A New Chapter for the Outgoing Chancellor

Gracie Kaine, Freelance contributor

The IUS community had just celebrated their graduating seniors at Commencement when Interim Chancellor Dr. Kelly Ryan broke news of her own about her forthcoming departure.

Ryan has been hired as president of Eastern Oregon University (EOU), which is that state’s official “rural university.” Her new journey begins July 1.

“I’ll miss you terribly,” she said in an email to the IUS community. “I’m awfully proud of all we’ve accomplished together.”

Ryan, who has been an administrator and professor, has been campus chief since last July.

Former student body president Dannon Olsen praised Ryan as “an unbelievable supporter of student autonomy.”

“I’ve spent three years as top leadership in Student Government and I’ve not come across many who have been so determined and trusting of student opinion,” said Olsen, who graduated two days before Ryan’s announcement. “There have been so many times I’ve come to her with ideas and concerns and she has gone out of her way to address them with an expediency rare for administrators.” 

As Interim Chancellor, Ryan oversaw the rollout of 14 new learning communities targeting first-year and transfer students that paired two academic courses together, a for-credit initiative that was developed while she was IUS’s executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. This learning opportunity, along with others aimed at improving student retention, coincided with campus activities such as Week of Welcome Plus, which expanded and extended the typical five-day, early-school year array of events ranging from cornhole games to a career fair long past October’s Fall Break.  

One of Ryan’s early announcements as campus chief was free parking for students for the 2022-23 academic year. By spring semester came the re-opening of “The Commons” cafeteria two days a week. 

EOU is located in La Grande, Oregon, about 223 miles east of Portland and has about 13,000 residents. The university is like IUS in a couple of areas; for example, their 17:1 student to faculty ratio and enrollment of less than 3,000 students is comparable to that of IUS’s tight-knit community. And just as IUS offers many online classes, so does EOU, which boasts more than 20 degree plans that don’t require a single in-person class.

At IUS, Ryan began in 2007 as an American history professor. She rose to dean of social sciences in 2016 and in 2020, during the depth of the COVID-19 pandemic, was promoted to lead all IUS academic units as executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. She holds three history degrees: a doctorate from the University of Maryland, a master’s from Boston College, and a bachelor’s from George Mason University.

Before leaving for the West Coast, Ryan will complete the transition for Dr. Deborah Ford, who takes the permanent job to replace former IUS Chancellor Dr. Ray Wallace. Ford has been chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

Olsen summarized his feelings about Ryan’s move. “On the one hand, I am sad to see her leave, but more so I am excited to see her career blossom.”