Angel RyonoHuman Science Student
Angel Ryono started doing volunteer work as a child: she really can't remember a time when helping people wasn't something her teachers and community mentors encouraged her to do. They found value and joy in helping others – and so did she.
In middle school, she volunteered for the local Rotary Club and the Salvation Army. In high school, she tutored a lot – especially the children of immigrants who didn't speak English as their first language.
But it wasn't until college that she understood how important this kind of work is – and how “helping people” is about more than just helping individuals, it’s about building the conditions for a better society.
"I took two classes on legal theory and war crimes. These courses helped me to understand that much of the violence in this world is interconnected to the things that we do and don't do every day," she says. "It seems like all the time there are violent decisions being made that, because they are out of the view of the public, are allowed to happen. The stories in Rwanda and East Timor are good examples of how people look away and problems get bigger."
Suddenly she knew what she wanted to do with her life: to take the community-building work she'd done all her life to the next level, and try to prevent social violence from happening, instead of picking up the pieces afterwards. To not look away.
She found herself working for the Toda Institute of Global Peace and Policy Research in Hawaii – which was both a learning experience and a chance to make a difference.
"Toda Institute promotes dialogue amongst everyone," she remembers. "Normal people, scholarly people, activists … and I was exposed to many documents and one-one-one meetings with people who had a lot of ideas about how to solve problems. They drew connections between issues of food security, health problems, state sponsored or institutional violence– and seeing how multi-disciplinary the movement has grown, I knew that I wanted to really study this and take my career further."
She looked around for graduate programs, and didn't find Saybrook at first. Instead, she went to New College of California to pursue Peace Psychology – and when New College closed, she sent out emails to all the people she admired in the American Psychological Association's Peace Studies division, asking "What do I do now?"
Their answer, almost uniformly, was "Have you looked at Saybrook?"
"I'd never heard of it," she admitted. "But when I looked at the course offerings, they were terrific!"
She met with three faculty members in Saybrook's Social Transformation program, and knew she'd found a home. "They were the same kind of scholars who had inspired me to want to do this in the first place, it was great to see that," she said. "I wish all this had been available to me as an undergrad."
Today Angel lives in San Francisco, volunteering at the War Crimes Center and working for The Beat Within, an arts program for prisoners. Though she came to Saybrook for the coursework and the faculty, she's deeply grateful for its learning model – which allows her to be actively engaged in the world, still making a difference, the way she has all her life.
"I want my education to be part of my activism," she said, "not a vacation from it."