St. Ambrose has a new director of diversity.
A committee had been tasked to fill the position, but the right person had simply not come along. Two years passed. SAU staff member Ryan Saddler was already serving as director of Student Disability Services, and as a member of the Diversity Work Group. But he wondered. Perhaps he was meant to apply.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
What most excites Saddler is the potential of the position. "We've been doing a good job through the Diversity Work Group and the efforts of individual offices, international studies, women's studies, veterans services, and a variety of faculty and staff member's own efforts," he said. "My job will be to bring all those things together, and to enhance what has already been done."
Closing in on 18 years in his career at the university, Saddler's SAU journey actually began even earlier.
"Twenty-two years ago I moved on to campus as a student," said Saddler. "I lived through some experiences, some of the concerns our minority students have had, as well as some of the ways individuals made a difference for me." Saddler views the position as a sign of the university's intentionality about diversity. "That excites me; we can really move with that."
Saddler's first job will be to get a sense of "where St. Ambrose stands as an institution." A campus-wide climate study will answer key questions.
"Where do we stand as an institution? What is our climate? Where are we at?" he said.
The other key task, according to Saddler, will be developing relationships with Quad-Cities organizations and individuals, although St. Ambrose—and Saddler himself, an ordained Pentecostal minister—have been engaged in this for several years.
Saddler also hopes for a more diverse faculty and the endowment of the Freeman Pollard scholarship fund. But he sees the role of director of diversity in a very broad sense, crossing every component of the university.
"My idea of this role is to challenge us to think differently than we are, currently," said Saddler. "Our students are leaving SAU and going out into a diverse world. We need to engage in the conversations and, as best we can, reflect the diversity of the world."
Saddler is humbled by the support he's received since the announcement was made. "People have expressed their excitement and have been very encouraging."
Why this? Why now?
"In my life I find that I have been in the right place at the right time," said Saddler. "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)