She heeded the call when UM President Royce Engstrom was asked to step down, and now interim UM President Sheila Stearns is ready to hand over the keys to the president’s office to the new man, Seth Bodnar.

Stearns said the past 13 months have been challenging as well as rewarding.

“At times it’s even been exhilarating,” Stearns said. “For example when you get to spend a lot of time with students, with faculty and with friends and donors who just love the University of Montana, so in that respect it’s been a terrific year.”

Stearns said the biggest challenge has been to address the issues of enrollment and budget.

“Everyone knows that we are ‘budget-challenged’,” she said. “We have a great university with graduate, undergraduate and Missoula College programs, but they have been funded for several years as if we had the same revenue from tuition that we’ve had four or five years previous and we don’t. We will grow those numbers again, but in the meantime we really do have to adjust the budget, and that is a slow process and involves a lot of contracts and that’s where the money is.”

Stearns said in the last few weeks newly appointed President Seth Bodnar has been shadowing her to ‘learn the ropes’ in the president’s office.

“We’ve got two more days, Thursday and Friday, and he’s been very collegial and receptive and has asked a lot of questions,” she said. “I don’t give advice unless he asks, and he does ask. We get along well, I admire him and he’s fun to work with.”

Stearns said she’s looking forward to spending more time with her family.

On a personal note, as a member of the media, Stearns has been highly accessible and willing to answer questions, which has been greatly appreciated.

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