Public Safety Leadership Program Impacts Lives

Brandon Daruna at the fire academy.

“My father is Cuban,” Daruna said. “Coming from a communist country, my dad doesn’t understand capitalism and felt that business education was a waste of time.”

As a result, Daruna (MBA 2018) set out to become an engineer. He was studying at Tulane University when he was hit by a drunken driver and nearly killed.

“I moved from campus housing to live with my grandmother,” Daruna said. “I needed her care. I didn’t have use of either arm for some time.”

Yet Daruna didn’t lie in wait. He occupied his time while he was healing by taking some courses at a local community college in New Orleans. Within two years, he had a degree in paramedicine. Soon, he was on the other side of care, working as a paramedic at New Orleans’ Charity Hospital, one of the most challenging urban areas in the US.

In 2003, he moved to Colorado, first working in management at a private ambulance company and then as a trainer at Denver Health. Ten years later, he was asked to run the Gilpin County Ambulance Authority. Gilpin County sends their leaders through the Public Safety Leadership program in Executive Education. Daruna was skeptical about the course’s value.

“Kerry Plemmons completely changed my outlook,” he said. “I was totally moved in five days.”

“When he first attended, I would say he was a very typical participant with a bit of interest and a lot of cynicism,” said Plemmons, professor of the practice at Daniels. “He knew he needed to change some pieces of his leadership style, but was not overly eager for that change. By the third day at the Nature Place, I think Brandon had some sort of epiphany and discovered a passion for learning and a passion for leadership.”

Daruna not only completed the Public Safety Leadership program, but went on to the Executive MBA program at Daniels and is now teaching in Executive Education.

“I ran and continue to run a $3 million government agency,” Daruna said. “Emergency services is a relatively young discipline, just 35 or 40 years old. It’s difficult emotionally for the people who do it. So, gaining rapport and teaching others how to manage people experiencing such stress is important.”

During the MBA program, Daruna found a passion for teaching. He was an outstanding students who became a Cohort leader and innovator. The Cohort 68 EMBAs traveled to South Africa and Mozambique for their global experience. Daruna got to South Africa a bit early so he could ride along with some of his fellow paramedics in Cape Town.

Brandon Daruna

“The whole experience [with Daniels] has been impactful,” Daruna said. “My aptitude did not change, but my leadership role has grown tremendously. I’m now on all kinds of boards and oversight committees; I have a place at the table.”

And, he has a place at Daniels, now teaching the Public Safety Leadership program through Executive Education.

“He is a great teacher because he loves his audience, knows his audience and goes to extreme lengths to prepare for his audience,” Plemmons said. “Brandon is a natural professor and will go far in this profession.”

The Public Safety Leadership training was developed after the 1999 shooting at Columbine high school. First responders recognized a need for different agencies to work more closely together and have a common language. As we remember the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks tomorrow and numerous school shootings since Columbine, we recognize a need for this continued training.