Not only does he have a killer man bun, but he also said he has students’ “best interests in mind.” Ryan Cook, Westminster’s director of student involvement, leadership, and orientation, is now settling down after preparing all year for First-Year Student Orientation this fall.
Although Cook has only been a part of Westminster for one year, he said he is invested in creating a dynamic program that helps first-year students take their first steps onto college campus a little easier.
Juan Lopez, a junior marketing major, has worked alongside Cook and other students to help plan and execute First-Year Student Orientation for the past two years.
“Ryan is great at pushing people to do their best,” Lopez said. “I think this year more than others you really got a feeling that it was very student run and student focused. This has been a valuable learning experience, as well as being extremely rewarding.”
First-Year Student Orientation is only one week long, but Cook said it usually takes 9–10 months of the year to plan.
Q: Share your vision of First-Year Student Orientation. What would you like to see happen in the next few years as you establish yourself here?
A: Orientation for me is… it’s your one shot to actually get people set up to be successful here. Which is why I think doing things like Griffin GearUp and pre-orientation programs are so important, because it really starts the process. It kind of wets your pallet and says, ‘This is what you have to look forward to. This is what you need to know now before you get here.’
Students that have that experience—that actually came here for orientation—felt so much more prepared. They were much more comfortable and much more versed in Westminster life by that time. We really put this emphasis on our orientation leaders on being a family. That’s what Westminster feels like. When you walk on campus, it should never feel like you are out of place here. That’s the environment that we are looking for; that’s the experience we are looking for, and we train our leaders and build the program that way.
Q: Tell me about your educational background.
A: Well, I grew up in Wisconsin. Many Wisconsin kids go to Wisconsin schools, so I decided to go to [the University of Wisconsin] Eau Claire because of music. They allowed me to be able to do a lot of their choirs and the acapella groups and all of the smaller ensemble work that I wanted to be able to do. The music scene is really healthy there. I really loved it.
I then decided I was going to be a physical therapist and changed my major a few times to get there. I took a sociology class in my “super senior” year that kind of changed my life, mixed with a few other life experiences. My apartment that I lived in burned down my junior year of college and the dean of students that was there really helped [mentor] me. I kept seeking him out after that experience. I chose to pursue grad school in education at Denver University. I lived in Denver for the last two years and got involved with student activities and programs and student conduct as well.
Q: Why Westminster?
A: It let me ski still and be outside and let me go to national parks and do all of those things that I really liked doing recreationally. That was very important to me. I also was able to get a position out of grad school that was incredibly lucrative.
Q: What does your title (director of student involvement, leadership, and orientation) suggest you do?
A: I get to work in housing, to be on an on-duty rotation, to do student conducts, to do student activities, to work with clubs and organizations, to do orientation, to do leadership programs, to be the adviser of several of those groups, to do academic advising and counseling for students that are struggling and to be involved with multiple committees that meet with students of all different backgrounds to help them stay retained at the college. That’s an absurd list of responsibilities to have.
Q: Your professional title is quite long. Have you made up a nickname for yourself?
A: SILO. I wish SILO stuck more with other people, but it just doesn’t. I wish I could just say that I’m the director of SILO and people would just be like ‘Oh, I know what that is.’ There are enough other acronyms that it should work. That’s actually going to be one of my responsibilities this year—[making] SILO a thing.