Catching up with...Ryan Keytack

Publication Date

Ryan Keytack – also known as “Dean K.” – joined Union last winter as assistant dean of students for Campus & Community Living & Learning. He came to Union from Philadelphia in June, where he lived and worked in the College House system at the University of Pennsylvania. Before Penn, he worked at various schools including George Washington University and Case Western Reserve University. He has spent much of his career in student affairs developing residential experiences, educating students through the conduct process, serving as an academic advisor and creating inclusive spaces. He works with most things residential at Union and will spearhead efforts for The U-Journey, our new residential curriculum.

Ryan Keytack

Ryan Keytack outside an ice cave he explored on a recent vacation in Iceland

FIRST APP YOU LOOK AT IN THE MORNING:
My email app (likely after hitting snooze at least once). My work gig is about the campus and community at Union. I make sure there’s nothing that hit my inbox overnight that needs my immediate attention. If all is well, I pull up Instagram to see what's happening with my family, friends, sports teams and celebrities. That usually pumps me up for the day.

ONE BOOK YOU HAVE READ MULTIPLE TIMES:
J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye." In high school, there was controversy over whether or not we should be reading it. That, of course, made me want to read it more. In that moment, it birthed a greater awareness in me that people live complex lives (me included), and that's just part of the journey. Skeptics, critics, and controversies aside, it still resonates today and also lines up with why I do the work that I do. I try to support or help others along their journey whenever I can.

BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED:
This is a two-parter because the advice relates. Growing up, it was a family tradition to work with my grandfather, who was a mason. He always said in his broken Italian accent to remember "that Rome wasn't built in a day." It was easy to take that literally when mixing cement, but when hearing it from him outside that context it became a life mantra for me. Fast forward to a supervisor (who I now consider a mentor in the field). She said the key to everything in student affairs and life is "to get a plan." That has stuck with me and taught me to embrace the arts of strategy and patience.

FAVORITE SPOT ON CAMPUS:
Any spot I can find. As a newbie, it's thrilling when I don't have to get out my paper copy of a Union map or use an app to find my way somewhere. I already have a soft spot for the Minerva Houses. Seeing living rooms, kitchens, student housing and classrooms adjoined is my residential ideal.

GO-TO BREAKFAST:
Coffee. And whatever. I'm not really a morning person, so I'm more likely to grab an apple, yogurt, or a breakfast bar on the go. But I did mention the coffee, right?

NETFLIX OR AMAZON:
Yes. Add Hulu, Disney+, ESPN+, Paramount, Peacock...
My strategy is to limit it to three shows at a time: a half-hour easy watch, a one-hour investment, and a wildcard. Right now, I'm rewatching "30Rock" on Peacock, just finished "Drag Race All-Stars" on Paramount, and reliving my childhood with the new "He-Man and The Masters of the Universe" reboot on Netflix.

FAVORITE PODCAST:
Even before moving to NY, I listened to "The Daily." It's daily news - short, sweet and to the point. It helps me stay in touch with the world around me. I'm also a big fan of "Lovett or Leave it." It's political, and that's all I'll say. I try real hard not to bring my politics to work. :)

ONE SKILL YOU WISH YOU HAD:
I wish I could play the piano. Or hit a baseball. I'm a big fan of live music and baseball, and I have...let's go with...limited talents in those areas.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PANDEMIC DIVERSION/ACCOMPLISHMENT:
His name is Bailey Holden [see answer above to the book question for insight on that name]. He's my COVID puppy. He's a goldendoodle. He turned 15 months old on September 15. Yup, I jumped on that trending train. Before I left Philly, someone yelled out their car window while we were on a walk "who's training who." No truer statement. He's changed my world for the better.

BEST PART OF YOUR DAY:
This might sound cheesy - but it's genuine. I love the times when I'm talking to students. The more administrative your role, the more time you spend in meetings and behind your computer. I'm so happy to be back on campus where those organic connections happen.

LITTLE KNOWN FACT ABOUT YOU:
I spent a few years after undergrad acting professionally. I worked for a national theatre company, did over a 1,000 live performances, and even did some day player roles for TV. What actually surprises folks most about me is that I'm an introvert. I can jump on a stage, talk to a large crowd, but boy, I enjoy the one-on-one moments most.