Mike Ryan has a unique connection to Mount Aloysius College. His grandmother and great aunt were born across the street from the college in the Admiral Peary House. That same great aunt would go on to become a nun and English teacher for fifty years, and she is buried in the college’s cemetery. Several of his family members attended and graduated from the Mount. So it only seems natural that he would find himself back at the college.

Ryan spent 25 years in the United States Air Force, flying A-10s in Europe during the Cold War. In 2007, he retired from the Air Force and joined the Senior Executive Service of the Department of Defense. He has also served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy.

“The principal thing I was focused on was the relationship between NATO and the European Union as the European Union started to develop its own defense and security apparatus,” said Ryan.

“So really just helping everyone to see and to have a shared understanding of the collective challenge and to find ways for everyone to pull in the same direction–to find mutually supportive ways to work. So that the European Union could develop its contributions to the defense of the transatlantic community in a way that helped NATO.”

In his time in the military and government service, Ryan has spent a lot of time learning–and a lot of time teaching. He served as an instructor pilot, developed a few military courses, taught at the Joint Military Intelligence College after graduating with his masters degree.

After leaving the Department of Defense, Ryan taught European security cooperation for three and a half years at the NATO school in Germany. He spent 18 months at the French War College in Paris, studying operations, strategy, and international affairs, among other things.

He has served as a guest lecturer, presented at conferences, wrote articles for several different publications, and has continued to help people learn and develop in regards to the assignments he was working on.

“I’ve always thought I would love teaching, I think it’s an important thing to do to turn around and bring up the people behind you, train your own replacements.”

It was this love of teaching that brought Ryan back to Mount Aloysius College. He has joined the college as an adjunct professor for the Spring 2021 semester and beyond. This semester, he is teaching world affairs, but he also taught Russian history when he briefly taught at the Mount from 2017 to 2018.

His favorite part about teaching are the lightbulbs–the moments when students really start to understand difficult concepts–and learning from his students.

“The most important thing I think for teachers is to teach people how to think, not what to think. To understand how to think, then what they think will make a great contribution to society,” Ryan said. His favorite class to teach is world affairs for this reason.

“To be successful in the world, you have to understand what motivates other actors and why they do the things that they do, so that the response can be effective in achieving our desired outcomes by convincing them to do a certain thing. It’s really about thinking together, sharing perspectives so we can achieve a greater understanding. And hopefully we’re smarter tomorrow than we are today. We do that through discourse and discussion.”