Ryan Fitzgerald is helping thousands of high school students in his new role.
Fitzgerald recently was announced as the new Dean of Dual Enrollment and Distance Education, adding to his previous responsibilities.
Fitzgerald got his bachelor’s degree in Government from Stephen F. Austin University, while double minoring in International Studies and Anthropology, in 2011. In the fall of 2012, he continued his education at Texas Tech University by entering into the PhD program in Political Science, then received his master’s degree in 2015.
“I got my master’s degree,” Fitzgerald explained, “then I decided that I wanted to move on and do something else. I didn’t want to spend anymore time dissertating and researching. Then I was hired on here at South Plains College.”
Fitzgerald has work for SPC since July 2014. He started out working in the research office as a research assistant. He was promoted to Director of Institutional Research and Reports in 2015, before taking on the role of Dean of Dual Enrollment and Distance Education in August of 2018. In addition to his new responsibilities, he will continue his role of director of the Research Office. Fitzgerald said it has all just been a huge progression.
“I love the job,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve always been passionate about dual credit. Because that’s where I got my start with college courses. I took dual credit when I was in high school. That’s where I found my interest in Government, before I even got to college and decided that’s what I wanted to do.”
Fitzgerald explained that his job is extremely fast-paced, but that he enjoys the challenge and the opportunities. He also said dual credit enrollment for the college is the highest it has been in four or five years.
“We want to grow our dual credit program,” said Fitzgerald. “This spring semester, we are going to start offering CTE, which means technical courses, at the dual credit level. So we’ll be able to offer more welding classes, a couple of different courses. We’ll be offering a whole variety, auto body, auto mechanics. So that’s a huge initiative. We’re thinking that we could possibly get another 500-plus students in the spring for that.’
Fitzgerald says he wants the dual credit program at SPC to stay hands-on and personal with high school counselors. He wants the program to grow, but foresees difficulties with keeping a personal feel with more than 4,000 students. He puts importance on still keeping up with their counselors and advising students.
The dual credit program is also moving a lot of classes online. Fitzgerald wants to be doing more with learning technologies and new platforms. He explained that Blackboard offers a whole new set of tools and software, and other opportunities, that they don’t yet take advantage of.
“What I tell everybody is that the two biggest topics in education in Texas today are dual credit and distance education,” said Fitzgerald. “And I’m just lucky I get to kind of front both of those efforts for the college.”
Fitzgerald also teaches an evening government course at the Reese Center campus.
“I don’t have to do it,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m lucky that they let me. Shout out to Laura Graves and Angela Roberts for allowing me to do it, and asking me to come back and do it, because I love teaching. I think, as an administrator, I need to stay in touch with students and the classroom. I think that it’s an important thing to do. So being able to teach that course, even if I teach that course with just 15 kids in it, it’s something.”
Fitzgerald explains that because the class is an evening course, most of his students aren’t the typical fresh-out-of-high-school students. Most all of them work, a lot of them have children, and a lot of them are nontraditional in terms of age.
“So they have other things on their plate besides just ‘I go to school and am a full time student,’” Fitzgerald added. “Well, no they’re not. They’re doing tons of other things. So anytime I can help them out and make that process easier, and help them get through school at the same time, that’s what I’m here for.”