Ryan Stevens ’21 Looks Back Fondly at his Path to Valedictorian
Ryan Stevens ’21 was raised by Red Foxes, and has been awarded the Class of 2021 Valedictorian, an achievement he finds hard to grasp, but is thankful of his experience in the Hudson Valley.
Growing up raised by Red Fox alumni, Class of 2021 Valedictorian Ryan Stevens learned about Marist from a unique perspective his parents provided. “One of the best parts of having Marist alumni for parents has been to hear their perspective on how much the college has changed since they attended. This perspective has made me feel more appreciative of the community we have and the immense effort that brought it about,” Stevens said.
Earning the Valedictorian award has yet to sink in for Stevens. He embraces the honor but finds it hard to place himself among his classmates. “In all honesty, it has been difficult for me to fully embrace the significance of this award. I have seen people from all different walks of life achieve amazing things at Marist, and I feel we have an easier time recognizing the impact of other people’s achievements than we do our own,” Stevens said.
Finding a Community
A History major with a minor in Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies and Philosophy and a Paralegal certificate, Stevens is from Midland Park, New Jersey, a small suburban town where Stevens admits, “the main attraction is the bagel store.”
Although becoming a Red Fox wasn’t as sure of a decision for him in high school, Stevens was quickly won over after seeing the Marist Campus in person. “I was still pretty uncertain of what college or university I would want to attend going into my senior year of high school. It was at this point that my parents introduced me to Marist, and after touring the campus, it quickly became one of my top choices,” Stevens said.
Attending Marist allowed the perfect separation from home to college, and a band program where he could grow his skill, a couple of the many benefits he looked for in his collegiate experience. “Marist also has a strong music program. I was very involved in marching band during high school, and I wanted to continue that activity. The beauty of the campus was undeniable, and autumn at Marist has become one of my favorite times of the year,” Stevens said.
Utilizing the strong music program at Marist, Stevens took an active role in the band and joined Tau Beta Sigma, the national honorary band society.
“[Band and Tau Beta Sigma] have both been my second home at Marist, and the focus on music and community service entailed there has put me on the path towards following my passions within a sustainable work-life balance,” Stevens said.
Stevens found a sense of camaraderie in the band; having traveled with the sports team, he found a community at Marist within the band, one that he didn’t expect but warmly welcomed.
“Vicariously participating in the competitive spirit of these amazing teams and cheering them on in any way we can turned out to be more fun than I could ever imagine. There was a new sense of community between the band during these trips, especially when we would gather in the lobby to study and hang out during our downtime,” Stevens said.
Building His Future
Being an active member of the History department, Stevens also was awarded the Baccalaureate Award for Excellence in History.
Stevens found the courses he pursued in the History department as essential to his personal growth and social consciousness. “There have been a series of classes I have taken with the History Department that have raised my political consciousness and fueled my interest in academic research,” Stevens said.
He notes specifically “Black Freedom Struggle,” “American Feminism,” and “Women in Asia” taught by Dr. Steven Garabedian, Dr. Robyn Rosen, and Dr. Kristin Bayer, respectively. In an extension program of “Black Freedom Struggle,” Stevens explored civil rights museums and monuments throughout the South, a moment of connection between his studies and living history.
“It was an incredibly emotional experience that helped me ground the material significance of the academic research I have conducted over these past few years,” Stevens said.
This fall, Stevens will be continuing his academic path at New York University, studying for an MA in Interdisciplinary Studies. His long-term goals are to receive his doctorate in American Studies and pursue a career in higher education teaching. “The dream would be to have the opportunity to develop unique and engaging seminars for my students while also pursuing the most suitable publication form for my research,” Stevens said.
Although Stevens may have been named the Valedictorian for the Class of 2021, he sees himself as a small part of what made the Class of 2021 excel despite a difficult year. “I see my being the Valedictorian as one achievement among many within a brilliant and resilient graduating class,” Stevens said.