March Student Spotlight: Andrew Donofrio & The Ryan Foundation
Hello, my name is Andrew Donofrio and I’m from Hamilton, VA, about an hour outside of Washington. I’m a junior majoring in Math with minors in Computer Science and Humanities. Despite having only attended public school prior to college, part of the reason I chose to attend Villanova was because it offered a Catholic education, and I have not been disappointed. In my freshman and sophomore years, my favorite classes were actually the ones that were “forced” upon me: philosophy, theology, history, and ethics. Inspired by the compelling subjects, amazing teachers, and like-minded peers, I decided to pick up a Humanities minor. However, I also wanted an outlet to discuss specific, current issues and events in our world. My friends and I have had many late-night discussions about such topics, but it’s hard to learn from each other when our conversation is both unfocused and uninformed. Solution: the Mathew J. Ryan Center.
Founded in honor of the distinguished Pennsylvania representative and Villanova alum, the Ryan Center hosts weekly discussions within a cozy room inside Falvey. As part of the organization’s mission to promote free speech and informed citizenship, meetings are open for all to attend and contribute. Ryan Scholars, recipients of a scholarship through the Center, take turns selecting topics and moderating discussions. These topics span a variety of social and political issues, as well as how the government influences and is affected by them. Because of both Villanova’s Catholic identity and the group’s collective desire for knowledge and understanding, issues of religion are also tackled head-on. Topics are often very narrow (e.g. child tax credit, bitcoin, etc.) yet still engaging. The difference maker is that the moderator is also responsible for emailing articles that cover multiple opinions on the issue, ensuring to the best of their abilities that all attendees are informed.
I attended my first Ryan Center meeting towards the end of my freshman year on the invitation from a friend (now a Ryan Scholar and fellow Humanities minor). Although I hadn’t read the articles and the topic was not overly inspiring to me, the discussions drew me in. The scholars and other attendees all made excellent points and together formed a fruitful and enlightening conversation, leaving me reasonably educated about an issue I previously didn’t even know existed. I was hooked. The next year, I was attending regularly and contributing to conversations. I made new friends and invited old ones to join. This year, I plan on applying to be a Ryan Scholar myself so I can add to this great experience and share it with others. Because of the Ryan Center, I am much more informed as an American citizen about issues relevant to a wide variety of people, issues I otherwise would not have been exposed to. I have had my global worldview broadened, my conversation skills developed, and my listening skills sharpened. These are the tools and experiences that money can’t buy.