Almost every day, Tom and Jessica Ryder get to share both a professional and familial relationship.
Well, okay, they are family all the time, and families should maintain a certain level of professionalism.
However, Tom Ryder and his daughter share a somewhat special administrative relationship on MCCC’s campus — Tom is Student Activities coordinator and Jessica is Student Government president.
Jessica has been at MCCC since her freshman year of high school as part of the middle college. Once this semester ends, it will have been her fourth full year at the college.
She started taking college classes during her sophomore year of high school, so she has been enrolled at MCCC for three years. She will be graduating next school year with both a high school diploma and an Associate of Science degree.
To Jessica, Student Government represents students being more involved with events and planning at the college.
“When I think of Student Government, I think of student involvement and getting students involved on campus,” Jessica said.
Student Government members help plan events such as noon-time concerts and new student orientations.
Members also serve on different boards on campus, such as the Alumni Association, the Student Appeal Hearing Board and the President’s Advisory Group.
“Student Government also does different awareness booths,” Jessica said. “We did one for the diversity fair. Coming up we have one where we partnered with WAR (Women At Risk) for human trafficking, and we did breast cancer awareness this year.”
They plan bigger events such as dances, family fun nights, and raffles to help raise money for scholarships.
Tom Ryder is very involved with Student Government planning. He attends each of the meetings and offers his opinion when needed, but said he lets members make their own decisions about what Student Government chooses to do.
“We get to decide ‘oh this worked really well last year, so we’re going to do it again. We have this new idea so we want to try this.’ And it’s kind of a trial and error to our part, but he does offer from his experience for planning events for the college,” Jessica said.
As president, Jessica runs Student Government’s meetings. She said one of the challenges is gauging student involvement.
“You want to have all your members be involved, and so last year, serving as secretary, I had a lot of opportunities to get involved and chair things,” Jessica said. “Where this year, I’ve kind of had to remove myself and let other members learn the reins, get involved, and that’s—for someone who’s very go-getting—kind of hard.”
Jessica said she’s tried to keep herself busy with other things, providing her opinions as needed. But for the most part, her main role is to run the meetings and make sure the smaller committee meetings run smoothly.
When she learned she was chosen as president, Jessica said there were certainly eyebrows raised. People wondered who decide who gets what and how roles are distributed.
“It is a student-based vote. The group decides who its leaders are, and that’s what I think makes it such an honor. Not because it’s my dad who’s the adviser, and because he’s kind of brought this group up. It’s more because the group has chosen me,” Jessica said.
As far as their relationship goes, Jessica said that when she’s at school, her father treats her like everybody else. He’s an adviser.
She said it does get funny when she has to call him by his first name for things like “Tom’s corner.”
But when they are here at the college they have an attitude of “let’s get things done,” she said.
On campus, Tom Ryder treats his daughter as he would anyone in the group, and the group as he would treat her.
“It’s kind of cool to have that equilibrium, if you will,” Jessica said.
Jessica said their professional relationship on campus has not gotten so business-like that they act like two people who have never met.
“It kind of all equals out,” Jessica said. “We come home, and (the professionalism) kind of carries over in a way, but we’re still family.
“We’re still best friends. We can joke about stuff that happened during the day and have our conversations as we would at home, but when we’re here, we are getting things done. It’s about Student Government,” she said.
When Tom Ryder found out that his daughter was running for student government president, it did not surprise him at all.
“She’s always been a go-getter. She’s always been very involved in lots of different things. Even the first year she was always on committees and helping with things. So that part didn’t surprise me at all,” Ryder said.
Tom Ryder had to figure out how to balance his professional role with his fatherly role where his daughter was concerned.
“I was, of course, pleased and surprised,” Ryder said. “I try my best to separate my work here, and my role as their (Jessica and her brother) father. I try not to get involved in their social lives as much as I can.”
Ryder did not tell the Student Government group that Jessica was his daughter until after the votes were cast, because he did not want it to influence their vote.
“I think that’s only fair to the students. I want them to pick the leader that they feel will guide them the best,” he said.
Ryder wanted his daughter to earn the votes on her own merit, and he wanted the group to feel comfortable with her and elect her by their choice.
Ryder said he feels it is important that he treat any Student Government member the same way he treats his daughter.
“At the meetings, even with awards or giving constructive criticism or anything, I treat her just like one of the other Student Government members,” Ryder said. “And I think that’s only fair. I don’t want to give her any preferential treatment.”
Ryder told his daughter that she doesn’t get any special treatment from him, especially when it comes to earning awards.
“She’s going to have to earn it, and in fact she’s probably going to have to work harder because I have to justify why I’m giving her an award, why I’m giving her a kudo, so people don’t say ‘well it’s just because it’s your daughter,’” he said.
Ryder said he hopes that if there is an issue or something they don’t feel comfortable with, any of his Student Government members would come and talk to him.
“No one’s come to me. No one’s said anything. I think if you’d talk to the members, they’d say she runs the meetings very professionally,” he said.
As a father, Ryder is proud of his daughter, and he hopes that she’s learning from him as they work together at MCCC. It’s his desire that she be smart, confident and independent and learn how to become a better leader through her experience as Student Government president.
“Not just her, any of my student government members… I want them to learn leadership. I want them to learn responsibility. I want them to know what a commitment is and how to keep a commitment,” Ryder said.
Ryder wants students to have a good time while learning at MCCC.
“We all have to come here every day, all day long. Why not have a good time while we’re doing it?” he said.
“I want them to have a great time. I want them to have a memorable experience. I want them to talk about student government three or four years down the road, five years down the road. I want them to be successful.”