Notre Dame elects Marie Lynn Miranda provost

Author: Dennis Brown

Marie Lynn Miranda, the former provost of Rice University and a distinguished scholar in the field of children’s environmental health, has been elected the Charles and Jill Fischer Provost of the University of Notre Dame by its Board of Trustees, acting on the recommendation of the University’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.

A professor of statistics at Rice, Miranda was the university’s Howard R. Hughes Provost from 2015 to 2019. She stepped down due to a family illness. She will succeed Thomas G. Burish, who is stepping down July 1 after 15 years as Notre Dame’s provost.

“After an extensive national and international search that produced superb internal and external candidates, Father Jenkins and our search committee have recommended a woman with extraordinary scholarly, administrative and service credentials,” said John J. Brennan, chair of the University’s Board. “We are so pleased to welcome Marie Lynn and her family to Notre Dame and look forward to working with her as we build upon Tom’s wonderful work.”

“Professor Miranda rose to the top of a deep and distinguished pool of candidates,” Father Jenkins said. “Bringing a wealth of experience from years of leadership and scholarship at major research institutions and a commitment to student well-being and education, she is drawn to the University’s distinctive Catholic mission. Marie Lynn is just the leader we need at this time at Notre Dame.”

“As the first American-born member of an immigrant family, I have benefited tremendously from the transformative power of education,” Miranda said. “I am grateful on a daily basis for the opportunity that Notre Dame made available to my father, and consequently to my entire family, when he was invited to undertake graduate studies at the University many years ago. I am both deeply honored and excited to serve the Notre Dame community as its next provost.” 

As Rice’s provost, Miranda led all dimensions of the university’s academic, research, scholarly and creative programs with a $700 million annual operating budget. Major initiatives included the development and implementation of more than $230 million in strategic investments focused on molecular nanotechnology, data sciences, neuro engineering, synthetic and physical biology, inequities and inequalities and overall research competitiveness. She also collaborated on a plan for over $250 million in major renovations of university facilities.

Miranda was Rice’s principal liaison to the Texas Medical Center, directed the repositioning and renewal of the university’s George R. Brown School of Engineering and oversaw the launch of the Moody Center for the Arts and the Doerr Institute for New Leaders. She also appointed or renewed nine of Rice’s 10 deans and oversaw the Baker Institute of Public Policy and the Kinder Institute for Urban Research.

The success of first-generation students and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds was a priority of Miranda’s during her time as Rice’s provost and helped narrow the disparities in graduation rates and time to degree. She also focused on increasing the gender and racial diversity of the faculty and academic leaders, resulting in substantial increases in underrepresented minority and women faculty and the recruitment of minority faculty to two deanships and one vice provost position and two women to deanships.

When Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston in August 2017, Rice’s president was out of the country, leaving Miranda to lead the initial campus response. She worked with other university leaders to first ensure the safety of the 12,000-member community and then attend to the maintenance of the physical plant. She also worked with city and county leaders and continues today as the principal investigator on a region-wide effort to track the health and housing impacts of Harvey through a community registry.

Before accepting the appointment at Rice, Miranda served for four years on the faculty of the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE), where she also served as the Samuel A. Graham Dean of the school. In addition, she held appointments in the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Michigan. As dean, she advanced fundraising, oversaw a reform of the curriculum and built relationships between SNRE and many of U-M’s other schools.

Miranda is the daughter of Constancio and Joan Miranda. Her father earned his master’s degree in civil engineering from Notre Dame in 1962. She earned her doctoral and master’s degrees in economics from Harvard University and bachelor’s degree in mathematics and economics from Duke University, where she returned following graduate school to serve for 21 years on the faculty of the Nicholas School of the Environment, with joint appointments in the Integrated Toxicology Program, Department of Pediatrics and Duke Global Health Institute. While at Duke, Miranda won the university’s top teaching award.

Miranda’s research focus is on how the environment shapes the health and well-being of children. She is a leader in the evolving field of geospatial health informatics and is perhaps best known for her work on childhood lead exposure. Her interest in the joint effects of social and environmental exposures has led her to study the impact of racial residential segregation on health. She is the founding director of the Children’s Environmental Health Initiative, a research, education and outreach program committed to fostering environments where all people can prosper. An elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Miranda has over the course of her career received more than $60 million in funding from federal, state and foundation sources.

At Michigan, Miranda was appointed by President Mary Sue Coleman to the Advisory Board on Intercollegiate Athletics, and at Duke she was a member of the Provost’s Task Force on Faculty Diversity and served multiple terms on the Academic Council (Duke’s faculty senate). Outside of academe, she serves on the boards of the Environmental Defense Fund and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and has provided extensive service to the National Institutes of Health.

Chaired by Father Jenkins, the provost search committee included five faculty members and one student elected by and from the University’s Academic Council. Father Jenkins also appointed three additional faculty and one student from the faculty and student body at large to ensure a broad range of perspectives.

The committee received input from interested members of the campus community on the desired qualities and qualifications of the next provost and interviewed select candidates. The committee’s and Father Jenkins’ recommendation of Marie Lynn Miranda was passed on to the Board of Trustees, who today unanimously elected her as the fifth provost of the University of Notre Dame.

Originally published by Dennis Brown at on March 17, 2020.