Denny Ryman overcame a severe stutter and hearing impairment when he began teaching. After 16 years of working in a quiet, isolated clinical transplant lab where he didn't have to speak much, Ryman summoned his courage to step in front of a classroom. To his surprise, he found he was able to teach complicated microbiology to his first students without a stutter.
Ryman, 57, worked at Winston-Salem State University and the University of Louisiana at Monroe before taking over this fall as dean of the School of Health Sciences at Farmingdale State College. "There is a critical shortage right now of individuals trained in hematology, microbiology, cross-matching blood, parasitology," he said, and those jobs have starting salaries of $75,000 per year. Currently offering associate and bachelor's degrees, the college is in the research phase for its first graduate-degree program, with input from Ryman, who established master's degrees in occupational therapy and long-term-care nursing, and a doctorate in health professions education at Monroe.
You have a 100 percent student employment rate. What jobs are you seeing the most?
Entry-level, part-time jobs, because it's a little cheaper to hire for part time or at the per-diem rate. But we tell our guys [to take the jobs because] within a year, you're going to get employed because you have the experience.
What are some of the growth areas?
Technology, preventative health, exercise science, nutrition, individuals trained in taking care of the elderly.
Why do you offer hospitals on-site classes?
Long Island [hospitals are] upgrading the educational level of their RNs. [Some] are offering employees up to $20,000 to upgrade from the associate degree level to the undergraduate level. We send educators to the hospitals and they're taking our courses on site, particularly at Winthrop and Long Island Jewish. In January we're going to South Nassau. We have approximately 218 adult learners that are already employed; with the degree their income and job longevity [will] increase.
Are you seeing trends in who returns to school?
We're seeing a lot more high schoolteachers. It's very difficult to get an education job on Long Island. There are no jobs, so they go into health care to stay on Long Island. You would be surprised how many.
How much time should adult learners set aside to go back to school?
Start by going part time to adjust and [complete] prerequisite courses. A good rule of thumb is one credit equals two to three hours a week of homework/ study time. So if you're full-time with 12 hours, it could be 20 to 25 hours over and above classroom time.
What is the main difference between a Long Island student and a Louisiana student?
Here they come a lot better prepared for college because the public schools on Long Island are so incredibly good.
NAME: Denny Ryman, dean, School of Health Sciences at Farmingdale State College
WHAT IT DOES: Prepares students for jobs as registered nurses, dental hygienists and clinical laboratory scientists
EMPLOYEES: 49 full time; 30 part time
REVENUE: $4.1 million