There is no magic bullet that will transform the business model for higher education. It will happen course by course, engaging students of all ages on their own terms.
- Ryan O'Mealey, Co-Founder, Arise Education Consultants
All About Ryan
Raised in rural Oklahoma, Ryan O'Mealey had to learn about college on his own.
“When I started thinking about college,” he remembers, "if I wanted to go I had to find a way to pay for it.” Getting good grades was hard enough with a part-time job, but getting into a good college - and paying for it - was another matter entirely.
Ryan chose to attend Oklahoma State University, where he earned a degree in Music Education. He worked several jobs to cover expenses, including placing phone calls for the Office of Admissions. “I called students from all over the country - back when students would answer the phone - and spoke with so many people who were just as lost as I was when I started applying for college,” he said. “It felt good to be able to help them avoid the trial and error that I went through.”
After earning his Master’s degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, Ryan began his career in college admission and student services. He served as Assistant Dean for the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern, and is currently Vice President of Enrollment and Student Affairs at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington.
“In the arts,” Ryan says, “you rarely have the depth of resources that you might see in other fields. That means that I wear a lot of hats, for which I am so grateful. Not only do I get to examine the dozens of variables that impact student success, but the students can go to one person and get all of their questions answered.”
With over 20 years of experience in recruitment, marketing, financial aid, institutional research, student affairs, education software, academic advising and management, Ryan knows that hundreds of variables can affect the student experience. Using an institution's data and in-depth interviews, he quickly provides time-saving analysis and research-backed recommendations for improvement, anticipating obstacles that might otherwise halt a new initiative.
“When I heard Caitlin give a workshop for online instructional design,” he continues, “I was struck by the similarities between designing an effective online course and the process of design thinking used in the arts. Likewise, the principles we use in Student Affairs to serve the whole student, grounded in behavioral psychology and cultural awareness, can be used by an educator to create exciting classroom experiences that serve a variety of learning styles. I knew we were on to something special.”
As a founding member of Arise Education Consultants, Ryan believes there is unlimited potential for colleges who leverage technology to rethink their approach to course design.
“I believe Caitlin and I were meant for this,” Ryan says. “We both had to fight for the right to our education, and that has influenced our separate careers. We now empower faculty to design the classroom experience through the lens of student equity. We both have a strong desire to serve those that have been shut out of higher education for too long.”
“Colleges have been struggling to improve student equity for decades,” he continues. “Now, we see declining enrollments at traditional colleges, yet more people than ever want to pursue a college degree. The market has radically shifted, but the approach to curriculum hasn’t changed much. Face-to-face courses still rely heavily on time-based delivery, while online courses frequently lack the interaction that students need to be successful.”
Anticipating the pitfalls of converting to online or hybrid coursework has never been so important. Knowing the competition, understanding the students and their circumstances, and building proactive communications is critical to success. Institutions can spend hundreds of thousands on launching web-enhanced programs only to see them struggle from a lack of coordinated planning.
"There is no magic bullet that will solve the upward pressure on tuition prices, or suddenly improve student success among diverse populations," Ryan says. "The work is to change our approach to course delivery, designing curriculum and services that serve a variety of learners who each have very different circumstances.”
“The challenge, though, is where to get started when you are creating something new? That’s where Arise can help.”