Steele, who has been with the university for seven years, will be MSU's primary liaison for both state and federal legislative matters while retaining his role as director of Extension.
In his legislative duties Steele will succeed Cathy Conover, MSU's vice president for communications and public affairs, who served as the university's lobbyist for 13 years prior to announcing her retirement at the end of the year. While Steele will assume MSU's government relations responsibilities, the university is conducting a separate search for an executive director to replace Conover in her duties as head communications officer.
"I am confident that Dr. Steele will hit the ground running as an effective advocate for MSU," Cruzado said. "As the director of MSU Extension since 2004, he brings with him a wealth of experience working with both state and federal legislative officials and agencies. He also has a deep understanding of our land-grant mission."
Cruzado said reassigned duties will reduce the number of MSU vice president positions by one, as Steele's new assignment coincides with Cruzado formally taking on the duties of the former MSU vice president of inter-campus affairs. Cruzado will coordinate university affairs among MSU's four campuses in Bozeman, Havre, Great Falls and Billings. Those duties were formerly performed by Rolf Groseth, who recently was selected to be the chancellor of MSU-Billings, and his former position eliminated.
Steele has more than 31 years experience at four land-grant institutions as well as national and regional leadership roles in Extension and service to the MSU campus. A native of Texas, Steele graduated from Panhandle State University in Goodwell, Okla. with degrees in animal science and agribusiness. He has a master's degree in agriculture from West Texas State University and his doctorate in educational human resource development from Texas A&M University. He started his career with Extension programs in Texas, eventually becoming a 4-H Youth Development specialist and a professor at Texas A&M. Steele moved to a similar position at Purdue University.
He was named assistant director of Cooperative Extension and State 4-H Program Leader at Colorado State University in 1997. In 2004 he was hired as MSU's vice provost and director of Extension, which has offices in all 56 Montana counties and five Indian reservations in the state. He chaired the search for new MSU Provost Martha Potvin and was a member of the search committee that recommended Cruzado for her position. He has already represented the Extension service during Montana legislative budget hearings. He has also worked with the Montana congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. working on funding and program concerns for Montana.
"I am excited about this opportunity and the direction that MSU is going under the leadership of President Cruzado," Steele said. "We are fortunate that MSU has an outstanding reputation and I look forward to continuing our important work with constituents, stakeholders and elected officials to address the higher education goals for the state."
Cathy Conover (406) 994-4571, firstname.lastname@example.org