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College Bolsters Career Development, Hires New Executive Director

Jeanne-Marie Ryan
Jeanne-Marie Ryan

Jeanne-Marie Ryan is Davidson's new executive director of the Center for Career Development.

Ryan brings with her nearly two decades of global educational and career perspective, most recently from her post as State Street International's talent innovation director and vice president in its Investor Services America division. She has also worked for the venerable Boston firm's human resources division in its American headquarters, in her native Ireland and in multiple European locales.

Born on the cusp of the Millennial Generation (born from the early-mid-80s to the turn of the century), Ryan's personal and professional view today spans both students' and employers' frames of reference.

"The Millennial Generation is the largest living generation, and they have lived the most nurtured and curated lives of any generation," Ryan said. "When they get to college, they are still expecting a curated and nurtured experience. And as they start their careers, they want meaningful work, and they want early access to leadership opportunities.

"As a Millennial, I can help bridge potential gaps between what today's students are interested in and what the market needs," she said.

Ryan knows whereof she speaks.

Direct Experience

As a double major in history and in French at University College Dublin, she spent a year studying in France apprenticed to a vintner at the same time she was completing formal training as a sommelier. She went to work for the non-profit, educational Wine Board of Ireland during that country's turn-of-the-century culinary boom, completing her Wine and Spirit Education Trust accreditations, then enrolled in the master's degree program at the Clinton Institute for American Studies at University College Dublin.

Next came human resources consulting at Investors Bank & Trust in Dublin, and later at State Street International there. She travelled across Europe in a fast-paced mergers and acquisitions environment to develop performance assessment and change management systems tailored to specific corporate and international cultures, as well as designing university graduate recruiting programs and "standing up" internship and executive recruiting initiatives.

During her early career, Ryan worked in Ireland, the Channel Islands, Poland, Luxembourg and even Milan, Italy, for nearly a year. By 2012, she'd landed in State Street's Boston office, first as a global talent acquisition manager and then a talent innovation director and vice president. Projects there included diversity and inclusion programs, military career transition, university outreach, executive leadership, direction of State Street's global alumni network, and creation of the Voices of Younger Colleagues task force.

What's Next?

Ryan and her husband Tony Cogavin, who works in banking communications, came in their personal and professional lives to what she calls a "natural inflection point."

"We began to wonder ‘What's next?'" she said.

So, from her career perspective of "multiple geographies," as her resume says, Ryan did what came naturally: research.

"Moving to Davidson, North Carolina, was a very intentional decision," she said. "We wanted sunshine and warmth, of people and of weather that suits our clothes! We looked at all the livability indexes and chose Davidson. It matched all the social progression and intellectual curiosity we were interested in."

About that time, the state legislature passed the Public Facilities and Privacy Act, also known as HB2 or "the bathroom bill." That gave her pause. But in very short order, Davidson had posted a statement opposing the bill, citing the college's longstanding advocacy for inclusivity, access and equality.

"That really spoke to the social mores of the place," she said.

Perhaps providentially, the college was advertising the directorship vacancy at about the same time that Ryan was planning her move to Davidson. In the event, she interviewed for the job the day after she got to town, before her bags were even unpacked.

Now about a month into the new job at the start of academic year 2016-17, it feels right.

"Davidson is a place of critical thinking, tackling thorny issues and pursuing intellectual curiosity. The world needs more of that," she said. "Davidson makes me think of the Yeats quote, ‘Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.'"

In her new job, Ryan said she is trying to be especially conscious not only of bringing to Davidson her corporate experience in alumni networking, community engagement, talent acquisition, business development, brand ambassadorship -- but in adapting her experience, skills and attributes to the collegial culture here.

"Davidson College is not a corporation," she said. "It's a home."