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SAU official believes diversity matters
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Photo: Gary Krambeck/gkrambeck@qconline.com
Ryan Saddler, director of diversity at St. Ambrose University.
DAVENPORT -- For Ryan Saddler, St. Ambrose University isn't just a school. It's a way of life.

The director of diversity and student disability services at the university started as a student 22 years ago.

"I always had ambitions of going on into some health-related field," Mr. Saddler said, adding that he originally was attracted to the occupational therapy program but switched majors to biology and psychology.

Mr. Saddler didn't have to go far to find a job he loved.

Since graduating, he has coached football and track and worked in the admissions department before moving to the university's disability services center in 2000.

"At that time, I just fell in love with the college atmosphere, working with other students."

A few months ago, Mr. Saddler applied for the director of diversity position in addition to his role in the disability services center.

It's a position he never planned on applying for, but the university was having a hard time finding someone who was a good fit. Initially, he planned to just help whoever was hired.

However, he decided to "throw my name in the hat."

Now Mr. Saddler has been doing both jobs for a semester.

"It's terribly hard," he said with a laugh. "I have devoted certain days to diversity. It gets confusing sometimes, where am I going and why am I going there."

As director of diversity, Mr. Saddler's job is to look at "why are we not doing more to give our students those benefits of knowing people from other cultures.

"I was hired to address the racial and ethnic diversity of our campus, and the lack thereof, I guess," Mr. Saddler said, adding that his concerns also include sexual orientation, gender and other diversity issues.

He's also tasked with enhancing the relationship with the community as far as diversity.

So far, Mr. Saddler believes he's making a difference on campus and in the community.

"I was able to share a little about the history of St. Ambrose (with students) and talk about what some of our alums are doing," Mr. Saddler said. "To see the change that came over the faces of some of the students was impressive.

"It really made me change a little bit of my focus to digging up more information about some of our alums so I can share that information with our students to help them stay motivated when times get tough for them."

He hopes to spread the word to the community that St. Ambrose wants to be diverse and work toward diversity causes.

"We have a rich history at St. Ambrose of working in the firms of our community," Mr. Saddler said. "The civil rights movement of Davenport was pretty much orchestrated and funded by students at St. Ambrose and faculty and priests.

"There are longtime community members who understand that, but then there are community members who don't really understand that, they just know where we've been recently."

Mr. Saddler hopes to bring recognition to the community by celebrating the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement with an event next fall.

He also works with organizations in the community such as the NAACP, LULAC and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and is part of a diversity initiative in the community.

"It's making a difference," Mr. Saddler said of his job. "I enjoy what I do, I believe in what I do. That's probably the most important thing. I believe that diversity does matter. I'm not sure I'd be able to think so critically or outside the box if I'd only hung around people that look like me and think like me."

Mr. Saddler hopes to drive some students to continue working for some of these causes after they graduate. He said it ties in with the campus' mission statement as well as social action, which connects with the university's strong Catholic roots.

"As an Ambrose alum, I value my Ambrose experience, my education," Mr. Saddler said. "What was engraved in me, what was taught to me in the classroom, is what taught me how to be the man I am today."

It's something Mr. Saddler hopes to pass on to students throughout his career.

As for the future of his job, Mr. Saddler is thinking positive.

"I think the institution is ready for a change of some sort, and it's just identifying what that is. How we address it and what we do becomes my challenge."









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