Rico Munn Shares His Midland Experience

Rico Munn Shares His Midland Experience

Thursday, May 10, 2018

When Rico Munn first arrived on the Midland University campus in 1989, he planned to stay for a year. But plans changed.

Munn, who is Midland’s 2018 Commencement speaker, explains he was presented with opportunities that would shape his collegiate experiences. He also made lifelong friendships, which made Midland the perfect place to build the foundation for his career and life. He took those life lessons with him to law school, and then into a professional life that took him to courtrooms, the Colorado state capitol, and the superintendent’s office in one of the most socially and economically diverse school districts in the nation.

While at Midland, Munn quickly became involved in creating a debate team and participated in theater and choir. He excelled at debate, becoming a three-time National Collegiate Debate Championships qualifier and a semifinalist for the PKD National Debate Championships. Munn also earned a vocal music scholarship.

“The opportunities I had because of the size of the school were great,” he says. “That was huge for me. Between debate, theater and choir, I had opportunities to make friends and learn lessons through performing.”

Munn also had an opportunity to grow in his faith. He attended services at Sinai Lutheran Church and taught Sunday school classes there.

“My parents were very active with my church my whole life. They instilled in me the understanding and belief that we have to give back to the community,” he says. “The opportunity to learn and grow in my faith was important as well. I share a Christian past. It was unique opportunity to learn Lutheranism and those traditions of Christianity.”

While at Midland, Munn built a foundation for his future by becoming involved in social justice and human rights issues through the campus chapter of Amnesty International.

In 1993, Munn earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Secondary Education and Social Sciences. He then obtained a law degree from the University of Denver-College of Law in 1996 and began a successful career where he practiced commercial litigation with a national law firm.

“My degree is in education. Education is valuable to me, but my goal was always to get into law school and to practice law,” he says. “But as I was doing that, I stayed active in the world of education.”

In 2002, he was elected to the Colorado State Board of Education, serving until 2007. Munn served as the executive director of the Colorado Department of High Education from 2009-2011 and currently is the chair of the Board of Governors for the Colorado State University System.

Munn also was the executive director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies from 2007-2009, overseeing the Colorado Divisions of Civil Rights, Banking, Real Estate, Insurance, Financial Services, Securities, Professional Licensure, Public Utilities, and Consumer Counsel.

Since 2013, Munn has served as superintendent of Aurora Public Schools, the fifth-largest district in Colorado. The district’s 42,250 students represent one of the most diverse student populations in the nation.

“This is my community. This is something I hold a passion for,” Munn says about his current position. “The economic diversity and other challenges certainly are things that connected for me. This is about social justice. Education is one of the biggest levers in addressing those issues. It always has been about providing educational opportunities.”

Munn is using lessons he learned at Midland in leading Aurora Public Schools. He says it is important to have a set of principles to guide your life, and he has developed “My Ten Essential Truths” based on those principles. That list includes: Every child has potential, every teacher will forever change the life of every child they teach, and every adult in APS has a role and responsibility in teaching and learning.

During his Commencement address, Munn will share his experiences with nearly 275 students who have earned bachelor degrees.

“I think the best advice is always to be able to offer people a way to envision their future through the lessons you learned,” he says.