By George Mauzy
Ryan Lombardi began his duties as Ohio University's new dean of students and associate vice president for student affairs on May 19 -- just in time to get a feel for campus before commencement. The new dean joins the university after seven and a half years at Duke University, where he served as associate dean of students.
Here, Lombardi shares some initial thoughts with Outlook.
Can you tell us a little about your role as dean of students and how it fits in with the priorities of the Division of Student Affairs?
My job is to serve as a liaison between students and the senior administration. I need to be an advocate for the students to communicate their feelings to the administration and vice versa. Dr. (Kent) Smith (vice president for student affairs) has a true commitment to students, and to me that is a non-negotiable in this field. He is an energetic and passionate leader who has a strong vision for what Student Affairs should be. He sold me when he said he was looking for a partner to help him shape the division here at Ohio University.
What else made Ohio University attractive to you?
The job advertisement caught my eye even though I wasn't looking to leave Duke, as I had heard great things about Ohio University from people who worked or went to school here. After talking with students and staff, I felt drawn to the place and thought it would be a good fit for me and my family. I wanted to find a place where I could make a strong commitment to the university and the community, and in my mind, this opportunity offered me the whole package.
What skills or qualities do you possess that will help you the most in this role?
I hope that I bring energy, passion and an ability to relate well to the students. I consider myself to have a well-rounded background because my previous jobs allowed me to wear lots of hats and develop many broad skills. I've done work in several areas of student affairs, and I enjoy bringing groups together to accomplish shared goals.
Can you share your initial impressions of our students and the opportunities they're afforded here?
I have found our students to be extremely engaged in the university and generously welcoming to me and my family. Our students want to have a role in the decision-making on campus and are pleased that Vice President Smith has been inclusive in his dealings with them. Our students are lucky to be at a university that offers them an opportunity to obtain a great education in a great environment. They are afforded many leadership opportunities on and off campus that will help cultivate them into well-rounded students.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing college students?
Today's students must be prepared to enter a global marketplace that is seeking people with diverse skills and experiences in many different areas. Most people these days change careers several times during their life, so they have to learn skills that will allow them to be successful in a multitude of arenas. The pressure that brings can be a tough challenge, but it is my observation that it is one that our students are more than capable of achieving.
What are your immediate priorities?
The first thing I need to do is get to know and understand the university and its students, faculty and staff. It would be a disservice if I tried to make major changes or develop an agenda before I became adequately familiar with the university and its history. After I accomplish this, I can then begin developing next year's goals with my staff and our students.
How will you work with the faculty and staff?
I want to connect with them as much as possible, as they're obviously integral partners in service to students. We need to work together to make sure there are no boundaries for students that prevent them from working toward a well-rounded education. Students are students all of the time, not just in the classroom, and the extent to which faculty and staff can work together toward this end will only enhance the student experience.
I also would hope to have the opportunity to teach some higher education courses and do some academic advising after I settle into my new job. I want to do these things because I like connecting with students on as many different levels as possible.
How will you work with Student Senate?
The plan is for Vice President Smith and me to co-advise Student Senate next year. I look forward to working alongside him to support their efforts to serve as the voice of the student body. I've been fortunate to have the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time with the Senate leadership since I arrived, and I've been very impressed at the dedication of the organization.
Tell us about the personal side of Ryan Lombardi?
Growing up, I moved around a lot because my father worked in corporate telecommunications. In fact, my seven and a half years at Duke was the longest I've ever lived in one place. These days I'm a family man who likes to spend quality time with my wife, Kara, and 9-month-old daughter, Anna. I also love to play golf and the saxophone when I can find the time.
Who has been the most influential person in your life and why?
My immediate family has been the most influential to my personal development. Moving around a lot when I was growing up enabled me to develop very close relationships with my parents and brothers. This closeness has remained constant despite the lack of geographic proximity we have with each other. Beyond them, my wife and daughter are the most influential people in my life today. My daughter, despite being only 9 months old, teaches me new lessons about life every day.
Looking ahead to this time next year, what would you want people to say about you?
I want students to view me as approachable and know that I've worked hard to represent them. I hope my staff and colleagues view me as fair, consistent and passionate about everything we do together. And most importantly, I hope that we can all have fun doing this together. Because in my mind, there is no better place to be than on a college campus, and I am lucky to have what I consider to be the best job here.