Mineral Area College’s commencement ceremonies at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 5, will feature an address to students by Missouri’s commissioner of higher education, Dr. David Russell.
The ceremonies will also salute several outstanding students who have shown great academic and community achievement.
MAC President Dr. Steve Kurtz said he was pleased Russell agreed to speak to 2012’s impending graduates.
“I’ve been fortunate to work with Dr. Russell on many occasions, and his expressed belief in the community college system and his dedication to higher education opportunities in Missouri make him a great speaker for this occasion,” he said.
Dr. Russell was appointed Missouri’s commissioner of higher education in July 2010 by the Coordinating Board for Higher Education. In this capacity, he serves as a member of the governor’s cabinet and chief executive officer of the Missouri Department of Higher Education.
Russell’s statewide responsibilities include policy development and implementation, strategic planning, mission and academic program reviews, budget, accountability measures, legislative relations, state student financial aid and federal student loan programs, and certification of proprietary institutions to operate in Missouri.
He advocates on behalf of a higher education system that includes 408,000 students enrolled in more than 200 public, private and proprietary colleges and universities. He serves on ten boards and commissions, including the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority, Missouri Higher Education Savings Program and the 12-state Midwest Higher Education Compact.
Russell came to the department after a 19-year tenure with the University of Missouri System, where he served as director of university relations, senior associate vice president and chief of staff in the office of the system’s president. He provided leadership in planning and coordinating activities of the president’s office with members of the Board of Curators, general officers of the university and the university’s many internal and external stakeholders.
Before entering the field of higher education, Russell served in the U.S. 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 combat infantry, military personnel and public affairs. His assignments included stints as chief of media initiatives in the Office of the Chief of Staff of the Army, spokesman and media relations desk officer in the Office of the Secretary of the Army at the Pentagon, and director of Public Affairs for the U.S. Army Engineer Center and Fort Leonard Wood. His personal decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal (five awards), Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal with “V” device for valor (two awards), Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Valorous Unit Citation, Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Army General Staff Badge.
Russell holds a Bachelor of Science in Education degree in history and political science from Henderson State University, a Master of Arts degree in journalism and public affairs from The American University, and a Ph.D. degree in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Missouri. His primary research interest is governance systems in higher education.