People of Babson: Ryan Travia

Ryan Travia walks across campus in 2017

Ryan Travia joined the Babson community as its first associate dean of students for wellness in 2015 after spending a decade as the founding director of the Office of Alcohol & Other Drug Services at Harvard University. As the first substance abuse prevention specialist in school history, he created the nationally recognized, award-winning peer education program, the Drug & Alcohol Peer Advisors. Travia, promoted to associate vice president for student success in August, earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Boston College.

The Q&A

What are your priorities and focal points in your new role?

“Our approach to the One Babson experience prioritizes health and well-being as central to academic, personal, and professional success. We are working to create a more integrated experience for students by blurring the lines between the in- and out-of-the-classroom experiences. This approach is of particular interest to me, as my dissertation research focused on institutional decision making about restructuring to create seamless learning environments. Students generally do not live their lives in a compartmentalized fashion, nor do they tend to differentiate between ‘student affairs’ and ‘academic affairs.’ Rather, they tend to view this incredibly dynamic moment in time simply as ‘college.’ It is incumbent on us, as educators, to meet students where they are at, treat them holistically, and continue to facilitate an exceptional One Babson experience.”

How does Babson and the Health and Wellness staff support students’ well-being, especially during these unprecedented circumstances?

“The mission of Babson Health and Wellness is to provide collaborative, evidence-based, and culturally inclusive health and wellness services that promote a healthy and safe campus community. We offer prevention and education initiatives, confidential intervention and treatment services, pastoral care, and student-centered advocacy to address undergraduate and graduate students’ mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, and social well-being.

“In addition to maintaining the day-to-day operations of their respective business units, the Health and Wellness staff have all been focused on supporting students’ well-being through COVID. The clinicians in health services have been pulling double duty, managing their regular responsibilities, while staffing our mass asymptomatic surveillance testing center. Polly McCabe, interim director of health services, has been instrumental in getting Babson’s COVID Testing Center up and running, while providing leadership to the College’s Crisis Response Team. Wellness & Prevention Services and CAPS staff continue to partner closely on offering individual and group support for students impacted by COVID-19.

“In fact, we recently launched a weekly drop-in, virtual support group for any students in isolation or quarantine. I am personally assuming case management responsibility for all Babson students who are moved into isolation or quarantine space to support their recovery and observation period, academic continuity, and to address any other needs or concerns that may arise in partnership with colleagues from the Dean of Students Office, Babson Dining, ITSD, Facilities, and Public Safety.”

“I continue to be amazed by the resilience demonstrated by our students. Babson breeds a unique crop of students who embrace failure and face intractable challenges head on.”
Ryan Travia, associate vice president for student success

What are the top concerns you and your staff are focused on this semester, and how can Babson address those?

“We have been in full crisis response mode 24/7 for the last six months. As we all continue to acclimate to this next normal, my primary focus continues to be the health and safety of our entire community. I want to ensure a rapid response to any community member who tests positive for COVID and for close contacts of individuals who test positive. We need to be patient with one another and to demonstrate grace on a daily basis. The toll that this is taking on all of our mental health and emotional well-being is significant. In times of crisis, it is critical that we come together in the supportive and collegial ways that is at the core of Babson’s values.”

In working so closely on the student experience, especially during the crisis, what have you learned about Babson students this year?

“I continue to be amazed by the resilience demonstrated by our students. Babson breeds a unique crop of students who embrace failure and face intractable challenges head on. We are at a critical crossroads right now in our nation. Amid ongoing racial injustice, escalating tensions related to the senseless killings of Black people, political upheaval, and rising unemployment rates, layered with a global pandemic, our students persevere. On the Wellesley campus, I have largely observed students abiding by the new rules and regulations, doing their part to preserve the health and safety of the entire Babson community. This requires resilience, a new outlook, flexibility, and some good humor, and our students have brought their A-game. We have done exceptionally well as a community thus far, but our initial success should not create a false sense of security. Everyone needs to keep up the good work and to come together if we are to manage through the pandemic.”

Two More for Ryan Travia

What does Babson mean to you?

“Babson is home in many ways—professionally and personally. It’s a very special community filled with great students and great colleagues.”

Right now, what are you …

  • Reading? “Into the Water” by Paula Hawkins
  • Watching? “Scandal,” “Homeland,” “Holey Moley”
  • Listening to? “ ‘ARN,’ ‘Grilling JR,’ ‘Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard,’ and ‘What Happened When with Tony Shiavone.’ 1980s and 1990s wrestling podcasts—my guilty pleasure, don’t judge!”
  • Doing in your free time? “Sadly, I don’t get much free time these days, but when I do, I enjoy playing with my kids, Nicholas (10) and Ella (7), and cooking with my wife.”

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