Montana State University – Mountains and Minds Magazine Spring 2024


This past year, more students than ever before walked into MSU’s classrooms. Nearly 17,000 students enrolled last fall from across the state, country and world and from all walks of life. And of all the places they could have gone, they chose Montana State. Why?

We offer an education that is world class, true. We have faculty who are expert educators and who are at the top of their fields, yes. We are a leader in cutting-edge research. We have staff and programs dedicated to helping students succeed. And we strive to keep higher education affordable so that the children of working-class families in Montana and beyond can learn the skills to find good-paying jobs.

Indeed, we know that higher education is valuable, leading to strong career benefits and opportunities for our students to change their lives, their families and their communities in positive ways. But I think there’s even more to it.

Higher education is a powerful force for progress, both for individual students and for society. When Congress created the land-grant universities over 160 years ago, its aim was that the U.S. would have people with the agricultural talents to feed our nation and the technical know-how to catapult us into the industrial age. The land-grants made it possible for large numbers families to send their children to college, where they received formal training and also became informed, critical thinkers and leaders able to make tough decisions in the people’s interest. Our country was strengthened as a result.

Over the intervening decades, the diversity among college populations has only increased. Students who attend MSU do so alongside people vastly different from themselves, which readies them for life after graduation. I also see another benefit: Exposure to new people and ideas can open their eyes to perspectives they never before considered, a skill that is all too valuable in a world of social media echo chambers and hyper-polarization.

Students weigh many factors when they choose a university, and the number who have chosen Montana State tell me there is something special here. Yes, those students expect to work hard in our laboratories, classrooms and studios to earn their degrees, but they also expect to have experiences they will weave into their lives. They sense that MSU is the place where they will be transformed into the future leaders of our state and nation. They see that this is a place where they will gain perspective and empathy for their fellow human beings.

If that sounds idealistic, then remember that our country was founded on ideals. We should aspire to such examples: I hope our students are idealists, too.

These pages highlight a few of our students who are already making imprints on their world: “Bringing people together” features Flor Vega-Castillo, who came to Montana from Peru and now aspires to a career in higher education administration. “Meet Robert Ford III” introduces us to a star basketball player who joined us from Oregon. And “Innovating with AI” explores how our students, faculty and staff are grappling with changes that are coming as a result of powerful new technologies.

I am so proud of all of our Bobcats, from these featured students to our alumni and friends around the globe. And I can’t wait to see what they — what all of us — do next.

In Blue and Gold,


Waded Cruzado, president
Montana State University


Mountains and Minds Magazine.

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