University of Montana President Royce Engstrom's last day is December 31, but the process of finding the next president is already underway.

UM Director of Communications Paula Short said on Thursday there will be a series of 'listening sessions' in which various groups will provide input to the Commissioner of Higher Education regarding the search for a new president.

"As he said last week, the commissioner wanted to put together some listening sessions for the general public as well as various groups around the campus," Short said. "These are intended to start a dialogue about this national search for the next University of Montana president. He wants to hear ideas and suggestions from the community regarding the decision as we move forward."

Short said there will a forum specifically for the general public early next week on the UM campus.

"The forum will be this coming Tuesday, December 13th beginning at 5:15 p.m. in the University Center on the UM campus," she said. "We're hoping that a number of Missoulians and others in the area who have ties to the university would like to share their opinions.We'll also be reaching out to targeted groups around the campus including our UM students, who will have their own listening session, our affiliated campuses, and of course, the faculty as well. But, we want to make sure that all the KGVO listeners know about the public forum next Tuesday."

Short said all comments will be relayed to the Commissioner's office, as well as to the national search company tasked with helping to recruit the new president.

Short said for those who cannot attend any of the listening sessions or public forums. there is an email address where comments can be sent.

"We have established a dedicated email account to take comments, and that address is umsearch@umontana.edu. We invite anyone at anytime to send in their suggestions online," she said.

It was announced on December 1 that Engstrom would be stepping down as president through a joint decision with the Commissioner of Higher Education.