Dr. Waded Cruzado, President of Montana State University
Since January 2010, Dr. Waded Cruzado has served as the 12th President of Montana State University. During that time she has significantly reshaped the face and future of the state's first land-grant institution and its premier. university.
An articulate and inspirational speaker on the role of the public university, President Cruzado is well known for her understanding of the Morrill Act of 1862, the congressional bill that created the land-grant university system. She is a passionate champion of the land-grant university’s tripartite mission of education, research and outreach to communities, as well as the crucial role higher education plays in the development of individuals, the prosperity of the nation and the vitality of democracy.
Montana State has set multiple student enrollment records under President Cruzado's leadership, becoming one of the fastest-growing universities in the nation and by far the largest university in the state. Montana State University enrollment increased from 11,760 in when Cruzado arrived in 2010 to nearly 17,000 in the fall of 2023. During this period the ACT and SAT scores and GPA of MSU students also rose to record levels. MSU has led the state in terms of gains in student retention and graduation rates. In 2020, Montana State’s retention rate – the percentage of first-year students returning for their second year – hit its highest mark in more than 30 years of modern record keeping at 78.2% percent. First-year to second-year retention is a key indicator of college success, as it is highly predictive of how many students will continue to graduation. MSU’s four-year and six-year graduation rates also set modern records in 2023 at 37.8% and 57.4% respectively. In addition, the number of Presidential scholarships has almost quadrupled during President Cruzado’s tenure.
Montana State University students consistently stand out as recipients of prestigious national awards. During President Cruzado’s tenure, the university has produced three Rhodes Scholars, two Gates-Cambridge Scholars, two Marshall Scholars, five Schwarzman Scholars, nine Truman Scholars and 12 Udall Scholars, among many other impressive student recognitions. With 86 Goldwater Scholars, Montana State is among the nation’s top recipients of the prestigious scholarship for students who demonstrate excellence in math, science and engineering. The year 2015 saw a first for Montana State: Two students won the Truman Scholarship, making MSU one of only four universities to have double winners in that year. That student success continued in 2018 and 2020. In each of those years, two Montana State students again won the Truman Scholarship, including, in 2020, the university’s first Native American student to receive the award.
Montana State University’s research enterprise has flourished under President Cruzado. The university is the largest research operation of any type in the state of Montana. Its annual research expenditures are almost entirely composed of federal dollars won by faculty vying for competitive grants, in the fiscal year ending in June 2023, that total hit nearly $230 million. That record sum marks 10 years in a row that research MSU expenditures have exceeded $100 million.
The university is home to 300 laboratories, 44 research centers and seven agricultural research stations. The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education designates MSU as having “very high research activity,” and it is one of just two institutions in the nation that also have enrollment profile of “Very High Undergraduate.” MSU has also been named among the top universities in the world for its scientific impact and collaboration, ranking 161st out of the top 206 in the U.S. recognized for the largest contributions to international scientific journals by the CWTS Leiden Ranking. The university's research activity is distributed across a range of fields, including the four Grand Challenges identified in MSU’s strategic plan.
During President Cruzado's tenure, Montana State University has competitively won hundreds of millions of dollars for sponsored research projects. Notable projects include the renovation of Cooley Lab, which was completed thanks to a $15 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, and a $67 million grant from the Department of Energy for the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership, which was housed at Montana State. In 2015, the Montana Legislature approved an Executive Research Initiative of $15 million, with faculty at Montana State receiving $9 million, more than all other state university campuses combined. In 2014, the NIH awarded MSU $10.7 million to fund its Center for Health Equity Research, which looks for ways to provide better health care to rural Montanans.
Montana State University received legislative support under President Cruzado's leadership to grow by 50% the WWAMI cooperative medical education program, the program’s first expansion in 38 years. Founded in 1973, the program lets students from Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho complete the foundational 18 months of medical school in their home states and then finish their medical degrees at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The Montana Legislature also supported the creation of a Veterinary Medicine Program at MSU in partnership with Washington State University. Modeled after WWAMI, it is the only Veterinary Medicine Program in the state.
President Cruzado has consistently reaffirmed the importance of a campus environment that places student success as the top priority. To that end, she has made keeping students in school and on track to earn their degrees a major priority by funding programs and appointing an executive officer to oversee related initiatives in increasing students' financial literacy, helping more students graduate in four years and providing more student support services such as tutoring, mentoring and advising.
In 2012, President Cruzado launched the Freshman 15 initiative, which urges all students to enroll in more credits, adding more “weight” to their class schedules. Since they do not pay tuition for credits beyond the first 12 per semester, students participating in the Freshman 15 can save thousands of dollars over the course of their time at MSU. Response to this initiative has been impressive, with 81% of new, first-time students participating in fall 2023 — far beyond the 50% rate from 2011.
In 2016, MSU welcomed its inaugural class of Hilleman Scholars. Named for Montana State alumnus and vaccinologist Maurice Hilleman, the MSU Hilleman Scholars Program provides assistance to 50 incoming students from Montana who demonstrate evidence of significant academic, leadership and career potential. The program is motivated by a desire to provide Montana students more opportunities.
Inspired by the Hilleman program, in 2023, Montana State selected roughly 250 incoming first-year students to be the inaugural class of the Justin Smith Morrill Scholars Program, an initiative the university created to help keep students in school and on track for graduation. The program is named for the late senator who was instrumental in creating the nation’s land-grant university system. The Morrill program aims to provide a highly personalized educational experience in which MSU students bond with their group and receive mentoring and tutoring to give them a boost toward graduation. Morrill Scholars receive continued mentoring and support resources throughout their time at MSU.
Construction and renovation projects
During President Cruzado's tenure, the campus has seen the completion of numerous major construction and renovation projects. In 2019, the state’s Legislature approved $25 million for the renovation and repurposing of MSU’s Romney Hall. Opened in the fall of 2021, the century-old Romney has gone from a disused facility to one of the most heavily used classroom buildings on campus, seating more than 1,000 students each hour. The Legislature also approved that year $4.25 million for the expansion of the dental hygiene program at Great Falls College MSU and $2 million for the construction of four greenhouse laboratories for agricultural research around the state as part of MSU’s Montana Agricultural Experiment Station.
In October 2021, MSU opened its $20 million American Indian Hall. This 31,000-square-foot-facility serves as a home to MSU’s Native American community as well as a bridge between American Indian culture and other cultures on campus. First proposed in 2004, MSU secured the majority of the funding for the building in 2018 with a pledge of $12 million from the Kendeda Fund. Several other pledges followed, including $2 million from the Associated Students of MSU, the university’s student government. Jim and Chris Scott of Billings and the Terry and Patt Payne family of Missoula each gave $1 million to complete the fundraising campaign. A ground blessing ceremony was held in 2019.
Also in fall 2021, Montana State University broke ground on in its South Campus District for the new Student Wellness Center. Scheduled to open in the spring of 2024, the facility will provide one location for all student fitness, recreation, and physical and mental health services. The project is funded by student fees, and in April 2020, MSU students voted by a margin of two-to-one, or 66% for and 34% against, to pass a fee to construct the Student Wellness Center.
Montana State University’s Norm Asbjornson Hall, home of the Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering and the Honors College, opened in 2018. A $50 million gift from 1960 Montana State alumnus Norm Asbjornson – which, at the time, was the largest private gift in the history of the state – funded the design and construction of the building. The gift also inspired other donors to round out the university’s South Campus project at $70 million. The innovative classroom and laboratory facility enables collaborative, hands-on learning and leadership. The building promotes dynamic interdisciplinary engagement, meaningful student-faculty interaction, and accelerated innovation that responds to and anticipates emerging trends in education, industry and society.
In 2016, MSU received an $8 million gift from Greg and Susan Gianforte, funding that supported MSU’s Gianforte School of Computing. That donation was followed in 2022 by a $50 million gift from the Gianforte Family Foundation, funding that will be used to build Gianforte Hall, also to be located in the South Campus District. The building will be a new home computing and related fields such as cybersecurity, optics and photonics, electrical and computer engineering, and creative industries.
Jabs Hall, a new home for the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship, opened in 2015. Jabs Hall was made possible thanks to a $25 million gift from 1952 Montana State alumnus Jake Jabs, president and CEO of American Furniture Warehouse in Denver. In her first year, President Cruzado also welcomed a $3 million gift to MSU from Jabs, who generously funded the Jabs Entrepreneurship Center at Montana State University.
In the fall of 2010, the university reopened one of its most heavily used classroom buildings on campus, Gaines Hall, after a $32 million renovation funded by the Montana Legislature. That same fall, the university opened its new, 40,000-square-foot Animal Bioscience Building. The $15.7 million building was funded, in part, by donations from Montana's livestock and grains industry. In addition to classroom and teaching laboratory space, the building is home to the MSU College of Agriculture's Department of Animal and Range Sciences.
In addition to the donations that have supported construction of student-serving academic facilities listed above, total philanthropic support has grown for Montana State University under President Cruzado’s leadership.
In 2021, Montana State announced a $101 million philanthropic investment in the university’s College of Nursing from Mark and Robyn Jones. The gift — the largest ever given to a college of nursing at the time, as well as the largest private gift in the history of the state of Montana — is funding the construction of new nursing education facilities at each of the MSU College of Nursing’s five campuses in Bozeman, Billings, Great Falls, Kalispell and Missoula. The investment will also establish five endowed faculty professorships; develop an endowed scholarship fund that will allow the MSU nursing college of keep the cost of nursing education affordable for all students; and create Montana’s only certified nurse midwifery program preparing doctoral level nurses who will significantly increase the number of specialized maternal health care providers capable and willing to provide services to rural and remote communities in Montana.
Also in 2021, MSU opened the Bobcat Athletic Complex, a donor-funded $18 million addition to the north end of Bobcat Stadium that is home to the university’s football program. The 40,000-square-foot facility is the result of the largest fundraising campaign in the history of Bobcat Athletics. The two-story building houses football locker rooms, team rooms, equipment storage and offices for coaches, as well as sports medicine, training and rehabilitation spaces that help all student-athletes. In addition to supporting the continued growth of MSU’s football program, the project supports all student-athletes thanks to the renovation of the former football offices in the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse. That space has become an expanded and accessible Academic Excellence Center, providing MSU’s roughly 350 student-athletes with additional space for tutoring, group study and advising.
MSU’s comprehensive fundraising campaign, “What It Takes,” raised more than $413 million for the university’s people, places and programs. The total is well above the campaign’s original $300 million goal, which was met more than two years before the scheduled conclusion of the campaign in 2018. “What It Takes” was MSU’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign.
In April 2012, President Cruzado announced a goal of becoming the first university in the nation to raise $1 million in endowed, private support for its rodeo program. By the following spring, this goal had been achieved for Bobcat Rodeo. A large portion of the funds have been invested to fund 18 scholarships, including 16 new scholarships.
Not a year into her administration, President Cruzado also launched an ambitious campaign to raise $10 million for a 7,200-seat renovation of the south end zone of Bobcat Stadium. The funds were raised in a record amount of time and the renovation was completed for the 2011 football season, a 10-month project from start to finish. The end zone project greatly enhanced the game-day experience of all MSU students in attendance, while improving the practice and competition environment for the MSU Track and Field Complex. Importantly for President Cruzado, the expansion serves to strengthen a sense of community between MSU's students, faculty and staff with its alumni, fans and friends.
President Cruzado has made improvements to student facilities a priority. Hyalite Hall, a new $50 million, 510-bed residence hall, opened in 2020, the same year student voters approved a fee to construct a new Student Wellness Center mentioned above. In 2018, the university’s new $18.2 million Rendezvous Dining Pavilion opened. In the fall of 2015, MSU reopened the renovated Miller Dining Commons, a $15 million project.
In fall 2013, MSU won approval from the state’s Board of Regents to build Yellowstone Hall, a $35 million, 400-bed freshman residence hall, to help accommodate planned campus growth. Yellowstone Hall was the first freshman residence built at Montana State in 50 years. Also in 2013, Gallatin Hall opened. The $7 million upper-classmen residence hall was built using sustainable construction methods and is LEED gold certified. And, in 2011, President Cruzado led the university to secure $15 million in bonding authority for updating the Langford and Hapner student residence halls. President Cruzado made sure students were involved in all phases of the design process.
Other renovation projects completed under President Cruzado's leadership include a renovation of the first floor of the MSU Library, numerous projects to modernize classrooms and to improve campus accessibility, and $9 million in energy conservation projects to upgrade residence halls and other auxiliary facilities. The MSU Brick Breeden Fieldhouse was modernized in 2014, and the Strand Union ballrooms were renovated in 2015. President Cruzado oversaw the addition of hundreds of parking spots around campus for students, faculty, staff and visitors, including the construction of a new $12.5 million, 550-space parking garage opened in 2017.
Pathways to education
President Cruzado has provided new pathways to higher education with the establishment of Gallatin College Montana State University and its range of two-year degrees and one-year certificates. Gallatin College MSU had been formerly known as MSU-Great Falls College of Technology in Bozeman and was located away from the central campus. With the renaming, Gallatin College opened offices and classrooms in Hamilton Hall, located in the campus center. In fall 2013, Gallatin Valley voters overwhelmingly passed a property tax to support and expand Gallatin College MSU, which has for years been MSU’s fastest-growing college.
Also in 2013, President Cruzado obtained approval from the Board of Regents to designate the Honors Program as the MSU Honors College.
Under President Cruzado's leadership, in 2013 Montana State University won a grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation for the Blackstone LaunchPad, a program that introduces entrepreneurship as a viable career option and provides university students and alumni with a network of venture coaches and entrepreneurial support to transform new ideas into sustainable companies.
Montana State University was named the winner of the prestigious C. Peter Magrath University Community Engagement Award by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities in the fall of 2011. Montana State was recognized for the contributions its students have made in bringing clean water to a region in Kenya through the work of the MSU chapter of Engineers Without Borders. Given just once a year, the Magrath award recognizes a four-year public university that embraces outreach and community engagement.
Also in 2011, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching awarded MSU its community engagement classification in recognition of the university's commitment to teaching that encourages volunteer service and the spreading of knowledge that benefits the public. Montana State University is among only 311 universities out of more than 4,400 nationally to receive such recognition.
Communication and strategic planning
President Cruzado has inaugurated an era of greater campus communication with more emails to students, faculty and staff on MSU's four campuses, as well as MSU Extension and the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station’s Research Centers across the state. President Cruzado reformulated Commencement, including reinstating the fall ceremony, a tradition that dated back to 1945. She also initiated the Pure Gold program, a weekly recognition of student and employee excellence, as well as a new promotion and tenure dinner for faculty and a ceremony for staff recognizing their years of service.
Under her leadership, MSU's flagship campus in Bozeman also undertook and completed a massive strategic planning effort, resulting in MSU’s strategic plan adopted in 2012, “Mountains and Minds: Learners and Leaders.” In 2018, the university adopted a new strategic plan, “Choosing Promise,” that is guiding the university’s efforts through 2024.
President Cruzado has enhanced MSU's alumni and community relations. Perhaps her most visible community project has been the CatWalk, a celebration of the relationship between MSU and the community during which the president and the MSU Spirit of the West Marching Band visit local businesses at the start of each academic year.
Board memberships and awards
In 2012, President Barack Obama appointed President Cruzado to the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development, a seven-member advisory council that advises USAID on agriculture, rural development and nutrition issues related to global food insecurity. She was reappointed in 2017 and served on the board until 2020. During that time she chaired the selection committee for the BIFAD Awards for Scientific Excellence in a Feed the Future Innovation Lab and engaged actively with higher education partners in the West Africa region. In 2015, President Cruzado hosted the board at Montana State University and engaged tribal college leaders in a dialogue with BIFAD about their role in addressing poverty, nutrition and food security challenges.
In 2015, President Cruzado received the “Hero” Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness – Montana Chapter, for her initiative and commitment to the establishment of the MSU Center for Mental Health Research and Recovery. She also received the Chief Executive HR Champion Award from the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. In that same year, President Cruzado was appointed to the inaugural TIAA Hispanic Advisory Board.
In 2014, President Cruzado was elected to serve a three-year term on the APLU Board of Directors, the governing and policymaking body of the oldest university association in the nation. The APLU announced in fall 2020 that President Cruzado would chair its board of directors. She has also chaired the board of HERS, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting women leaders and equal voice in the future of higher education.
In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon tragedy in 2013, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth announced a three-person task force to conduct a wide-ranging review of its policies and procedures, with President Cruzado serving as the task force chair. Also in 2013, President Cruzado began serving on Montana’s Gov. Steve Bullock’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force.
President Cruzado was honored as the 2011 Michael P. Malone Educator of the Year from the Montana Ambassadors for demonstrating outstanding accomplishment, excellence and leadership in the field of education. She also was recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary International and, in November 2012, the APLU awarded President Cruzado the Seaman A. Knapp Memorial Lectureship, in honor of the founder of the Cooperative Extension Service.
In addition to being a past chair of the board of the APLU and a current member, President Cruzado has served on the board of the American Council on Education and as a commissioner of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. She currently serves on the board of Campus Compact, U.S. Bank and The Burton K. Wheeler Center.
Prior to MSU, President Cruzado served as executive vice president and provost at New Mexico State University, a post she had held since Sept. 1, 2007, and served as NMSU's interim president from 2008 to 2009. She also served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at NMSU (2003–2007) and as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Puerto Rico’s land-grant university, the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez.
A native of Puerto Rico, President Cruzado has a son, Dr. Gerald Mazo, and a daughter, Brenda Nicole Mazo. She is also the proud grandmother of Aurora and Celeste.
Updated: Jan. 12, 2024