While one’s LinkedIn profile is hardly the sum of a person, the page of entrepreneurship major Ryan Foster ’18, in some respects, foreshadowed the young man I expected to meet. The list of experience and accomplishments read more like a college graduate who’d been in the workforce a few years, not a college sophomore. The former freshman class president, current sophomore class president and Cretin Hall RA, and member of the St. Thomas 2020 Student Advisory Group for Strategic Planning (phew!) already was waiting for me in the lobby of the O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library when I arrived on time for our 1:30 interview. It being Tuesday, Foster, a Tommie through and through, was dressed neatly in a long-sleeved purple shirt.
You’re extremely involved at St. Thomas. Is it fair to say that you arrived here with a plan?
I never thought of it that way, but I knew I wanted to become involved with USG (Undergraduate Student Government) here so I did some research and by my third week here I was running for freshman class president!
What motivates you to be this involved in student affairs and life?
St. Thomas strives to have such a united and connected alumni network, and I think it’s important that I can still call it my school [after I leave] and to say I worked hard to make it what it is. That’s why I’m involved with groups like the Strategic Planning committee and USG.
Any plans to run for junior class president?
I haven’t decided yet because next year I’m going to be operations manager for Cretin Hall. It’s a little bit of a promotion with Residence Life. I get room, meal plan and a little stipend on top of that for being an RA, and next year I’ll get a larger, apartment-style room with more responsibility. It’s a good gig! As far as USG goes, I’m also not sure if I remain where I’m at – pending elections – or if I want to aim a little higher next year and run for one of the E-Board [Executive Board] spots, which would be president or one of the six VPs. There’s a lot of different areas and positions in USG, and it’s pretty cool how we try to reach out to a lot of different areas for representation.
What were you like as a kid?
When I was really young I was outgoing. Then I hit those middle school years and it got bad. I got chubby, and I was awkward. Self-confidence was a big problem. I feel like everyone goes through that. I didn’t have a set group of friends until a couple years into high school. That’s when I found my niche. Sophomore year I joined everything. I ran for student council again and got in. I joined a service club called Interact, the school newspaper … but I wasn’t passionate about anything. I was just in a lot of clubs. My junior year I decided to get more focused. I was elected student council vice president. I also got elected for National Honor Society VP. I was elected president of both groups my senior year. I became closer to certain people, and I knew I was finally honing in on my passions.
… Along with what I said about not having self-confidence, you might be able to tell that I have a little bit of a stutter. I’ve had it all my life, and it used to be horrible. My freshman year in high school I took a speech class. I stumbled over every word during speeches. One time I even took a good 20-second pause. I couldn’t speak. Developing my self-confidence went hand in hand with my stutter improving.
Is it tough to give speeches now? I imagine you do a fair amount of speaking in front of large groups.
I can’t speak for other people who stutter, but I’m not afraid to talk in front of people; I’m just not good at it. I don’t give formal speeches as class president, but I have to address larger groups sometimes. When I do, I stumble at times, but I will never back down from speaking in front of a group. It’s more a matter of people bearing with me! Everyone gets nervous about things. I just happen to show it in a very noticeable way.
Were you voted Most Likely _____ in high school?
I was! I was voted Most Likely to Succeed. It was an honor to get that. I also got Most School Spirit.
I had a feeling you might have been.
As far as student council went, I was really involved … I was always passionate about making things as perfect as I could, and I think people recognized that. My senior year I also was manager of the basketball team. A lot of my friends were on it, and they encouraged me to take the position so we could all hang out and travel together. It’s funny when I talk about it. It was all my athletic friends and then there was me!
What was your first job?
I started working for the Cannon Falls Area Historical Society when I was 12 and all throughout high school. My mom had this old typewriter that she got at a garage sale and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I wrote a letter asking for a job at the historical society on this old typewriter!” After they received the letter they asked if I wanted to volunteer, which I did. After a couple weeks they offered me a paid job – they had these big binders of really, really old local cemetery records that they needed loaded into a computer database. That took me two years, working around 10 hours every weekend.
What did you buy with your first paycheck?
I don’t remember! I’m a huge saver. I’ve probably only made a couple large purchases in my life, and by large I mean items like my cellphones.
What was your favorite age?
I like my current age: 20. I think I’ll like 21 more just because I feel like it’s another threshold. So much has happened since I came to college and I feel like everyday I’ve learned more about myself in a positive way. I know that’s the most cliche answer you’ve ever heard, but I like knowing that everyday I keep learning more about myself and it’s all for the better.
You have the entire weekend to yourself. No commitments. What do you do?
I would get a group of friends together and do something, whether it’s a road trip or just hanging out. For the most part, I like to be with people, but I don’t always need to be doing something. So an entire weekend all alone … I’m not really down with that – I need friends to be a part of it. I’d spend a little time getting caught up with projects too. I like to work ahead so when an opportunity comes up I’m ready.
Last question. It’s a tough one. What goes on your pizza?
I’m a simple guy. Extra cheese and pepperoni. And lots of sauce!