KUEC graduate Ryan Elam plans to use his new Master of Science in Engineering Management to help grow Lee’s Summit, give back to his community

Rising Up at KUEC: In this Q & A series, outstanding 2019 KUEC graduates share how KU Edwards Campus has helped them start, advance or change their career. Meet Ryan Elam.

Ryan Elam and family

As the director of development services for the City of Lee’s Summit, 2019 KUEC graduate Ryan Elam already has direct impact on the future of his hometown. With his Master of Science in Engineering Management, Elam plans to do even more to make a difference. With the support of his wife, Abbie, and the understanding of his children, six-year-old Ame and four-year-old Guy, Elam finished a master’s degree he believes will best prepare him for his future. According to his academic advisor Parveen Mozaffar, his research topic titled “The Effective Use of Economic Development Incentives in the City of Lee's Summit, MO” may help that city prepare for its future as well. Read about the successes and challenges Elam faced along the way. 


Q: What is a typical day in your life like? 

A: A typical day includes many different things. It starts with taking the kids to school in the morning, and then it changes from there. Usually I’m in some sort of meeting or conversation with citizens, other city officials, my team, developers, architects, attorneys, engineers, etc. On any given day I’ll be working on managing my department, tackling a city-wide issue, discussing a master planned development, working with economic incentives, addressing engineering issues, resolving code enforcement issues, or discussing building code requirements, and that’s just the start. It is exciting, impactful, and very rewarding to be able to help make good things happen in the community.     


Q: What makes you the happiest? 

A: From a personal perspective, spending time with my family hiking and camping. From a professional perspective, working through difficult problems and finding the third solution that results in a win-win situation for everyone.    


Q: What motivates you? 

A: A desire to make things happen. I enjoy taking on difficult challenges and bringing people together to solve problems.    


Q: Why did you choose KUEC? 

A: I chose KUEC based on recommendations from a former boss and a former colleague.  They had each been through the program and liked it. When evaluating programs, I was considering other options. I wanted the in-classroom experience and having the program geared towards working professionals was a big draw. KU had a good reputation amongst the professional community as well.    


Q: How did KUEC meet your personal and/or academic needs? 

A: The accessibility of the KUEC staff and the flexibility of the program really helped me reach my goals.    


Q: How has your KUEC degree prepared you for the future?  

A: My degree helped provide me with the tools necessary to take my career in the direction that I wanted to take it. At the point in my career when I began the program, I was able to take the concepts we were discussing in class and apply them in real-time. This allowed me to reinforce what I was learning through practical experience with additional theory. The degree also serves as another foundational element that I can refer back to depending on the situation that I am facing.    


Q: What was the most difficult part of earning your college degree and how did you overcome it? 

A: When I was finishing the program and starting on my field project, I switched jobs and took over a department in the middle of a reorganization. Adjusting to a new organization and a new role takes a significant amount of effort and I was having a difficult time finding opportunities to dedicate time to my field project. I also switched my project topic during this time to align more with my new role, essentially starting over. With so much going on, there were times I considered giving up on the field project and just taking a few more classes. I was able to overcome this because of the flexibility of the program and the help provided by my committee chair, Tom Bowlin. I am glad I stuck with it. The field project process made me more well-rounded. 


Q: What is your proudest accomplishment? 

A: Being a father to Ame and Guy. When talking about accomplishments at KUEC, it is definitely sticking with the field project and completing the program. 


Q: What is your favorite memory of your time at KUEC? 

A: I enjoyed the group presentations and getting to work with a wide variety of professionals.   


Q: What are your long-term career goals and how do you plan to achieve them? 

A: I plan to continue to grow as a leader and never stop learning. I am fortunate to be in an exciting position in a growing city, and I am looking forward to continuing to foster that growth.  As time allows, I’m looking to get involved in volunteer roles helping to lead organizations and growing things from the ground up. I’m always looking for ways to share the things that I continue to learn as well as to learn from those around me. Who knows, I may look for opportunities as an adjunct professor someday.    


Q: What advice would you give others who are thinking of earning a degree, whether a first-time bachelor’s, a second bachelor’s or a master’s? 

A: Go for it. Commit to it and stick with it. Earning a degree is a great accomplishment but it is only the beginning of how you are able to apply and use that knowledge. Go for something you care about and have fun with it! 


Photo: Engineering graduate Ryan Elam (left) says he loves camping with his wife, Abbie, and children Ame and Guy. (Submitted photo)


Learn more about the Master of Science in engineering management.

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