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Missouri Academy

Commencement Speaker

Dr. David Russell
Commissioner of Higher Education, Missouri
Commencement Speaker on Saturday, May 28, 2011

David RussellDr. David Russell was appointed Commissioner of Higher Education for the State of Missouri by the Coordinating Board for Higher Education in January, 2011, following a six-month term as Interim Commissioner. The Commissioner is a member of the Governor's Cabinet and Chief Executive Officer of the Missouri Department of Higher Education. The Commissioner is responsible for policy development and implementation, strategic planning, building relationships and coalitions, advocacy and such key functions as budgeting, administration of the state's largest student financial aid programs, mission and academic program reviews, performance measurement system and other activities of the department. The MDHE supports and coordinates a state system of higher education that serves more than 408,000 students through 13 public four-year and 19 public two-year institutions, one public two-year technical college, 25 independent colleges and universities and 150 proprietary and private career schools.

Prior to assuming the position of Commissioner of Higher Education, Dr. Russell held a variety of positions with the University of Missouri System, which comprises 65,000 students on four campuses. He joined the system in 1991. His final position was Senior Associate Vice President and UM System Chief of Staff. He was appointed a General Officer of the University in 2009. He provided leadership in planning, facilitating and coordinating activities of the Office of the President, the Office of the UM Board of Curators and the Office of Strategic Communications with the university's many internal and external constituencies. He also served as the principle liaison between the UM System and state higher education agencies, including the Coordinating Board for Higher Education and its administrative arm, the MDHE. He was the UM System's liaison to the Council on Public Higher Education, a consortium of 13 public four-year universities, and chaired the COPHE Communications Advisory Group.

Dr. Russell chaired the UM Campus Security Review Committee. He was a member of the UM Council for Institutional Relations, the UM Strategic Planning Committee, and the UM Administrative Management Council. He also served on the UM System Shared Services Steering Committee, which explored opportunities for achieving greater efficiency and improved service across all four campuses and the system office. Dr. Russell also served as the UM Custodian of Records, charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the University was in compliance with the Missouri Sunshine Law as it relates to requests for open records.

Formerly, Dr. Russell served as the University's director of university relations. In this position he was the chief communications officer for the UM System, with responsibility for news media relations; external relations; and internal communications, including publications, web communications and broadcast media services. He also chaired the UM Public Relations Council, which includes communications professionals from all four campuses and University of Missouri Health Care.

Prior to joining the UM System, Dr. Russell served in the United States Army as a commissioned officer, retiring in 1991 as a Lieutenant Colonel after a 22-year career. He held command and staff positions of increasing responsibility in infantry, personnel management and public affairs. His assignments included stints as chief of media initiatives and marketing in the Office of the Chief of Staff of the Army and Army spokesperson and media relations desk officer in the Office of the Secretary of the Army at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. His decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal with "Valor" Device, Combat Infantryman Badge and Department of the Army General Staff Badge.

Dr. Russell earned a bachelor's degree in political science and history from Henderson State University (Arkansas) and a master's degree in communication: journalism and public affairs from The American University in Washington, D.C. He received a Doctor of Philosophy degree in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Missouri-Columbia. His dissertation was titled Missouri Higher Education Reform: Moving Up on the Public Policy Agenda. He is a member of the State Higher Education Executive Officers, Association for the Study of Higher Education, National Association of Presidential Assistants in Higher Education, the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, and the Public Relations Society of America, through which he was accredited in the practice of public relations in 1994.