Helen-Grace Ryan earns national Student Affairs award

January 14, 2021

Helen Grace Ryan speaking

Dr. Helen-Grace Ryan, vice president for Student Affairs at Bellarmine University, has been selected as the recipient of the 2021 Fred Turner Award for Outstanding Service to NASPA, a national member organization for administrators in higher education. The award is NASPA’s equivalent of a lifetime achievement award.

According to NASPA, “…each recipient has brought honor and dignity to the student affairs profession, and to NASPA as an association, for a sustained period of time.”

Ryan said she was humbled by the honor.

“NASPA provides invaluable resources for student affairs professionals,” she said. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve this organization alongside leaders in our field as we work to enhance the college student experience.  A special thank you to my Bellarmine colleagues, dear NASPA friends and my family who provide continual encouragement and support.”

Ryan has served as the university’s vice president for Student Affairs since 2015, overseeing departments and initiatives that help students succeed academically, socially, emotionally and spiritually. 

She started at Bellarmine in 2007 as Dean of Students, providing leadership and oversight for Campus Ministry, Campus Recreation and Intramural Sports, Safety and Security, Career Services, the Counseling Center, Culinary Services, Accessibility Resource Center, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Student Health Services, Residence Life, Student Activities and Orientation, Student Conduct, Student Engagement, student crisis support and emergency response to students and families, advised the Student Government Association, and compliance coordination for more than a half dozen state and federal regulations.

“I am delighted that Dr. Helen-Grace Ryan has received this prestigious and well-deserved recognition,” said Dr. Susan M. Donovan, president of Bellarmine University. “As someone who spent many years of my career in Student Development, I know firsthand how important it is to educate students not only in mind, but also in body and spirit. Dr. Ryan devotes herself to making sure Bellarmine students have a robust college experience in a warm and supportive environment. This has been especially important during COVID-19. We also thank Dr. Ryan for bringing national recognition to Bellarmine through her dedicated service to NASPA.”

After graduating magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in business economics from the University of Louisville, Ryan earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in higher education and student affairs at Indiana University in Bloomington. While at IU, she was a project associate in the Center for Postsecondary Research, administering the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) at more than 500 institutions, and authored the chapter on “Using Your Data” in the national annual report publication all institutions receive. She also worked with 150 institutions on the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE).
Earlier at IU she worked on a seven-member leadership team that managed a co-ed residential complex with 800 undergraduate and graduate students and, as a Conduct Officer, initiated, mediated and adjudicated conduct cases on behalf of the Dean of Students.
Later, she served as associate director of university housing at Eastern Kentucky University, where she oversaw the operation of 13 residence halls with 5,000 students, training and supervising over 150 staff members. In that role she was also responsible for SACS accreditation reporting for that area.
Ryan has significant and varied higher education teaching experience as well, having taught courses at Bellarmine from Freshman Focus to the doctoral level, and courses at IU, UofL and EKU. She has authored or co-authored seven academic articles and delivered countless presentations in her area of expertise. She has performed community service for nearly 20 organizations and was named one of Louisville Business First’s Forty Under 40 honorees.
Throughout her time at Bellarmine, Ryan has been lauded for exemplifying core community values in her life and work, and developing highly effective, deeply collegial relationships with students, faculty and staff members across the university.

Ryan and the other annual award recipients will be honored in March as part of the 2021 NASPA Virtual Conference.

NASPA provides professional development, advocacy and research for 15,000 members in all 50 states, 25 countries and eight U.S. territories.


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