A student who has now interned at the White House and with Hillary for America once struggled to get through a book. But Ryan Thomas now excels in the classroom and serves as the Student Senators Council chair. He credits a supportive elementary school education from third grade on as a crucial factor in his prospering career.
“In [early] elementary school, I underperformed in my literacy and reading comprehension, which greatly impacted my education in the most formative years,” Thomas said. “I had some teachers that really did not provide me the individualized attention that I and a lot of students in my class needed, so I fell further and further behind.”
This, combined with his struggle to navigate the college application process while being from a low-income family, inspired Thomas to co-found a non-profit called Project College through the Reynolds Changemaker Challenge, which mentored 700 students on applying for financial aid in its first year.
Former Clinton staffer Miryam Lipper supervised Thomas at Hillary for America, and she admires his commitment, highlighting that he manages to balance it all as he gives 100 percent to many different things.
“Something folks told me when I was in school was that you should be willing to go anywhere and do anything while you’re young and Ryan definitely embodies that,” Lipper said. “He was willing to do anything necessary — not to network for networking’s sake — but to build relationships and get to know people on the campaign.”
CAS senior Gillian Barna, one of Thomas’ best friends, said his secret to managing classes, leading student government and interning at the New York Times, where he works on Diversity and Inclusion, is G Calendar.
“He even schedules our social activities in his G calendar,” Barna said. “It’s horrifying. I genuinely have no idea how he does it. He only sleeps four hours a night, or so he tells me.”
She noted that despite his lack of sleep, his ambition remains unfazed and perhaps even fuels his college experience — he enjoys playing pranks on his friends and discussing witchcraft and natural disasters. This type of professional and personal commitment is a hallmark of Thomas’ character. However, his work ethic during the campaign even surprised Barna.
“He was crazy driven,” Barna said. “I remember he would put in like 60 hours at work while doing a full time schedule of classes. We had a three-hour seminar together, and he would leave class to take phone calls, because he was in charge of setting up radio interviews for Hillary surrogates.”
After almost four years of this NYU-work balance, Thomas will graduate in two months with a degree in Politics and triple minor in American Sign Language; Media, Culture and Communication; and Social and Public Policy. He has only recently chosen a career path in political communications.
But for now, Thomas will take advantage of what time he has left by making an impact at NYU by organizing the progressive leaders of the university’s student government.
“[Student government is] how I found my community here at NYU right off the bat,” Thomas said. “It provides an opportunity to advocate for your interests and the interests of your peers and so I will go to bat for anyone who wants to be involved with student government.”
He leads with a level-headed voice and pauses discussions to remind other senators to speak in “I statements,” or express how they feel instead of accusing others. When a discussion on the over-representation of CAS and Stern students on the SSC got heated on March 9, he spoke diplomatically into his microphone, making sure people did not unfairly criticize certain schools.
Although moderating discussions is one of his duties as chair, Thomas uses his position for a lot more than that. He influences educational policy at the university he loves, especially since education has played such a pivotal role in shaping not only his career but also his life.
“For the first time in a while I know that I am looking to do something in communications that would help amplify the work and the messages of candidates and organizations,” Thomas said. “No matter where I am, as long as I’m doing something that helps organize progressives, I’m going to be really happy with that work.”
Email Taylor Nicole Rogers at [email protected]