Students, Alumni Thank Gery Ryan
Photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation
April 12, 2019
After more than five years as assistant dean for academic affairs, Gery Ryan stepped down in March. Students and alumni — and Dean Susan Marquis — were quick to thank Ryan for his support of their academic careers and progress. They also expressed gratitude that he will not only continue to teach several courses but also offer sage advice (as well as snacks) to anyone who visits his office.
“Gery cares deeply about the school and the students," Marquis said. "His many contributions, not only these more than five years as assistant dean but in more than fifteen years of teaching and working with students, have had a profound effect — from individual students to the system level of the Pardee RAND reimagining and redesign."
Luke Irwin (cohort '16) said that, as a dean, Ryan was "a trusted source for airing grievances, and constantly asked his students how he could help. He was always willing to step up and speak for the students when their voices were not being heard." He described Ryan's role as "a constantly opposing supportive force."
"If you are happy about how your progress is going," Irwin said, "he’ll tear you down and encourage you to work harder. If you are devastated and about to collapse from stress or a collection of failures, he’ll build you up and help you get back on the path to progress. It is a difficult role to play, but Gery did it with finesse, humor, and cookies."
Alum Claire O'Hanlon (cohort '13) also appreciated Ryan's availability. "When you really needed someone to talk you off a ledge — no matter what else Gery has going on — you, and your problems, and whatever you want to talk about seem like they are the only things that matter to him.
"Gery understands that one of the most important parts of graduate education is having lots of often seemingly aimless conversations that eventually make you think about things in a new way — all those Trader Joe's snacks were there bait us into one of those conversations," she added.
Steve Davenport (cohort '15), whose dissertation committee Ryan chaired, agreed that Ryan "brings a spirit to PRGS that is overwhelmingly sincere and caring."
"As students pass through the program, Gery goes from being a mere big-ideas lecturer to a trusted friend," Davenport continued. "Gery offers to students a deep sense of concern and kindness that does not come covered by PTNs. He will be missed!"
John Speed Meyers (cohort '15) agreed, adding that Ryan "made the Giving Tree seem selfish."
"He has provided mentoring, scholarly advice, and wisdom to a generation of students at Pardee RAND," he added. "To mix children’s book metaphors, you could say Gery has been the anti-Grinch: a person with such a large heart that you have to worry for him!"
Ryan will continue to teach the core courses Policy Analysis I and Social and Behavioral Studies I, oversee this year’s qualifying exams, coordinate the immersion program during this year’s Bootcamp, serve on dissertation committees, and meet with students.
Irwin said he's glad future classes will still be able to benefit from Ryan's teaching.
"Gery’s classes promote creative and unusual thinking," Irwin said. "He pushes the mental boundaries with which students enter the program, and he helps students build frameworks for thinking in multidisciplinary, systemic, open ways. This is an essential skill for policy students and practitioners, which he promotes incessantly."
Marquis added, "Each of us is grateful for Gery’s service to the school, and I am truly pleased that he will continue to mentor and teach students in his new role.”