Ryan Jean ’09
Reflecting on his student days, Ryan Jean ’09 says many offerings at Syracuse University influenced his growth, but one area absolutely stood out. “Above all, the programming offered through the Dr. Lori Hunter Programs Rooted in Developing Excellence (PRIDE) office defined my four years on campus and set me up to succeed after graduation,” he says.
Within the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science, the PRIDE program encompasses all the professional societies, peer advising and tutoring programs, and other clubs and organizations associated with engineering. Jean, who pursued a degree in chemical engineering, took advantage of several programs, and each one helped him develop new skills.
The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) gave Jean the chance to collaborate with others in his field on a project outside of the classroom and compete with other chapters at a national level. Competitions also enabled him to network with industry professionals, which proved invaluable as Jean mapped out his career path.
The peer advising program, known as Pathfinders, bookended Jean’s experience at SU. “As a first-year student, I was assigned a Pathfinder to help guide me through ‘the unknown,’ and as an upperclassman, I reciprocated for a group of new students, sharing my experiences and acting as a sounding board for them,” Jean says. “Taking on a mentoring and leadership role in the engineering community built my confidence.”
While networking and developing leadership skills are crucial, Jean’s most influential experience came from designing and building an addition to an orphanage in Kenya through Engineers Without Borders. This opportunity gave him a world perspective and instilled a sense of community service while igniting his passion for travel and adventure. It also made him stand out as a professional.
“For my first employer, having an international experience with Engineers Without Borders while still in college made me a candidate for an international assignment right away. Immediately after graduation, I moved to the Middle East for work and grew as a professional much faster than if I’d been in a traditional work setting,” Jean says. “Beyond that, I learned so much about myself and another culture. I gained a perspective that not many people have, and I’m thankful for that.”
Today Jean is an industrial sales engineer at REXA in Chicago, and he supports the PRIDE programs that so profoundly impacted his professional development. “My chemical engineering studies prepared me technically to be a practicing engineer, but the programming through PRIDE really rounded out my education and set me up to succeed in the working world,” he says.
But Jean doesn’t just support PRIDE. He’s a strong advocate for boosting the presence of SU in Chicago. “SU in Chicago is more than simply SU alumni living in the greater Chicago area. We’re the Midwest ambassadors of Syracuse University, and we provide a portal between Chicago and Syracuse,” he says. “Current students from the area, SU graduates now living and working here, and prospective students who are interested in Syracuse all make up the SU in Chicago network, and it’s important for alumni in particular to increase awareness and visibility of SU here in the Midwest.”
For Jean, building SU’s recognition in the Windy City will attract a larger pool of prospective students from the region, who will become high-caliber graduates that broaden the alumni base. But more than anything, Jean gives back because he wants today’s students to have the same life-changing experiences he did. “As a student at Syracuse University I was provided with exceptional opportunities both inside and out of the classroom, many of them made possible through the generosity of those who came before me,” he says. “I want to help ensure future students can capitalize on unique experiences at SU, continuing our tradition of excellent alumni and world citizens.”