Jack Ryan ’16 exemplifies integrated learning as part of NAC&U panel in Washington

Jan 22, 2016

A rare but intriguing combination of mathematics and theatre research by Jack Ryan ’16 resulted in an invitation to speak this week at a Washington, D.C., press briefing at the National Press Club. Ryan was invited to present his research along with other undergraduate scholars as a way to support the mission of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (NAC&U), which sponsored the event.

“It was a great opportunity to represent North Central College by speaking in the conference panel,” Ryan said after the event. “Doing so allowed me to talk about my research specifically but, more importantly, gave me the opportunity to publicly validate the influence of the liberal arts education in my life.”

During his talk, Ryan described his methodology for making mathematical predictions of Tony Award nominations. His project, “Better Betting on Broadway,” reflects his personal interests and academic studies in math, theatre and computer science and is the title of his College Scholars Honors thesis.

“This was an opportunity to quantitatively analyze art, which is not done regularly,” he said during the presentation. “As a result of intimate class sizes and personal mentoring at North Central, I was able to find a [research] topic that excited and inspired me."

The students who presented were carefully selected to share how their integrative education—undergraduate research, business consulting and multidisciplinary projects—improved the quality of their college experiences and prepared them with real-world skills. Ryan endorsed the value of his experiences at North Central. “The liberal arts does an exceptional job of encouraging working together toward a goal ... it modeled the collaborative nature of research in the real world.”

President Troy Hammond and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Abiodun Goke-Pariola attended the event.

“Many of the college professors and provosts that I met after the event noted that I had done a great job explaining my work and its impact, so it was reassuring to hear that feedback,” Ryan said. “And the audience asked many thoughtful, informed questions, which I enjoyed having the opportunity to answer.”

Ryan credited his professors with his successes, including his advisor Katherine Heller, assistant professor of mathematics. Ryan, a Goldwater Scholarship honorable mention honoree, plans to pursue doctoral studies and become a math professor.

“Knowing a professor personally gives me more of a chance to network and opens more opportunities,” he said during his talk. “I’ve been able to watch other professors model interactions to determine how to interact with students and make them excited about math and math research.”

Below is a brief clip of his comments. Click here to view his entire presentation.