Trading pomp and fanfare for a little self-deprecation, Waded Cruzado, Montana State University’s new president, dismissed the lectern at which she was supposed to stand in the Health Sciences Great Room at MSU Billings’ College of Technology and joked about her Puerto Rican accent and her small stature.
She didn’t need the lectern, she joked, because there’s not “much difference whether I’m sitting or standing.”
Wondering aloud if the crowd of 30 or so detected a slight accent when she spoke, she said the problem was with the microphone.
“Oh, that’s right, I’m not using a microphone,” she quipped.
For the next 45 minutes, Cruzado spoke to alumni, community leaders and area residents about the unique strengths of the MSU Billings campus and listened to the thoughts and concerns of those gathered.
“This is a very important campus in the Montana State University system,” she said. “This is a campus that’s showing us how to do things, how to serve nontraditional students.”
Standing to speak, Bruce Simon, an MSU alumnus and past state legislator, thanked Cruzado just for coming out to Billings and asked her to visit more often than the university’s past president, Geoffrey Gamble, who retired from his post last year after nine years in charge.
“Your appearance here should not be unusual,” he said. “We need you participating here.”
Cruzado replied, “You have my word that I will come back.”
Simon pressed Cruzado on issues of distance learning, embracing new technology and making the University System more efficient. As an example, he pointed to MSU’s nursing program in Bozeman, saying it made more sense for the program to be here as “Billings is the medical center of Montana.”
Bill Cochran, director of the Parmly Billings Library, talked about the need for branch libraries in the area and asked for Cruzado’s support.
“This place is going to explode,” he said. “It’s going to be fantastic.”
After the meeting, Colleen Simpson, an MSU alumna and instructor at Little Big Horn College, seemed pleased with Cruzado and her remarks.
“I’m impressed,” she said. “I’m impressed it’s a woman and a minority.”
She said students who transfer from Little Big Horn College to MSU Billings need support. Culturally, it can be a big change. She said she felt confident Cruzado’s leadership would offer that.
Cruzado finished the meeting asking people to talk to her. She said she wanted to hear from faculty, from alumni and from the community.
“People have things to say, if only we stop and listen,” she said.
Contact Rob Rogers at email@example.com or at 406-657-1231.