An appreciation of Rick Miranda’s leadership

Rick Miranda at Fall Address 2018

Rick Miranda at Fall Address in 2018.

Mary Stromberger is the dean of the Graduate School at Colorado State University.

I am honored to share my appreciation of Rick Miranda as a leader, a mentor, and a friend. Knowing the kind of leader and mentor Rick is, I hope this message justly recognizes Rick for his humility, his wit and dry sense of humor, and most of all, his love for Colorado State University and its students, faculty, and staff.

Rick is a person who seldom calls attention to himself, and when he does, it’s often in the most self-deprecating and hilarious way. If you’ve attended any of the Leadership Fall Forums, you’ll understand what I mean – the goofy hats, green and yellow game bibs…need I say more? And in doing so, Rick taught us to not take ourselves so seriously but to take joy in being silly once in a while. As a self-aware leader who practices humility, Rick taught us that vulnerability is strength. In acknowledging our own weaknesses, we seek out complementary strengths in others, leading to greater team work, collaboration, and trust.

One aspect of Rick’s leadership that I will definitely miss is his sense of humor. The past few months have been pretty dark, but a saving grace I found myself looking forward to this spring was Rick’s semi-frequent emails to faculty. While meant to disseminate Keep Teaching tips, Rick wove in expressions of gratitude, inspirational reminders of our ability to thrive, and best of all – groan-worthy puns that on some days were my sole source of comic relief.

In case you missed it, Rick’s words of wisdom to survive the pandemic included being flexible (for which he traded in his Honda for a Mercedes Bends) and avoiding a mindset of suspicion (e.g., don’t trust people with graph paper: they’re plotting something).

On a deeper level, Rick understood the stress we were under, as we transitioned to remote teaching under an unprecedented pandemic at an unprecedented pace, and used humor to bring some relief to that stress. My time working with Rick is marked with many similar moments of levity that helped lighten the mood, draw his leadership team together, and demonstrate what supportive and empathetic leadership can look like.

Thirty-eight years has Rick been at CSU. In other words, his entire academic career – from assistant professor to department chair, dean, and Provost – has been devoted to us and this place. No one just does that, unless that person truly loves where they work and the people they work with.

I’ve witnessed Rick’s love for CSU many times, through his personal attention to individuals in crisis, his stewardship that advanced academic and student success even during cycles of defunding, his empowering of others to practice and develop their own leadership to better the university, and now in his return to a first love – that of teaching and research. He’s even shared with graduates during a commencement speech his thoughts on the various levels of love, including the highest level in which we love unconditionally with no thought to what we might receive in turn.

In leading with love, Rick has given to CSU his ultimate gift – nearly four decades of selfless service to the CSU academy, its faculty, and its students. He’s taught us how to face each new day with the strength to bring to realization what may be, so that CSU remains protected and strong, as stalwart as ever.

Rick, thank you for all you have taught us, and for your leadership that showed us how to be humble and self-aware, to be lighthearted and empathetic, and lead with love so that we remain true to the university we hold so dear.

Rick Miranda and Mary Stromberger on The Oval in 2015.

You’ve given us the best advice, and now I have some advice for you  – stick to the math jokes. Don’t bother with chemistry jokes, because you probably won’t get a reaction.