Robert Ryan grew up in a family of law enforcement and when he graduated from Loyola University Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology, he knew he wanted to tie his clinical background to national security. In September of 2017, he enrolled in John Jay’s graduate program in Criminal Justice and now plans to graduate in December.
“John Jay has a reputation in the law enforcement world,” Ryan said. “There’s an emerging field of applying psychological insight to criminal investigation, and the best place to do that is here.”
Before starting the program, Ryan kept busy working as a volunteer firefighter and full-time EMT, and later became an intern at the U.S. Marshals Service NY/NJ Regional Fugitive Task Force. Once he started taking classes, he began working at the Research and Evaluation Center (JohnJayREC) as a Graduate Research Fellow, an opportunity available to academically strong graduate students who want to deepen their applied research skills. With support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, he worked closely with director Jeffrey Butts to evaluate community-based programs. “It's a wonderful office that is doing really meaningful research,” Ryan said.
From there, Ryan has continued to find opportunities to develop his career. In November, he was offered a prestigious position at the United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General as part of a student cooperative program offered to John Jay graduate students. This paid position is distinct from an internship in that it demands a similar level of work as a criminal investigator. Since starting, Ryan has gained real-world investigative experience.
“As soon as I saw the opportunity at the Inspector General, I jumped all over it,” he said. “I’m getting an inside look at what's going on in the office. I’m learning how to produce reports and conduct investigations.”
That firsthand experience is being supplemented by an unparalleled opportunity to study with leaders in the field. Ryan says that what distinguishes John Jay’s program from other colleges is not only the faculty’s past experience as analysts and agents, but their continued engagement with justice issues. “John Jay professors haven’t sat in an ivory tower since getting their doctorate. They’re actually out there in the field and they know the applied side of the material they teach. That translates to the classroom,” he said.
Learning from faculty and staff who continue to contribute to the world of national security is important for Ryan, who is getting advanced certificates in Criminal Investigation and Terrorism Studies in addition to his master’s degree, and who plans to later pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at John Jay.
“At John Jay, I can see what these people have done to get to where they are in their careers, and how the results of their work impact national security,” Ryan said. “I’d like to be in the field one day too as an investigator, but also as a researcher. It’s that aspect of giving back—of having a fruitful career and contributing to the scientific community later—that inspires me.”