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Waded Cruzado, president of Montana State University

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It’s hard to believe that 2018 is drawing to a close! This has been a wonderful year of celebrating Montana State University as the first institution of higher education in the state to be established 125 years ago in the interest of people. One more time, your university would like to express appreciation to all of you for being our partners in excellence.

Success is measured many ways at MSU. Your university set a new enrollment record this fall with 16,902 students, making for 11 straight years of growth, and we also grew in other important measures: Students are staying in school at the highest rates in modern university history, coupled with the best graduation rates in recorded history. We at Montana State know that attracting new students is not enough. Our job is to keep students making academic progress and graduating on time with less debt.

This fall, MSU unveiled Seamless OneMSU, an initiative that will give undergraduate students attending MSU campuses in Bozeman, Havre, Great Falls and Billings an easier time transferring, enrolling between campuses and finding courses to help complete their degrees. The initiative will accelerate degree completion time and help the campuses work together to better serve our students.

Your university also recorded one of its strongest years ever for research, fueled by the work of students and scientists in fields such as microbiology, immunology, chemistry and agriculture, among other disciplines. And, we were delighted that longtime MSU professors Neil Cornish and Cathy Whitlock were recognized as Montana University System Regents Professors, the most prestigious designation to be attained by a professor in the system.

In October we announced that MSU will receive a major portion of the funding needed to build a state-of-the-art, $20 million American Indian Hall thanks to an extremely generous $12 million pledge from the Kendeda Fund. More than 60 donors have contributed an additional $4 million since the project was proposed in 2005, and the student senate recently committed $2 million in student building fees to support the project. These gifts assure that a promise made to our American Indian people will be kept and a dream fulfilled. The MSU Alumni Foundation is working to secure the final donations, and we plan to have a ceremonial groundbreaking in March with an intended opening in fall of 2021.

We learned in November that MSU won the top prize in a national competition hosted by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities for its work with American Indian communities throughout Montana. MSU is honored to be recognized as a national leader for our commitment to building strong, meaningful connections with American Indian communities and serving tribal needs in ways that understand, respect and embrace Native cultures.

MSU leaders voted recently to approve a new strategic plan that will guide the university’s efforts for the next seven years. Called “Choosing Promise,” the new plan articulates the university’s strategic direction and will serve as its roadmap through 2024. The plan reflects our proud heritage and proposes a bright future for Montana’s land-grant university.

In November, your Bobcat football team defeated the Grizzlies (for the third year in a row!) in a heart-stopping Brawl of the Wild game. The Bobcats also bested Incarnate Word in the first round of the playoffs here at home, and we enjoyed cheering them on in the second round of the FCS playoffs in North Dakota. Go ‘Cats!

Our community also deserves a cheer for donating a record amount of food to win the annual Can the Griz food drive. This year, MSU and the Bozeman community donated the equivalent of 448,720 pounds of food to the Gallatin Valley Food Bank. The significant donations will help the food bank provide food for families in the community through the spring and into the summer. Thank you for your generosity!

A grand opening ceremony for MSU’s newest building, Norm Asbjornson Hall, will be held at 10 a.m., Friday, Dec. 14, in the building located on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Grant Street. Please join us! Following the ceremony, the public may tour the building, which will house MSU’s Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering and Honors College. The building was funded largely by alumnus Norm Asbjornson’s 2014 gift of $50 million, the largest donation in state history. No taxpayer dollars were used in the construction.

Many of you have attended events at MSU this year – including a number of celebrations in honor of your university’s 125th anniversary – and we thank you for your participation in the life of this university. Please join us this Saturday, Dec. 15, for fall commencement. In addition to conferring degrees on our worthy graduates, MSU will award an honorary doctorate posthumously to Lynette Stein-Chandler, who dedicated her life to pulling the Aaniiih language from the brink of extinction.

As the holidays approach, we wish you and your family a wonderful new year, filled with blessings and joy.

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Waded Cruzado is the president of Montana State University.

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