Ryan WellsRyan Wells (BA, 2006)

Given his work at Burson-Marsteller, one of the largest public relations agencies in the world, it is no surprise 2006 graduate Ryan Wells has an intimate appreciation of the way language shapes perception of a topic. However, for Ryan, the lessons most deeply learned in the English department at UF were the ways in which his professors opened his mind to the “absolute necessity for diversity, diversity, diversity – especially intellectual diversity.” Citing his experiences with professors Greg Ulmer, Susan Hegeman, and Marsha Bryant, Ryan says they dismantled the traditional intellectual hierarchies that govern the classroom and encouraged him to consider the wider contexts of the field. By establishing a “deep human connection” with their students, his professors inspired him to resist being stuck within one mode of thinking and expand his talents into other ventures, retaining the skills they taught him while broadening their applications.

This led him to enroll at Warwick Business School at the University of Warwick after graduating from UF, exploring different options in marketing and communications. Using his English background to consider the larger picture of marketing and media around contemporary business, Ryan completed his MA, returned to Florida to pursue ventures in commercial real estate, and then moved to New York City to start a career in public relations. In his current capacity at Burson-Marsteller, Ryan works with a wide range of clients and industries, particularly on corporate and executive positioning for a wide-variety of private and public companies in the U.S. and abroad. He focuses highly on external communications, particularly around media relations work in the business-to-business world. Such a field, Ryan states, demands in-depth knowledge of current cultural trends and a level of intellectual rigor that mixes traditional business acumen with something closer to literary analysis.

His work has also allowed him to found and edit a film news site called Cinespect in tandem with a close friend. The site focuses on the New York film scene in particular but branches out to numerous different locations across the globe, compiling scholarship, talent and reviews from a variety of contributors. For Ryan, one of the major perks of the website is the opportunity to interview interesting people who are shaping the film world – whether it’s a critic, scholar, filmmaker, businessman or woman, designer or curator. In looking towards the future of Cinespect, Ryan says that “we want to do something new, and the film industry has so many incredible stories to tell. There’s never a shortage.” Working on the site has given Ryan a front-row seat for watching the evolution of film, which is “something I’m profoundly grateful for. It really can’t be beat.”

In considering the role of a liberal arts education in a quickly evolving modern marketplace, Ryan suggests students consider the wider application of their field and try mixing it in new and exciting ways with other disciplines. “Don’t think that because you study X you need to do Y,” he says. Such freedom allows students to be more marketable and have more options with their careers. Emphasizing the need for adaptation and personal growth, he offers a final piece of advice for those about to leap into the world: “Be Byronic, be like Elizabeth Bishop, Bruce Chatwin or Gertrude Stein, who didn’t just study life, they lived it. It’s OK to be indecisive about what you want to do, but you need to always, always keep exploring and moving forward.”