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A Q&A With a University President on the Value of HR

Montana State University President Waded Cruzado

Montana State University President Waded Cruzado

Over the past decade, the HR transformation movement has been picking up steam as human resources has made significant strides in shedding its “health and happiness patrol” and “policy and procedure police” monikers and moving toward more strategic activities in support of the organizational mission. In many organizations, HR is finally being viewed as a strategic partner and a trusted advisor, and HR leaders are being included on top-level leadership teams and president’s cabinets.

So what do presidents and CEOs look for in their organizations’ HR teams? What must HR do to gain the trust and respect of organizational leaders? Which personal and professional competencies should HR leaders possess in order to best contribute to the organizational mission? Here, Waded Cruzado, president of Montana State University (and recipient of CUPA-HR’s 2014 Chief Executive HR Champion Award), gives us her take.


Q: What do you see as the most important role of HR at your institution?

Cruzado: The importance of HR in any organization cannot be underestimated. Particularly in universities, the function of HR is complementary to our pursuit of excellence in everything we do. In order for us to fulfill our call to educate students, expand the horizons of knowledge through research, or focus on the communities we serve, we need to pay attention to and invest in our human capital. Thanks to HR, we ensure that we recruit, retain and promote the best and most talented people.

Q: What are the top three traits you look for in an HR leader?

Cruzado: I look for competence, commitment and compassion. First, HR leaders have to be at the top of their game in terms of professional competence. Second, HR leaders must exemplify and model commitment to our institutional values. And, finally, HR leaders must be compassionate and able to understand our diverse constituents’ needs.

Q: Why is it important for institutional leaders to “champion” HR?

Cruzado: HR is the unit that undergirds every function in a well-oiled organization. It is important to champion HR because it can be one of the most effective tools in providing strategic and tactical support for the organization. When properly recognized and empowered, HR becomes an ally, an enabler, and an agent that facilitates wellbeing and growth, not only of the institution itself, but of our human capital as well.


What does your institution’s president expect of human resources? How does your HR organization help support your university’s mission? Where are you in your HR transformation journey? Where are you on your own path to professional excellence?

Check out CUPA-HR’s Learning Framework, which outlines the must-have competencies for HR professionals leading today’s higher ed workforce.

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  • Baseballjd

    Thank you, President Cruzado! I agree that institutions with forward thinking chief executives properly position and champion HR so that if the function has a prepared leader, that leader is in a position to be a transformative force for the institution. These special HR leaders are effective at building relationships and connections within the executive team. They are attuned to the individual differences in executive team members and how each executive may have a different approach to communicating and working productively with their subordinate organizations. The transformative HR leader will help the executive team work through these differences toward fully utilize the institution’s “human capital” to achieve the college or university mission.