Alumnus Profile: 2001 Grad Ryan McGeough

“… while you can learn valuable skills from having a job, you can also learn the same skills doing extra activities, and more valuable long-term skills, and I wish I had spent those hours otherwise.”

For many high school students, getting a first job is a huge milestone of one’s independence, yet for Cedar Falls high school graduate Ryan McGeough, delaying working a part-time job might be the best investment for one’s future.

McGeough knows something about education. He is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Northern Iowa.

He spent many of his after-school and weekend hours working at a restaurant.

“I worked at Village Inn where I served and bussed tables. I wish I hadn’t. I think while you can learn valuable skills from having a job, you can also learn the same skills doing extra activities, and more valuable long-term skills, and I wish I had spent those hours otherwise,” he said.

McGeough added that doing extracurricular activities “is a much smarter investment in yourself; you are likely to learn more, have more fun and it is probably actually a better financial decision if you plan on applying for college scholarships,” he said.

McGeough graduated from Cedar Falls in 2001. After going to University of Northern Iowa for bachelor’s and master’s degrees, where he met his wife, they both moved to Louisiana State University to obtain their Ph.D.s. McGeough and his wife, Danielle, then both taught at universities at southern Florida, and they eventually moved back to Cedar Falls to work at UNI and start a family.

McGeough also said he wished he took advantage of the extensive types of CFHS offerings. “I wish I had taken a broader range of classes; I think students are encouraged to focus their classes toward a career or college major way too early. High school is kind of the first time you get to choose your own courses, and I didn’t take advantage of that as a sophomore or junior,” he said.

Nevertheless, his friendships from high school endure. Now, 16 years after his high school graduation, McGeough recalls his senior year as memorable. “Our senior year was pretty special. A lot of the traditional high school social boundaries broke down, and we just enjoyed our last year together,” McGeough said.

High school can be a process of trial and error for figuring out how to fit in. In hindsight, McGeough realizes that everyone was just as nervous as he was. “Socially, I wish I had tried to meet more new people earlier in high school. When I first got to CFHS, I remember being a little nervous about talking to new people if they didn’t talk to me first. In hindsight, I realize they were probably just nervous, too. Once I became confident enough to expand my social circle, I met people who are still some of my closest friends today,” he said.

To McGeough’s surprise, a teacher still influences his life today in his current job. “Jennifer Paulsen, who was my English teacher, is who I have actually swapped teaching ideas with, which is something I would not have guessed when I was 16,” McGeough said.

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