From Gordon to Alaska and Back Again
Ryan Stadt, 23
Hometown: Augusta, Michigan
When Ryan Stadt graduated from Gordon as a philosophy major in 2009, he fully intended for his next step to be a Ph.D. program. Instead, three months later he flew to Alaska to be a resident advisor at a public boarding high school in the bush town of Galena.
Stadt, originally from Augusta, Michigan, learned of the position through the nonprofit organization Samaritan’s Purse, founded by Billy Graham’s son, Franklin. “I wanted to try something new, and I saw value in challenging myself through being in an isolated location,” said Stadt.
As an RA, he spent the year monitoring Alaskan teens, a demographic known for high levels of depression and suicide. If that weren’t challenging enough, he had limited interaction outside of the school since Galena is a town of only 592 people. It has two small grocery stores, and a coffee shop in the living room of someone’s home.
“I read and took a lot of walks until the weather became unbearable,” said Stadt.
At times the sun was out for no more than four hours a day, and temperatures were as cold as negative 50 degrees. “It was so cold that if I was outside for more than five minutes my eyeballs hurt because they would start to freeze.”
By October Stadt was applying for a job in the more forgiving continental U.S. “Thankfully they all fell through,” he said. “Being in Alaska gave me time and space to sort through priorities and think about what I really wanted to do career-wise.”
In September Stadt will begin a master’s of education program at Gordon to prepare to teach high school math. “Gordon instilled in me the sense that my knowledge is something to be shared to help others develop holistically,” says Stadt. “Being in Alaska showed me it’s high school students I want to be teaching.”
While Stadt won’t be using his philosophy degree directly, he values the way philosophy taught him to ask good questions and think thoroughly, skills he sees applicable in all areas of life—even math.
“At Gordon I really got a true liberal arts education that’s already helped me in all realms of life,” said Stadt. “I’m excited to continue and do my master’s here.”
—Natalie Ferjulian, 2011