With the start of any new semester there are always many fresh faces on campus. That new guy you see working out at the gym or playing video games, however, is not just another student.
Ryan Bunts has recently taken up residence here at Manhattan College as the new area coordinator of Horan Hall. But at the age of 25, he is often mistaken for an undergraduate.
“When I tell people about my job they ask me ‘What year are you?’” Bunts said. “I take it as a compliment.”
As he should. Since graduating from the State University of New York at Albany, Bunts has also served as a residence director and health and wellness project coordinator at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y.
Being promoted so quickly is something Bunts never expected, especially because he majored and received a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
“I was working in finance for a very short time and I absolutely hated it,” Bunts said.
Then, during a conversation with a friend who was a residence director, Bunts reminisced about his time as a residence assistant in college. “I remember telling him that I wish I could do that for a living but that’s not a real thing,” Bunts said, “And he just looked at me and asked ‘What do you think I do for a living?’”
That’s when Bunts decided to return to SUNY Albany, where he earned a master’s degree in education administration.
For the next two years Bunts worked as a residence director at Union College. He had known little of Manhattan College until he was at a conference for housing software where our own director of residence life, Andrew Weingarten, was in attendance.
“The position for area coordinator was open and Ryan applied. We went through a lengthy interview process with a lot of different candidates, and he emerged as the one we thought was the best,” Weingarten said. “He just gets it.”
Maybe that is because of Bunts experience as an RA in college, which, ironically, he never wanted to do in the first place.
“As a high school athlete I was always very structured, so I really appreciated my independence in college and I wasn’t going to give it up,” Bunts said.
But when his roommate freshman year wanted to go to an RA info session, Bunts harmlessly tagged along. After the meeting, he wasn’t any more convinced but decided to apply anyway. A few weeks later he was offered the position.
“I still didn’t want to do it,” Bunts said. “I called my mom and she said, ‘Well now that you’re getting free room and board you’re going to do this.’”
He then discovered that being an RA provided him the opportunity to get to know a very diverse population of people. Having grown up in Binghamton, N.Y. and going to a majority white, heteronormative high school, Bunts enjoyed experiencing all of those cultures and making friends from different backgrounds.
“I am a huge extrovert, and I got into this field because I just love doing it. I like having conversations with students and I am their biggest advocate,” Bunts said.
As an area coordinator, Bunts is tasked with addressing student concerns, making sure the building is maintained and overseeing the four residents directors.
Bunts is faced with no small feat. Horan Hall is an eleven-story building that houses over 700 students. “It’s intimidating to walk into such a big building and realize that I am now responsible for all of this,” he said.
According to Siobhan Connor, one of 16 RAs in Horan Hall, Bunts fits right in. “He is very personable, very open and has this big laugh that is very comforting and casual,” she said.
It is not all fun and games, however, as Bunts has also taken on a large role in the judicial policies that govern student behavior. He is currently working towards unifying the sanctioning process, so that a student will receive the same punishment for the same violation no matter where it happens on campus.
“I am not looking to get students in trouble. I am looking to, if you are getting in trouble, getting you on that path towards making good decisions,” Bunts said.
The work of anyone involved in residence life is that of long hours and many roles to perform. It isn’t for everyone, Weingarten stated, but it seems to be the perfect match for Ryan Bunts.
“To have those students come to you years later and say that they made this decision in their career because of a conversation we had, I love that. That is so much more meaningful to me than a giant paycheck,” Bunts said.