Meet Carol Passos, MIU’s first woman vice president

Carol, what brought you to MIU? 

I wanted my family to live in a community we could be proud of. And that we could feel safe in. Here everyone knows everyone; it brings a sense of familiarity, comfort, and ease. For example, when I had Covid, my neighbors and colleagues pitched in and helped out in so many ways. It was amazing. That’s what people do here. It’s very different from living in anonymity in a big city. And particularly, I wanted my family to live in a TM community.

Where did you work previously that you developed into the confident leader we see today? Who were your role models?

I’ve always felt comfortable in leadership positions. I remember even as a kid, I was quite often at the head of my peer groups. And as a young adult just starting out, I was fortunate that key people took me seriously, saw my potential, and invested in me. 

For role models, the first was my supervisor in HR at a company with JCPenney where I worked as an HR intern. I observed that my supervisor always listened and learned from what was going on around him. He always spoke with his heart and kept himself humble. From him I learned that knowledge gives power and authority and that this can only happen when there is humility, respect, listening, and learning.

The second influence came when I worked at Macroplan, a Strategy Consulting company in Rio de Janeiro. People from major newspapers would come and interview my boss, a top expert in his field. Yet he was one of the most approachable and humble people I ever met in the business world. He was always acquiring new knowledge, continuously improving his skills. Another lesson was that you’re never at the top if you’re not keeping up to date, gaining the latest information and growing in knowledge. 

These were my workplace role models. However, I believe the influences that really form an individual come from personal and close connections. To really evaluate someone deeply you need to see what they’re like behind the public eye. People I admire whom I know in that way, would be my dad and my husband.

My dad was a physicist and a professor and I learned from him the value of authenticity, transparency, reliability, trustworthiness, and truthfulness. He exemplified these qualities with everyone—with his students and his family. My husband as a role model teaches me patience and resilience, because I’ve always seen these qualities in his interactions. Patience is a quality I’m constantly developing.

What about your education?

I have a BA in Psychology from the University of the State of Rio de Janeiro. I was already working as an HR consultant before I graduated. I then came to the United States and to MIU in particular because my husband and I were both meditators. While here I became a Sidha, earned an MBA, and was certified as a LEAN Practitioner. By the way, these are excellent programs at MIU; they fortified my self-confidence and repertoire of knowledge. 

Looking back over your years at MIU, what would you say is your greatest accomplishment in HR so far?

I think my biggest accomplishment is the team I have built. One thing I learned from the former president at Macroplan: Hire talented people, hire people who shine, and they will make you shine. My team members here are so intelligent and so dedicated. We are a very open team. Everyone has a voice, and we work well together — working is fun.

Whenever we have a new team member, I share with them how I operate, our team values, and how our team works. For example, when mistakes happen, we discuss and we talk about mistakes openly. We don’t take it as putting someone on the spot, but we talk and try to learn together, so we can avoid the same mistake in the future. This mode of operation extends to me too. I take my mistakes to my team. I always ask for their input and I value their contributions tremendously. This way we own our errors and then the entire team grows as an outcome. Our focus is not on the problem, it’s How are we learning? How are we growing?

My teammates, Max, Lucy, Edison, Denise, Michael, Samantha, Nosiku, and Prasanthi, I trust them with everything. In my perception, they don’t need my supervision, they benefit from my guidance and support, as I do theirs. And I truly need their support. It’s real teamwork.

The truth is, my teammates are extremely knowledgeable
from their previous extensive career experience.
They are powerhouses of knowledge, each in their area.

— Carol Passos

My second accomplishment is in reorganizing my department. When I started here, HR had all its knowledge and authority at the top, with everyone supporting the top person. I do it a little differently: I support the team — meaning I serve them. The truth is, my teammates are extremely knowledgeable from their previous extensive career experience. They are powerhouses of knowledge, each in their area. Organizing the compliance issues, creating an integration between HR and Accounting and Payroll, these are outcomes due entirely to HR’s teamwork and overall expertise.

In the near future, what can we expect out of HR?

There are two new exciting projects underway. Big picture: All operations involving personnel at MIU need to go smoothly. The more our personnel can self-serve, the more time there is for HR to focus on other things that are key to the strategy of the University as a whole. 

We first look at internal processes — something we’ve been doing over the past two years.

For example, Max Ostheimer brilliantly reorganized the HR departmental section of the website so that personnel info is more easily accessible. All the information requests we’ve gathered over the previous two years, we’ll use in a ticketing system connected to a knowledge base. Employees will be able to find answers to their questions all in one place, at the tip of their fingers. Their requests will go straight to the relevant answer, and if more assistance is needed, our HR expert on that topic will get the request and provide customized support. 

This will also provide us better, more accurate reports on what our major issues are, guiding us to where and how we need to improve. (Note: The ticketing system described has been up and running since mid-December.) 

 Our other big project is in partnering with the Accounting Department. We are implementing an integrated Human Resources/Payroll/Accounting system which will provide better resources to our managers and top executives with regard to budgeting, planning, and tracking. This will be enormously important to guide our decisions based on reliable data and information, as well as to evaluate the performance of our employees and our organization as a whole. 

Looking ahead, I believe in my team’s abilities — and so do they! We look forward to tomorrow!

This story was originally published in the MIU 2023 Annual Report.