Ryan Roark, the director of Distance Education and Outreach, began working at Eastern New Mexico University on July 10.
"My main focus is on the quality of our distance education course offerings, specifically the Dual Enrollment program, Blackboard and our Mediasite classrooms," Ryan said.
"This year I will be working collaboratively with the Deans' Council, the vice president for academic affairs and our academic departments to make improvements for our stakeholders, especially for our students. This is a team effort, with my role being to facilitate and guide our improvements."
Ryan has a varied background. Early in his professional life, he was a K-12 music teacher. For the past 11 years, he was the director of Academic Affairs at the University of Phoenix.
"After 11 years in Phoenix, I was looking for an opportunity to improve the quality of distance education from within a university that puts teaching first," Ryan said. "After talking to many people here at ENMU, I am extremely impressed at how student-centered the faculty and staff are. I have spoken at length to dozens of people, and the level of care for our students really stands out as a core value. I am so pleased by that.
"On the flip side, I haven't been here long enough to have any complaints and, besides, I'm an optimist by nature. Some see problems; I see opportunities to improve."
Ryan says he has enjoyed ENMU and Portales, especially the people. He says compared to other places his family has lived, the people here are "kind, polite and easy-going. In Phoenix, I commuted an hour in each direction, so my current four-minute commute is amazing."
Ryan graduated from Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, a small city just south of his hometown, San Jose, California. After high school, he earned a bachelor's degree in music from the University of California at Riverside, followed by a fifth year of study at National University to obtain his teaching credential.
While working as a teacher, he earned a master's of arts in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, pursuing his interests in religion, history, philosophy and languages.
Ryan's ultimate career is "to make a difference in the world, have fun every day and provide for my family."
Ryan was born and raised in San Jose, in the heart of Silicon Valley.
"Back then, the culture was relaxed and easy going. The middle class was larger and less pressured economically than it is now," he said.
He grew up the oldest child of an art teacher and a stay-at-home mom.
"We were not a wealthy family, but all of our needs were met. Dad was the first person in his family to get a college degree and so was Mom, after she went back to school to become a registered nurse," Ryan said.
His dad taught in public schools, bringing art education to underprivileged neighborhoods. His mom worked in a VA hospital, helping veterans recover from drug and alcohol addiction. Later, she worked for San Benito County to educate the public on AIDS prevention and teen pregnancy.
After his parents had divorced, Ryan was "blessed with a stepdad who worked in the tech industry. He introduced me to computers before they were popular and so began my journey with technology. I also have a younger sister, who now has three amazing kids of her own."
Ryan says "a major part of my philosophy of life is 'love your neighbor as yourself.' Those words have sometimes been interpreted as 'be nice,' but, for me, it goes much further. Loving one's neighbor, from my perspective, means practicing justice for all; in other words, living generously for the poor, respecting the property of others, being transparently honest and avoiding all forms of grudges, hatred and revenge.
"I try my best to live with an open mind and compassionate spirit towards others. Sometimes I even succeed."