“At Valpo, we don’t push students to follow the path that we set out.”
Professor Ryan Freeman-Jones ’08, M.S.’10, was already an entrepreneur when he arrived on Valpo’s campus: he launched his tech-consulting business while he was in high school in Atlanta.
While he was passionate about computer science and understanding algorithms, he was also fascinated by the role information technology plays in business, government, and civil society.
Professor Freeman-Jones combined these interests to design an individualized major in information technology that relied on courses in computer science as well as courses in information and decision sciences offered by the Valparaiso University College of Business.
“I appreciated the fact that I was able to create my own major,” says Professor Freeman-Jones. “At Valpo, we don’t push students to follow the path that we set out. We encourage students to find their own path and learn in a way that is meaningful to them.”
He continued to run his business throughout his undergraduate years. At the same time, he focused on civic engagement, serving on the University Council, the Peace and Social Justice Planning Committee, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Planning Committee, including a year as its co-chair. For Valpo’s Black Student Organization, he served as public relations coordinator and treasurer for three years.
Valpo recognized this work by conferring its MLK Award on Professor Freeman-Jones in 2008.
But the benefits of civic engagement went well beyond the award, says Professor Freeman-Jones: “Having that experience of organizing and planning has been enormously important to me professionally.”
As he studied for an M.S. in international commerce and policy at Valpo’s graduate school, he applied his knowledge of information technology to political and civil-society organizing.
Professor Freeman-Jones is still in high demand as an IT consultant to political and social campaigns. He recently created an electronic campaign for a large, national faith-based nonprofit with affiliates in 22 states.
The local community around Valpo also benefits from Professor Freeman-Jones’ expertise. Among his recent volunteer efforts was an intensive electronic-communications campaign, part of Porter County’s Day of Local Giving, on behalf of Dayspring Women’s Center. With a social media hashtag campaign, streaming video, and electronic signage displaying gifts in real time, Dayspring led the county in donations.
His commitment to serving communities has translated into a passion for teaching, as well. Professor Freeman-Jones taught for a local community college for several years before joining Valpo as a full-time faculty member, teaching primarily in the University’s graduate programs in Information Technology and Cyber Security.
“I feel that commitment in my students, too,” Professor Freeman-Jones says. He relishes helping them make good on it.