As the largest center for education and research at Montana State University, the College of Letters and Science knows diversity is our strength. We are proud to enact our land-grant mandate to welcome all students, staff, and faculty, with a commitment to support people of color and others who have been historically underserved. Montana State University is located on the original homelands of Native peoples. We commit to acknowledging this rich history, learning from the past, and being good stewards for the future. We commit to caring for and nurturing the human, economic, physical, and environmental resources entrusted to us.We respect and celebrate the diverse dimensions of people’s identities in order to best achieve an inclusive environment of excellence in learning, teaching, and research.
An Interview with President Waded Cruzado
Our feature article for this month celebrates the heritage of our university president, Waded Cruzado. A native of Puerto Rico, President Cruzado is the 12th president of Montana State University and is both the first woman president and first minority president to serve within the Montana University System. Since she came to MSU in 2010, our university has grown in enrollment, retention, research, and philanthropic support. You can read about her many accomplishments here. For Diversity Matters, we asked President Cruzado a few questions to help us get to know a little bit about her heritage. She was kind enough to allow us to share her story with you.
For those of us who have not been to Puerto Rico, can you briefly describe how it is different from or how it reminds you of Montana?
PWC: The first difference I think about between Puerto Rico and Montana is the geographical discrepancy: Puerto Rico is a tropical island in the Caribbean Sea, and Montana is a continental western state with a semi-arid climate. Puerto Rico is the smallest of the Greater Antilles; its total area would fit about 42 times in the state of Montana, the fourth largest state in the nation. And yet, there are almost 3.5 million inhabitants in Puerto Rico, while Montana crossed the one million inhabitants mark just recently. You would think that these differences would make for two very different cultures, and yet, there are so many similarities between Montanans and Puerto Ricans: They are both very friendly and very authentic people. I love Montanans because they are very close to their families and they have a profound sense of place, all traits that remind me of my native homeland.
I have heard you talk about the important influence of your family in your own journey. Is there someone who was your mentor, who encouraged you to go to college?
There were very strong women in my family, starting with my maternal grandmother, who lived in the house where I grew up. In addition, during my childhood years, my two maternal aunts also were part of the household, all of whom provided me with a lot of love and attention. I was the first daughter, granddaughter and niece in my family: I had the treasure of their time and their devotion. My grandmother taught me how to read before I went to school, which was an incredible gift; it opened my curiosity about books and learning. From that advantageous vantage point, it became evident that going to college was the natural and logical next step after high school. As easy and simple as it appeared to me growing up, it was in my adulthood that I really understood what it all meant: that no one in that household—not my mother, grandmother, stepfather, aunts, none of them—had ever had an opportunity to experience and understand higher education, and yet they raised a girl with a firm belief that going to college was a perfectly normal thing to do.
What led you to becoming a college professor and then a University President?
PWC: That is easy! As mentioned before, from an early age I fell in love with books. I read everything: novels, history, poetry--even the Farmers’ Almanac I would read! And I fell in love with the exhilaration of learning. Therefore, when asking myself what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I understood that I wanted to keep learning and to have an opportunity to communicate to others what I have learned. So, what is that profession that would allow me the privilege of devoting my life to intellectual inquiry and to stimulating the curiosity of others to learn and to expand knowledge? Being a college professor, of course! That is my true vocation, and I would have never done anything different.
You not only are an avid supporter and advocate for the land-grant mission, but also attended the land-grant University in Puerto Rico. How has your experience as a student at a land-grant University shaped your leadership here at MSU?
PWC: Like so many people who have attended a land-grant university, I have a profound sense of respect and gratitude for land-grant institutions. Had it not been for this seminal accomplishment--truly a feat of American democracy--I would not have been able to afford a college education. Moreover, had it not been for the inclusive spirit of the Morrill Act and the establishment of this new brand of higher education institutions that were called to educate the sons and daughters of the working families of America (the first time that a Congressional bill included the word “daughter”), I would not have been able to even dream of entering the revered halls of academia. Therefore, it is very clear to me that land-grant universities are a vital manifestation of what has proven to be one of the most transformational pieces of legislation in the history of our nation. And today, just as it was first back in 1862, we hold in our hands the gift of hope—that a better and brighter future is possible when we educate more people, rather than fewer.
We celebrate the rich cultural history President Cruzado brings to MSU, and the hope of education this land-grant institution provides.
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College of Letters and Science
Montana State University
P.O. Box 172360
Bozeman, MT 59717-2360
Tel: (406) 994-4288
Fax: (406) 994-7580
E-mail: [email protected]
Location: 2-205 Wilson Hall
Dean: Yves Idzerda
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