Rick Melmer

Rick Melmer

Dean of the School of Education, University of South Dakota


Personnel make all the difference.

I have learned that whatever organization you serve, no matter how large or small, it is all about the people. There is simply too much work to be done to be a Lone Ranger. People must be empowered to do the work and recognized for its completion. The old adage "many hands make light work" is still true today.


Preparation is essential.

We rarely realize when we attend a meeting or an event that much of the work is required prior to the event. When I teach, speak or hold a meeting, it ALWAYS goes better if I have invested in my preparation. I used to think it was about the performance, but it is really about the preparation.


Priorities must be established.

There is always so much to be done and never enough time to do the work. That is why it is imperative to determine your priorities—what really matters? In my profession it is about student achievement but there are many factors that attempt to distract us from the goal. Successful leaders are able to focus their energies on the organization's priorities.


Progress is earned.

Education is slow to change. Like many non-profits, there are many levels that must buy in before a change occurs. I have learned that fighting for meaningful change is the most rewarding part of my work. Athletes will tell you they never remember the blowouts but rather the hard fought contests. The same is true in leadership—you remember the victories that required time and effort.


Perspective is an ultimate achievement.

I take my work seriously—sometimes too seriously. I have learned that what happens from 8:00 am - 5:00 pm is rarely more important than what happens from 5:00 pm - 8:00 am. Our work is not eternal but too often we think it is. Faith, family and friends will stand the test of time—our work projects rarely do.

The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.


Rick Melmer is the Dean of the School of Education at the University of South Dakota.  Prior to his work at USD, Melmer was the Secretary of Education for the state of South Dakota. He is a life-long educator serving as a classroom teacher, building and district administrator.

The University of South Dakota is embarking on an ambitious teacher education redesign, which features an undergraduate 3 + 1 program (3 years on campus and a full year residency off campus).

Rick is currently serving on the Education Delivery Institute Board of Directors and is on the Executive Board of the School Administrators of South Dakota.