- Faces of CMN
At the College of Menominee Nation, we are proud and honored to have people from numerous walks of life brighten our halls. With Faces of CMN, the Institutional Advancement department speaks with staff, faculty, alumni, and students to learn more about them, their lives, and how they help shape the College's legacy.
Could you please give us some basic information about yourself: name, title, and a brief descriptor of what you do at CMN?
Posoh, my name is Ryan Winn, but students call me Uncle Ry, so that’s more often than not what I’m called. I am a Liberal Studies Faculty, and I teach mostly Communications, Theatre, and Literature courses; a lot of fancy degrees.
Are you an alumnus?
I'm not, but I do take a class here every semester. I started with Menominee Language, because I had to have a secondary language for my doctorate, and the opportunity to take classes at CMN came up. I’ve taken classes for four semesters here now. In theory, I could graduate here in two years. [Laugh]
What brought you to CMN?
That’s a fun story. I’d just finished my Master’s, and I was going to go on to get my doctorate, and my now-wife’s next door neighbor’s daughter taught at CMN. I went to school with her, and she found out - small world!. She suggested that I apply to CMN, and it seemed like an opportunity I hadn’t considered, but was excited about. I sent in the application to teach Composition, and the staff suggested native theater and public speaking instead.
One of the things that I’m hoping we can accomplish with Faces of CMN is seeing the avenues that brought our different walks of life onto the same path. I feel like a lot of the people I talk to here speak about seeking CMN out, as opposed to CMN seeking them out. I think that’s an interesting, unique facet of our College.
With that in mind, how long have you been with the College?
I started in the fall of 2005, so this’ll be eighteen years.
What about CMN has appealed to you to keep you here that long?
I think about this a lot, because I’m asked it a lot. I’ve boiled it down to reciprocity. I really enjoy being of use; if many people can do something, I prefer to stay in the background, but if people are needed, I have a tendency to step forward. That happens a lot with tribal colleges in general, but one of the things about CMN is that…a lot of the things I’ve done have been things I’ve been asked to do, and they’ve been very fulfilling to do. I was asked to direct plays, asked to teach Theatre and History, asked to write a Playwriting class, and asked to bring back pageants, and various other things along the way. Writing a grant here and there, things like that. I like to be of service, but so much has been gifted to me by the College, whether via support or knowledge, or friendships. Eighteen years is a substantial part of my life, and I’m hoping that I get to stick around for a few more decades!
The “asking,” along with being able to fulfill those things in a good way…I think there’s perpetual opportunities to practice and benefit from the spirit of reciprocity within the Menominee community, and I love being a part of that.
Is that spirit the main thing that keeps you invested in CMN’s legacy, or is there something that goes beyond that?
So much of that spirit, but the relationship building goes beyond that. There are so many people - both at the College and in the community - who I’d say I’m very close to. The Pageant players, for example. We’ve been putting pageants together and picking up players along the way since 2016, and there’s such a comfort and joy to our conversations, when we see each other, randomly at a community gathering. There’s those friendships, but the fact that we can come together and do a good thing for the community…I really like being a part of that.
At Graduation this year, the Student Speaker was someone I nominated to speak, and she not only was very grateful, but insisted that I meet her parents. That idea of gratitude, the student honoring what I’d consider part of my job, but her parents were so grateful…again, that reciprocity, that sincere honesty is ingrained in CMN.
That moment kind of answers this follow-up question, but could you share another anecdote that made you feel like you’re part of the CMN family?
That moment, and our participation with AIHEC. My second semester here, I was still an Adjunct Faculty member in spring of 2006, I was asked by a student if I could help with their speech competition. Every year since then, I’ve been involved, and I firmly believe that speaking is a traditional Menominee practice. There’s a speech in their Creation story, after all, often depicted with the Bear calling out to the Eagle to join. It’s not only a speech, it’s a persuasive speech. Our students have placed every year I’ve been fortunate enough to be their coach. When all the tribal colleges come together to compete, it’s truly awesome to watch that happen, in the literal meaning of the word. Seeing our students not only participate, but thrive and excel, humbly and graciously…those moments make for an amazing week every year.
I love my family, and I don’t like being away from them that long, and I’ve told my students I’d only make that sort of travel for them.
[Editor’s note: after a brief pause, Ryan asks the following question.]
Are you familiar with the Menominee pageants?
Not as familiar as I’d like to be; I’m planning to attend the next one.
It’s one night a year, the Wednesday before the pow-wow. That night is just…a shining star on my annual calendar, to come together with the community and practice this traditional art form.
How much of your year do you spend working on the pageant?
[Laugh] It’s almost a year-round endeavor. The pageant’s end is the start of the planning for the next one. We start with a talk-back a few weeks after, have that back and forth about what we want to do differently in September. By October, I’m writing grants for the next year, and by December, I’m writing the concluding grant for the previous year. We usually get all the photos and media dumped, and start meeting in January or February to start talking about the next one. By March, we’re coordinating with the pow-wow committee to get going. Right now, I’m working on the welcome for the em-cees, people to thank, and all the presentations that go into the run-up to the pageant itself. From June to August, it’s recording, rehearsing, blocking.
It’s a bit! It’s a bit.
Is there anything you’d share as a message of goodwill to the community and student body at large?
The one thing I always say - and I usually say this to new faculty but I think it works for students - in a lot of education, I feel the classroom dynamics leans into “the instructor and the material” versus “the student.” I think people who think that way, a very Western education model, do not thrive at a tribal college. There’s a place for that, but to me, at the College of Menominee Nation, it’s us and the student versus the material. That doesn’t mean that we’ll lower the bar or the material is any easier - in fact, I think we usually expect a little bit more hands-on than you’ll have in a lecture hall, so in some ways it can be seen as harder! - but it is always us supporting them to clear that hurdle. We’re not on the side of the assignment.
If you look to faculty with an idea of collaboration, I believe success is inevitable.
I don’t think I’ve ever conceptualized the collegiate experience like you just did, as collaborative instead of antagonistic. Part of my college experience definitely made me feel like I was on an island in terms of support, and even in the short time I’ve been here at CMN, that doesn’t feel like the case.
Thanks for your time, Ryan.