberal Arts Building (now Eck Hall), 2017
  • Washington-Grizzly Champions Center, 2017

Programs Established

  • University of Montana Humanities Institute
  • Accelerate Montana