If you have been inside the Hauptli Student Center, you have most likely come across Jenny Ryan.
If you are wearing a piece of Kansas Wesleyan University apparel you bought on campus, you are sporting a Jenny Ryan-inspired article of clothing.
If you have gotten mail on campus, Jenny Ryan had a hand in getting it to you.
So who is Jenny Ryan?
“Jenny Ryan is a person who draws you in, and before you know it, you have told her about your family, your roommate, your classes and your team,” Rhonda Bethe, outgoing KWU chief financial officer, current special assistant and Ryan’s long-time supervisor, said. “She scolds you if you haven’t talked to your parents lately and reminds you to behave yourself. And all the while, she is making you smile.”
To many KWU students, Jenny Ryan is their campus mom. A mother of two, she oversees Yotee’s – the campus spirit store – and the on-campus mail room, which sit on opposite sides of the Student Activities Center food court.
“I call all of these students my kids,” Ryan said. “If they live on campus and they have a mailbox, I’ll remember their mailbox number before I remember their name. Sometimes I’ll see them walk by and I’ll grab their package and meet them at the door. I have several students who walk by and say ‘Hi, Mom!’”
A native of Salina, Ryan has been an employee at Kansas Wesleyan for eight years.
“I was working two part-time jobs, and I was looking to get into a full-time job,” Ryan said. “My mom was working here and she knew this position was going to be opening up for part-time and could potentially work into a full-time job, so I applied for it.”
Her days begin with a check of her email and processing the mail and packages, but after that there is no telling how her day will play out; no two days are alike.
Some days, Ryan will be meeting with reps and vendors. Others, she will consider the latest Coyote T-shirt design. But no matter what, she will be engaging with students or prospective students and their families, always sporting a welcoming smile and sunny disposition.
“I am a people person for sure,” Ryan said. “When school’s not in session, it’s very quiet, so I definitely like when it’s busy, you never know what’s going to happen or what you’ll hear.”
Ryan became the point-person for KWU spirit gear five years ago and loves the process of seeing something move from idea to wearable apparel.
“The reps come and show me what’s new and I can touch it and feel it, and then they show me artwork that they think will be popular,” Ryan said. “I’ll be out at a restaurant and I’ll be like, ‘That’s one of my shirts!’”
“Jenny sees students virtually every day and knows them and cares about them,” Bethe said. “She is a jewel in our Student Center.”
Story by Dan Froehlich