Student life added a new position to its staff with the hiring of Dr. Ryan Richardson, associate vice president for student life, Aug. 19.
Richardson previously worked at Baylor for over 20 years, serving as associate chaplain and director of worship and chapel. While a difficult decision to leave Waco, the interview process sold him on the idea of moving.
“As I was interviewing with the people at ACU, I met so many amazing people,” Richardson said. “There was not a person I met who I thought ‘I really wouldn’t like working with that person’. Everyone seemed eager here in their own work, and that’s somewhat unusual.”
In Richardson’s time at Baylor, he served in several roles, but his passion at universities became more clear.
“Faith-based higher education is my calling,” Richardson said. “I don’t know how to conceive outside the faith-based model. I learned student affairs at Baylor. I’ve only worked inside the division of Student Life, so that’s been a gift.”
Tamara Long, vice president for enrollment and student life, will be serving in a dual role with Richardson.
“It allows for better consistency and storytelling,” Long said. “On the recruiting side, my job is to tell this great story about the ACU experience. So, I think that’s what excites me about the duality. I’m excited to have a partner help us really push forward and do that.”
Long pushed for the AVP position following vast uncertainty during the pandemic. Ultimately, it was a role she stepped into, but that wasn’t the long-term goal.
“When the pandemic hit in March, I was not over Student Life at that time,” Long said. “I was making a plan with advisors and all the unknown. So I just kind of stepped in for the time and met with Dr. Schubert for the long-term goal.”
In the short time Richardson has already been at the university, Long said he’s making an impact.
“He’s a gifted communicator and has incredible higher-education student development experience,” Long said. “I wanted to find someone who had training in that and had expertise and experience that would make ACU better for students. Ryan has already exhibited that, and he’s not afraid to roll his sleeves up and do the work.”
Richardson wants to make an impact for current students, but he wants to see a constant improvement for the next generation of students as well.
“The students who are with us now matter so much,” Richardson said. “Part of what matters to me is that I’m exploring [students’] world and experience at ACU so we can better [students’] experiences who come after current students. Constant improvement is important.”
One of the most supportive cast members throughout this transition for Richardson has been his wife and three sons.
“My wife and I make every decision together,” Richardson said. “We pray together; we pray with our kids and talk through these things together. They have been incredibly supportive.”
Richardson praised the connection with student life and its student body, but he emphasized creating an even stronger connection.
“Student life crafts the experience that students have,” Richardson said. “At some schools, it’s completely disjointed from the circular experience. I think ACU has had some really important connections with the academic journey. I just want to make those stronger and more cohesive so that you feel a sense of belonging right after the bat.”