- Associated Press - Friday, April 25, 2014

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) - As Waded Cruzado came to Bozeman four years ago to become Montana State University’s president, she sent out copies of a business management book she found inspiring.

Entitled “Good to Great,” the book could describe what Cruzado is trying to achieve at MSU.

MSU’s first woman and first minority president has racked up a list of record-breaking accomplishments and fans. After this month’s Equal Pay Summit at MSU, national activist Lilly Ledbetter called Cruzado “this fireball.” Montana Gov. Steve Bullock had similar praise.

“President Cruzado is a rock star,” Bullock said in a statement. “Her vision for MSU is matched only by her willingness to work hard to get there.”

“I’m very happy about the progress we’re making,” Cruzado, 54, said in an interview in her Montana Hall office, speaking in the Spanish accent of her native Puerto Rico.

“I think we already had a great university - we can always aspire to be better,” Cruzado said. She spoke of looking for ways “to reach higher and farther, for the sake of the people of Montana.”

When an organization gets people on the same page, working together toward clear goals, she said, it achieves what “Good to Great” author Jim Collins calls the “flywheel” effect - the opposite of a downward spiral.

“It’s cranking up, gaining speed,” Cruzado said and smiled. “I’m feeling that at Montana State.”

Her success at fundraising has certainly been cranking up.

Cruzado had been in office a short time when she launched an unprecedented campaign that raised $6 million in a few months to expand the Bobcat Stadium end zone. The project gave the whole football arena a big-time feel and impressed Bobcat Club boosters like John Smith - who credited Cruzado’s “energy and drive.”

In 2011 she announced that MSU alumnus and furniture business owner Jake Jabs was donating $25 million - the largest gift in state history - to build a new College of Business building.

Last month she topped herself by announcing that Norm Asbjornson, another successful business owner and alumnus, was giving $50 million - a new state record - to build a new College of Engineering building.

Along with smashing fundraising records, Cruzado has shattered the glass ceiling for women at MSU. She hired the first women to hold permanently two top jobs - Martha Potvin as provost in charge of academics and Renee Reijo Pera as vice president for research and economic development. Five of MSU’s 12 deans now are women.

MSU had long chafed at playing second fiddle to its cross-state rival, the University of Montana. On Cruzado’s watch, MSU’s student enrollment surpassed UM’s headcount in 2013, making MSU the biggest university in the state for the first time.

While the Missoula campus struggles with shrinking enrollment, budget cuts and a rape scandal, MSU is struggling with growing pains, attracting record numbers of students, thanks partly to a recession that made families seek out job-oriented majors in science and engineering.

Story Continues →