Speeches: Presidential Inauguration Address

Waded Cruzado, Montana State University
Presidential Inauguration Address delivered on September 10, 2010

Good morning, Honorable Governor Brian Schweitzer, Mayor Jeff Krauss, Members of the Montana Board of Regents, Commissioner Sheila Stearns, Distinguished Elected Officials and Public Servants; good morning to our Presidents Emeriti, faculty, students, staff, alumni and to the colleagues, friends and family who have traveled from near and far to join us today. Welcome to Montana and to its first land-grant university, Montana State. We are honored to have you here with us.

It is with a profound sense of gratitude, joy and humility that I address you today. After eight months in this majestically beautiful state, I come to work experiencing awe and respect for what this university has done for its people. I have started many days admiring what nature and the legendary work ethics of Montanans have accomplished in this old territory that pioneer Hans Koch described as, "splendid on a large scale."1 Last October, minutes after learning about my appointment, a dear colleague asked: "Why is it that you only get to work in the most spectacular places on the face of the earth?"

Every single day, I remind myself that throughout this Last Best Place our citizens hold high expectations about what Montana State University can, should and must bring to their lives today and to generations in the future.

I want to thank all of you for joining us today. Please let me acknowledge the people who have shared my life journey: my mother, Daisy, and my daughter, Brenda. Other members of my family who were not able to attend: my son, Gerry, my father, Morgan, and my stepfather, Roberto, my brother and the two great women who are my sisters. My grandmother Julia, who greatly contributed to my formation by teaching me how to read and how to listen, would have rejoiced in this moment.

There are people from my native Puerto Rico with whom I have an eternal debt of gratitude, some of whom are here with us. And then, there is a contingent of absolutely marvelous friends whom I had the pleasure to meet in New Mexico, who will always occupy a special place in my heart: thanks for enriching my life in so many wonderful ways.

The Morrill Land-Grant Act

One hundred and seventeen years ago, Montana State University was founded as the state's land-grant college. Its birth was part of an unprecedented effort to expand access to higher education.

In 1858, a U.S. Congressman from Vermont by the name of Justin Morrill proposed legislation that would educate the sons and daughters of the working class "in the several pursuits and professions of life."2 His plan called for the government to grant tracts of land for the purpose of building at least one college in each state. It was a controversial proposal, only passing the House 105 votes to 100. Members of the Senate passed it by a mere three votes and viciously attacked it along the way, calling it:

"… one of the most monstrous, iniquitous and dangerous measures which have ever been submitted to Congress,"3 and

"… one of the most extraordinary engines of mischief … an unconstitutional robbing of the Treasury for the purpose of bribing the states."4

The bill would have to wait until 1862, when President Abraham Lincoln signed it into law. The Morrill Land-Grant Act saw the light of day in America's darkest hour: in the midst of our Civil War when brother fought against brother and the nation's very fabric threatened to unravel. What vision it took to look beyond that conflict and imagine a brighter future with peace and prosperity nourished by an educated citizenry!

When we read the Morrill Act, we hear echoes of our Declaration of Independence. As a new nation, first we wanted freedom. As a young country, we secured education. Together, these two pillars would protect each other. We would be free to educate and be educated--and this, in turn, would make us free.

Up until then, only a privileged few had the means to attend the handful of private colleges that were mostly clustered on the east coast. In giving our citizens the education necessary to prosper in their careers and their lives, the land-grant university strengthened American democracy, transforming our lives forever.

As a proud alumna and servant of the land-grant university, I believe deeply in what it stands for and what it can accomplish. I also believe that the great lessons from its past illuminate our great projects for the future of MSU.

The One Montana State University

Since my arrival last spring, we have explored the pervasive nature of what we now call, "The One MSU": with our four campuses, one museum, seven agricultural centers, and extension offices serving all 56 counties, the state of Montana is our campus. The One MSU is a big house with many doors to welcome our students and serve our communities. We accomplish these tasks through our tripartite mission devoted to outstanding teaching and learning, exciting research and creativity, and outreach and service that enriches lives. Allow me to tie each of these elements to our past and our future.

Teaching and Learning

Since their inception, teaching was the primary focus of land-grant institutions and access was their defining trait. To this day and every day, we are called to demonstrate that access and excellence are not two mutually exclusive terms.

Montana State University's excellence in teaching and learning is manifest in its faculty, staff and students. For two years in a row, our average ACT score for the incoming class has been 25.1 –a record high – even when this year we have an additional 300 freshmen. Of the top 200 Montana high school seniors that earned the Montana University Honors Scholarship, 122 decided to come to MSU. Women's Volleyball as well as Men's and Women's Track and Field were honored for academic excellence (marking the 15th consecutive year for the women) and Matt Adams, from Seward, Alaska, was named Academic All American. We are ranked 14th nationally for the number of Goldwater Awards, the premier scholarship for undergraduates in math, natural science and engineering. And what a pleasant surprise for me to be welcomed by Luis Serrano Figueroa, a former student of mine who is now completing his Ph.D. in chemical engineering at MSU. We attract the best and the brightest and we will continue to do so.

There is a group of courageous students who adds luster to our university: the 928 men and women in uniform and their dependents who, throughout the One MSU, fill us with gratitude and admiration.

In our quest for excellence, we do not forget our commitment to inclusiveness. The founding of land-grant universities was not limited to regions where the educational system was established and mature or where students would be better prepared for college education. The fundamental principle of the Morrill Act was not to exclude the ones who perhaps would fail, but rather to invite everyone to succeed.

Therefore, the fact that we lose almost a third of our students in their first year and that slightly less than half graduate after six years is, simply, unacceptable. Our faculty and staff are ready to engage in meaningful projects that will improve educational attainment. We can do this without sacrificing quality or compromising standards. We will give our students the tools to be successful by rethinking course content and pedagogy in terms of how they learn (which is different from the structures and strictures from when we learned) and by being of a single mind and heart in our goals of monitoring their progress towards degree completion.

As part of our mission, this institution is eager to expand its commitment to 2-year education, to workforce development, to undergraduate programs that exude enthusiasm and relevance, and to a renewed attention to new graduate programs that can build on the discovery that occurs in the classroom and laboratory, contributing to economic development and to the advancement of knowledge.

A very specific call to action for MSU has to be in regards to online education. Twenty years ago, in his inaugural speech, President Michael Malone stated this need in prophetic terms, "… we are now faced with wholly new electronic delivery systems that will revolutionize off-campus instruction. We can rest assured that these new media will be used by a variety of campuses, with and without 'walls,' and many of these providers will be of dubious distinction." That was two decades ago.5

Today I am announcing that MSU will embrace, once and for all, this vehicle that enables us to reach out and meet the diverse educational needs of students in every corner of this state. And we will do it with strict attention to the quality and rigor that characterizes everything MSU does. I am proposing the designation of funds to give motivated faculty the time and support to develop on-line courses or transform existing ones into on-line applications. We can make a difference and we must.

Research and Creativity

In 1858, when Morrill first proposed his idea, there was a crisis looming because of the nation's lack of readily available education for the people. In his appeal to Congress, Morrill noted that despite America's great wealth of land, it had imported $100 million of agricultural goods the previous year. The cause? We did not know how to farm in an effective manner. The land was being exhausted, soil was eroding and crop yields were plummeting.

It was also common for local companies and the government to hire engineers from Europe to build bridges, factories, and railroads. There was little to no place in America to train our own engineers or scientists. The land-grant university was the response to address these problems and to correct the dependence on external means to fuel the economy. It was the answer then; it should be part of the answer now.

This summer, we learned that MSU set a new record in research expenditures: 109.5 million dollars for the last fiscal year. We are proud to see how our faculty and researchers are tackling the challenges of today and finding solutions that will save lives and bring prosperity.

Montana's resources are abundant. The big blue sky, the magnificent mountains and the open plains, all epitomize Joseph Kinsey Howard's "High, Wide and Handsome" state. By working on impactful solutions based on sound science and engineering –balanced by our tradition of excellence in the humanities, business, art, nursing, education, and the social sciences –we can enhance the educational experience of our students, develop exciting new enterprises, significantly contribute to the economic development of our fine state and improve the lives of all of our citizens.

As we move forward, I envision a significant expansion of interdisciplinary programs at MSU. Today I am announcing my commitment to "MSU Moving Mountains," an initiative that will challenge faculty to develop new research and creative projects that will reinforce our success rate for competitive external funds in interdisciplinary initiatives. The vibrant programs that can result from this effort will significantly enhance our recruitment and retention of students and faculty interested in comprehensive topics involving multiple disciplines linked through integrated approaches. Such a project will also capitalize on opportunities for collaboration between all our campuses and with universities throughout the entire state.

For example, MSU has more than 75 faculty conducting microbiology related research, from microbes in infectious disease to environmental microbiology to biofilms. In addition, we have more than 65 faculty researching various aspects of ecosystems, including gathering critical information to help guide policy decisions. We have nationally and internationally recognized faculty in every college at MSU. What our talented faculty and staff have told me is that we are ready to think beyond our departmental or college lines to provide big solutions to big problems. They are excited about the new pathways that an interdisciplinary-system based approach can open to new external funding, to students and society, and to the advancement of knowledge.

I will propose setting aside funds derived from our research endeavor to be re-invested in research and creativity. The faculty, research staff and students will guide us in the design and implementation phases of this initiative that will create teams of great minds working together. We can make a difference and we must.

Outreach and Service

Even though the Morrill Act did not originally mention outreach and service, it became, through later legislation and practice, a third and crucial component of our mission, integrating teaching and research in innovative ways.

Extension is the most visible face of our commitment to outreach and service. Our agents bring applied research, educational and public engagement relevant to the needs of Montanans. Extension assists our farms and ranches with a wide range of agricultural issues. It is the secret behind the many leaders that have been prepared by our 4-H program and the engine that propels projects that our communities know and value.

We will continue to follow the advice of M.L. Wilson, one of Montana's first Extension agents, when he encouraged us to "do all we can to make certain we are facing the future and not the past."6 I am proud of MSU Extension programs and their response to today's needs: providing support to grandparents raising grandchildren, educational opportunities for homemakers and inmates, hands-on science and math projects for school children, bringing tangible benefits to all of Montana.

Our commitment to outreach will also continue to transcend state lines, opening our mental and geographical frontiers to the notion and advantages of globalization. We have MSU faculty, students, and staff teaching about Extension in China, working at a hospital in Haiti, bringing water to Kenya, helping mothers fight the devastation of malaria. MSU constitutes a meaningful presence in Europe, Morocco, Turkey, India, Japan, and the Middle East. Certainly we can do more with our neighbors in Canada and Latin America. We can make a difference and we must.

Today, I am announcing that MSU will redouble its efforts in our own backyard, by paying even closer attention to the needs of our tribal and rural communities. I have formed an alliance that includes Superintendent Denise Juneau, Regent Janine Pease, and the office of Commissioner Sheila Stearns, to assist in transforming our current realities. We will do this by working collaboratively on how we educate the next generation of principals and administrators of tribal and rural schools, by addressing health care and education issues on the reservations and remote communities, and by swinging wide the doors that Presidents Tietz, Malone, Roarke, and Gamble opened to our Native American students. We will start by proposing to support intensive student-centered programs for on-campus cultural activities, recruitment and retention counseling, and tutorial services as part of our common agenda.

Conclusion

Of course, in all of these areas, there will be challenges. MSU and this state are no strangers to adversity. One of our first students, Thomas McKee, described the financial dilemmas that have been part of our history: "The College came to Bozeman in that spring-time of 1893 in true Biblical fashion carrying 'neither purse nor script nor shoes.' It needed money to get started and couldn't get money until it did start."7

But we cannot allow fear to stand in the way of our resolve and our commitment to advancing this great university. We must declare, now and forever, this state deserves better.

We will strive toward a model that allows us to hire and retain excellent faculty and staff for the benefit of our students. We will generate additional support for our research endeavor, expand our graduate programs and strengthen our Extension projects. Such a model will involve initiatives to attract competitive funding and I am confident it will include the generosity of our alumni and benefactors in a comprehensive campaign that will allow us to reach beyond our limitations, imagine the possibilities and discover our potential. This effort needs to involve our constituents in a dialogue about the importance of public higher education for the wellbeing and advancement of all Montanans.

In the upcoming months, we will forge ahead with increased attention to maximizing efficiency and effectiveness in our administrative operations. As a university that experienced tremendous growth over the last few decades, we did not have an opportunity to adjust our processes to a model based on integration that will enable us to better meet present and future realities. Together, we will work on an integrated model that will help in streamlining processes, adjust expenditures and invest savings back to academics, which is the heart of our university.

With motivation and resolve, we have begun by reorganizing core elements of the institution. This summer, we took a hard look at the MSU overhead charges that were assessed to our agencies and, through meaningful dialogue with leaders from the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station and Extension, reached an agreement that reduces their overall costs and facilitates budget preparation in the years to come.

In our tradition of shared governance and democracy, we are expanding representation from campus constituencies in everything we do: from strategic plans, to budget discussions, to university athletics. We have added the presence and the voice of community members to further cement our commitment to accountability, transparency, and broad participation.

In the end, perhaps the most extraordinary lesson from the Morrill Act was the powerful call to envision a better and brighter future for all. Everything in the university setting is a teachable moment and an opportunity to aspire to excellence. To this we must add that everything in a land-grant institution is ultimately about community building and engagement.

In the years to come, I will need your help. I am counting on the full involvement of our faculty, students, staff, alumni, emeriti and retirees. I am also extending this invitation to parents, benefactors, our partners in K-12, neighbors, entrepreneurs, elected officials and public servants. This morning, inspired by the history and the mission of the land-grant university, let this be our pledge: We will build, together, an even better and stronger Montana State University that will empower the people and transform the world.

Thank you for the privilege of serving this great institution.

1 Act of July 2, 1862, (Morrill Act), Public Law 37-108, which establishes land grant colleges, 07/02/1862.

2 Kim Allen Scott, ed., Splendid on a Large Scale. The Writings of Hans Peter Gyllembourg Koch, Montana Territory, 1869-1874. Helena, Montana: Bedrock Editions and Drumlummon Institute, 2010.

3 Congressman Clement Clay of Alabama, quoted by Coy F. Cross. Justin Smith Morrill: Father of the Land-Grant College. East Lansing: Michigan State University, 1999, p. 80.

4 Congressman James Mason of Virginia, quoted by Kirk A. Astroth "Justin S. Morrill." Unitarianism in America. http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/UIA520Online/78morrill.html

5 Michael Malone. "Inaugural Address. Michael P. Malone. October 25, 1991." Unpublished.

6 M.L. Wilson

7 In Merrill G. Burlingame, A History. Montana State University. Bozeman, Montana: 1968, p. 12.