Our Best & Brightest Go Abroad

While at Fairfield, Ryder changed his major within the College of Art & Sciences several times before settling on a double major in Philosophy and an individually designed major focused on China. He developed an interest in the country after taking a religious studies course with Dr. Ronald Davidson. “Once I designed my own major on Chinese studies, I did two capstones, one of which was on internal immigration. I made the argument that education was one phenomenon that would open Beijing to the next generation of students who went to live in the city.” Other professors helped guide Ryder’s Chinese studies, including Dr. Danke Li (history) and Dr. Joy Gordon, in the philosophy department who encouraged him to apply for a Fulbright.

After spending six months in China, Ryder applied for and received a Fulbright for 2008-2009 to continue his research on access to public and private education and the opportunity for social mobility. He ended up staying in China until the early summer of 2010.

Before 2006, Ryder had never taken any Mandarin language courses and while he did take an intensive language studies course at the Monterey Institute of International studies, he said, “The way I learned a lot of my Mandarin Chinese was through the relationships I built and the people I met along the way.”

He spent a lot of time in a small migrant community outside of Beijing, where he made friends with many families. His research consisted, among other things, of four case studies of two students who went

to public school and two who went to private school. He studied the different types of education offered and the educational access available to students. “This research was the beginning of a bigger study on what access to education meant to students and families in the long term,” Ryder said.

At the conclusion of his research, Ryder presented his findings in Hong Kong, at several universities, and at educational conferences. He moved back to the States in 2010 and he said, “took a shot and moved to New York without a job and started applying to positions. I was lucky enough that I was offered a position at the nonprofit Asian Americans for Equality, to design education programs for recent immigrants from Asia.”

Ryder worked at the nonprofit for two years. In May 2012, he was accepted to a master’s program at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. His program focuses on his growing specialty — immigration policy, with a focus on education for families.

He expects to graduate in 2014 and said that his career will be pointed towards educational policy and programming for immigrant students, either in the U.S. or internationally. “Personally, I think it’s one of the most important avenues for development and is the key avenue for any family to provide for a better life for their children or the next generation.”

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