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Latino All Stars

Elsa Murano

  • Gender: Female
  • University: Florida International University
  • Undergraduate Degree: Biological Sciences
  • Post Graduate Degree: Food Science and Technology
  • Graduate Degree: Anaerobic Microbiology
  • Hometown: Havana
  • Country: Cuba
  • Organization: Hormel Foods, Food Processors Institute Foundation
  • Position Title: Member, Board of Directors
Ms. Murano was born in Havana, Cuba. Her family fled the country in the wake of Fidel Castro’s communist uprising and, by the time she was in kindergarten, she had lived in Curaçao, Colombia, Peru, and El Salvador. She spent the remainder of her childhood in Puerto Rico and moved to Miami, Florida with her mother and three siblings when she was fourteen, after her parents divorced. 
Her mother, a security guard and department store clerk, repeatedly urged her children to pursue a college degree. Ms. Murano took the guidance seriously.  She quickly learned English and earned her high school diploma. 
She then enrolled at Miami-Dade College. After two years, and with the help of scholarships and loans, she transferred to Florida International University, where she earned a B.A. in Biological Sciences.  
Although she had initially planned to go to medical school she realized along the way that she was far more interested in research. So, she continued her education at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, where she earned a Master of Science in Anaerobic Microbiology and a PhD in Food Science and Technology.  
After graduating, she joined Iowa State University as an Assistant Professor and earned tenure in less than five years. She later moved to Texas A&M’s Department of Animal Science, where she served as an Associate Professor and as Director of the Center for Food Safety with the university’s Institute of Food Science and Engineering. 
In 2001, she was appointed by President George W. Bush as Under Secretary of Agriculture for Food Safety for the US Department of Agriculture, making her the highest ranking food safety official in the US government, as well as the first Hispanic American to serve in that role. 
She then returned to Texas A&M University, where she served as Vice Chancellor and Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences and oversaw the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, the Texas Cooperative Extension, the Texas Forest Service, and the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory. 
Within three years of rejoining the university, she was elected President of Texas A&M University, becoming the first female and the first Hispanic American to hold that position. 
Today, she is the President Emeritus at Texas A&M University and a professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Science, in which roles she continues to conduct research and teaching in the area of food safety. She is also a published author with 50 scientific articles and seven book chapters to her name. 
She credits "being in the right place at the right time and being prepared," as the reasons for her success. In her interview with VirginiaTech magazine, she added, "If you are always striving to be your best, it makes people around you pay attention."