Cynthia Montes, director of Student Support Services, was recently awarded the Chancellor’s Staff Award for Outstanding Service. The award recognizes a staff member for exemplary service and contributions to the welfare of the campus community.
Montes’ journey to TCU began in high school as a finalist in the Community Scholars program. Although she was not selected, she was motivated to work hard and be admitted to TCU as an undergraduate student. Montes explained that entering TCU as a first-generation student from a low-income background posed some challenges.
“Student Support Services (SSS) quickly became the platform I needed to feel anchored at TCU and confident enough to venture into other university spaces,” she said.
After graduation, Montes worked as an advisor in SSS. She eventually earned a master of education and her doctorate in Counseling & Counselor Education from TCU and became director of the program that gave her so much as an undergraduate student.
“Cynthia is a caring and compassionate servant leader at TCU,” said nominator and SSS Advisor Tamika Miller.
“[She] has a positive and caring presence that helps our team to stay motivated and engaged, to work and center our campus’ first-generation students. Cynthia relates with staff and students in a genuine and supportive way,” said Miller.
Miller also described Montes’ leadership style as authentic and self-aware.
“She encourages those around her to ‘show up’ in their work space and other areas of their lives as the best version of themselves … She has a willingness to change how things are done and to inspire new ideas by trying to think outside of the box as much as possible,” Miller said.
Montes cites working with first-generation students as the most incredible part of her job.
“In my humble opinion, SSS students are some of the most hard-working, innovative, intelligent and grittiest students anywhere,” Montes explained.
“I am honored that the SSS students allow us to be part of their TCU journey, inviting us to share some vulnerable places in their lives. I don’t take this invitation for granted, and in turn it fuels me to work hard by providing opportunities, resources and guidance that can help each student maximize their success,” she said.
Montes felt a range of emotions when finding out she won the award – disbelief, humility and pride, to name a few. She reflected with her mother on how she almost wasn’t eligible to graduate her last semester of undergrad and the challenges she’s overcome since then on her TCU journey.
A month after winning the award, Montes reflected on its significance.
“I know that this award is bigger than I am,” she said. “It symbolizes that the work being done by the SSS office and by TRIO participants is being seen and valued at the institutional level, and this is incredibly powerful. I feel motivated to do more.”