Ryan Thompson has a vision to change the role of undergraduate men on the UNH campus. Troubled by the experience of a friend who was raped, Ryan committed himself to doing something about this in his own community. While attending LeaderShape, he decided to set out and influence men on the UNH campus. One significant accom- plishment was organizing a “Wildacts for Men” event during the spring semester of 2004. At this event, Wildacts students performed interactive skits aimed at encouraging men to engage in reflection and dialogue on such issues as rape, sexual assault, and partner intimacy in an environment where they could be candid about their thoughts and feelings. Ryan also arranged for a local Police Chief who is a survivor of childhood and domestic abuse to come and facilitate a presentation and discussion on combating sexual assault.
Driven to enlist men in his campaign against sexual assault, Ryan is recruiting men to become involved in Take Back the Night, an event usually supported and attended mostly by women. Ryan credits Brandon Protas, former SHARPP staff member, and Steve Pappajohn, Greek Life Advisor, for motivating him and helping him accomplish his goals: “ Brandon was extremely encouraging and resourceful. He’s someone I look up to and I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without him. Steve is one of the nicest, hardest working people I know. He’s really been involved with men’s programming on campus. His influence extends well beyond Greek life.”
Ryan’s path to involvement and leadership at UNH was not a typical one. Originally from WindsorLocks, Connecticut, Ryan moved to Durham as a teenager and attended Oyster River High School. For his first two years at UNH, he commuted from home. Feeling as though he was missing out on so much of college life, he applied to become a Resident Assistant and moved onto campus. This decision paid off for Ryan, providing him with leadership experience, more social connections, and invaluable educational moments. “I became more confident and mature as an RA. I learned to take on hard tasks, not let failure stand in my way, and I gained experience encouraging my peers, which is a tough thing to do.”
Ryan’s involvement on campus has included a number of different organizations: Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, the Swing club, Alpha Chi Sigma (the professional and academic chemistry organization), SHARPP Peer Education, and the Resident Council for Woodside Apartments. His commitment to community service preceded his UNH career as well. As a high school senior, Ryan spearheaded a Bicentennial Park Restoration project for his Eagle Scout qualification; the picture in this story was taken in Bicentennial Park .
There are a number of avenues Ryan may explore after graduating from UNH. As a Biochemistry major, he is considering Dental school, Biochemistry, or Genetics as potential programs of graduate study. Ryan noted Charles Walker, Professor of Zoology as one of his favorite UNH faculty members. “Dr. Walker is the best professor I’ve had at UNH. He’s passionate about undergraduate research and is always available for help. He’s an excellent presenter and a great mentor.”
Ryan describes his college experience as a “growth period or a metamorphosis.” “The more I do; the more opportunities I see to explore, get involved, and make a difference.” He offers good advice to new UNH students, “If you’re passionate about something here, don’t just talk about it or complain; get involved. Go after your passion.” Ryan’s story is defined by these words and the UNH campus is better off as a result.