Ryan Greene arrived at SU this summer as the new director of the International Student Center, bringing with him more than 14 years of experience working in higher education. Most recently he was director of the Office of Multicultural and International Student Programs at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., serving as both the international and senior diversity officer for the Division of Student Affairs. He was also an instructor in Hofstra’s Master’s degree program in Higher Education Administration. Greene, who holds a certification in International Conflict Mediation from the University of Maryland, College Park, is a Ph.D. candidate in International Education Policy Studies at the University of Maryland.
Before working at Hofstra, Greene was a visiting scholar and lecturer at the University of Pretoria in Tshwane, South Africa. He has taught courses on leadership within the University of California system, at the University of Maryland and at Teachers College at Hofstra University. While still an undergraduate at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, NJ, Greene taught English at The Bailey Ellard Catholic School and at the St. Virgil’s School in New Jersey. He’s also coached lacrosse at the high school and collegiate levels.
The Commons: So why’d you choose to come to Seattle University and, more specifically, to the International Student Center?
Ryan Greene: The Jesuit mission and commitment to social justice and to community service were three big components that brought me out from the East Coast. I used to work for the University of California system, so to come back out west was something I had hoped to do when I left UC for graduate work at the University of Maryland. The Division of Student Development has a strong senior leadership team, so the opportunity to work with them also drew me to SU.
The Commons: What have been your first impressions of SU?
RG: I’ve had a chance to see a lot of universities welcome new students and I was really blown away by how detailed and intricate the process was of welcoming students here at SU. The Jesuits create that great sense of purpose and set the stage in a more fulfilling way, I think, than other campuses do. It was a really nice way for me to be introduced to the university—hearing Father Twohy speak, hearing Father Sundborg speak, and hearing professors at Convocation really set the stage for first-years and transfer students who were beginning their educational experiences here at SU. It was great to be a part of and a great way to be welcomed to the university.
It just seems like a very collegial atmosphere here, and people are really eager to work together to support students. As for my first impressions of the center, one of the reasons I came to SU was to take on the challenge of replacing someone like Faizi Ghodsi who was in this position for over 30 years. In past positions, I had started a few positions from scratch. I was in a position at UC Santa Cruz and one at Hofstra where I was literally the first person in those positions and that was a different kind of challenge than the one I am facing here at SU. So to have an opportunity to attempt to replace someone who had been here for so long was definitely something that intrigued me about the position.
As for the center, we’re really lucky to have Dale (Watanabe) and Sandra (Bui), who have both been here for 10 years as international student advisors. So first impressions have been really positive, and it’s a great place to be. SU is definitely a university on the rise. There’s so much going on here and that make this an exciting place to be right now.
The Commons: Now that you’ve had a few months to get acquainted with the center, how would you describe its overall function or purpose in 100 words or less?
RG: The center serves in a number of capacities. We provide visa and immigration support for students and faculty. We provide programs that support our students academically, socially and culturally. We’re also putting on programs that help educate the campus about global issues, and I am thrilled to see so many domestic students attending our events as I feel as though they are gaining so much from their participation in the global programs we implement.
The Commons: Where do you see the center headed in the years ahead?
RG: We’re probably looking at infusing more education into our programming model, while maintaining that food components of the programs that we currently do. Culture and food are sometimes intrinsically linked but we need to make sure we’re focusing on the educational aspects as well. We’re also looking to expand our orientation process in the fall for all new incoming international students. It’ll probably be a five-day orientation moving forward. It’s a three-day now. We have a working group made up of fifteen campus partners helping re-shape the orientation process.
And finally as we look to the future, and the work that Dr. Victoria Jones is now doing with global engagement we are really trying to follow here lead and position ourselves as one of the major spokes in the wheel of the larger strategic priority, and hopefully that means a significant contribution from the center with regard to offering campus programs that focus on global engagement and capitalizing on the 540-plus international students we have here at SU from 63 countries.
The Commons: How did you get so involved in internationally oriented work?
RG: I’ve been involved in diversity education and training for about 15 years so I think through that lens I just became really passionate about global issues. And then, while I was in college there were just so many things happening on the world’s stage. Nelson Mandela was released from prison on Robben Island when I was in college, and I think that’s what eventually brought me to South Africa and that fueled my desire to do research and take a position as a visiting scholar there for one of the years of my Ph.D. program. What got me really interested in campus internationalization was the huge academic boycott of South Africa while Mandela was in prison under apartheid and it just made me realize the power that institutions of higher education to raise dialogue about international and multicultural issues. We are in an incredible position here at SU to educate students, the community, and each other on these issues.
The Commons: What did you take away from your experience in South Africa?
RG: I think one of the things I realized is that people had been so mistreated in South Africa. People of Color were literally put in townships. They couldn’t farm the land. Some of the communities didn’t have electricity or water, and they remained there for years. You would need a pass to leave the township and passes were only given for those who worked outside the townships. And now, you’re really seeing the impact of that, and as one colleague put it to me the chickens are now coming home to roost. There’s a lot of violence in South African society, and the violence comes from that history of mistreatment at the hands of the Dutch and British settlers. So that experience really speaks to how we need to be much more conscious of how we treat each other.
The Commons: Coming from the East Coast, how’s your adjustment to Seattle going?
RG: It’s going well, but I’m a Yankees fan, so it’s a little tough out here in the sense that A-Rod is a former Mariner who’s now on the Yanks, and I think there’s a lot of Mariner fans who are not fans of the Yanks. But in all seriousness, being away from family can be tough but I’ve luckily made some good friends out here already. I love the proximity to Portland and the 20 or so different neighborhoods in Seattle itself. There’s a lot to explore here and so much going on here in terms of festivals, live music and culture. That’s definitely eased the adjustments.
Outside of Yanks games, I’m a pretty big college sports fan. I know tonight I’ll be at the Oregon State-Seattle U game over at KeyArena. I still root for the Maryland Terps. I definitely love to golf and love to travel. Work always comes first as it’s such a central part of your life, especially in student development. It’s a busy life but it’s better to be busy than to not be busy.