Ms. Kathy Ryan, Assistant Dean in the College of Education, has been a stalwart leader in the College in every facet of undergraduate education; she has been a tireless advocate for the advancement of our undergraduate students; and she has helped the College and university achieve its goal of making this campus more reflective of the diversity in our global society, appreciative of our undergraduate students, and more intentional of our actions and engagements with them.  

Kathy is a leader among leaders.  She is brilliant, empathetic, has the moral compass and courage to do what is right each and every time, and understands the transformative power of living and experiencing a life full of diverse people, experiences and opportunities.  Her career in the College of Education at the University of Illinois spans fifteen years. She was hired as an undergraduate academic adviser for our teacher education students and today is our Assistant Dean for Student Affairs.  Immediately she saw that the College was underrepresented in every category as it related to the campus and college missions for diversity, enhancing the overall experiences of our undergraduates, and, more specifically, ensuring we acknowledge and provide for our James Scholar students.  Kathy’s list of accomplishments in the short time she has been Assistant Dean are beyond remarkable. She has taken it upon herself to recruit students from underrepresented backgrounds to increase their enrollment at the undergraduate level; she looked at the opportunities and funding provided in the College and suggested and implemented creative ways to ensure that these monies reach every student in the College; she provided mentoring and leadership opportunities for our students to enhance their overall experiences; and she asked the College leadership to put the needs of our undergraduate students front and center in all aspects of the College’s agenda, strategic planning, and initiatives.  

And this does not even begin to express her considerations and contributions to the James Scholar Program. More and more students are conducting undergraduate research in College classes and presenting their research findings at campus, college, and specialized events.  They are studying abroad; attending College-lead professional development workshops and are the sole recipients of this wonderful annual banquet to recognize them. 

She has singlehandedly helped the College identify, recruit, mentor, graduate, and place in the field as a teacher more than 200 students from underrepresented backgrounds.  She helps others find their passion at a university that is sometimes ignorant or unforgiving of the challenges they face as first generation college students.  She is a champion for justice and equity.  The College looks to her for guidance on matters such as diversity that would make us a more hospitable and inviting space.  Her colleagues across campus respect her for her commitment, generosity, wisdom, passion, and wherewithal to continue striving for what is best in and for our students.