Ryan Darr


Ryan Darr
Major: Computer Network Systems and Security
Hometown: Sault Ste. Marie, MI

In the fall of 2018, Bay College sophomore Ryan Darr restarted his college education after a multi-year gap. Now, he’s on the verge of earning an associate degree in computer network systems and security (CNSS)—even though this wasn’t the credential he initially came to the college to pursue.

In 2007, Ryan graduated from Traverse City West High School. After finishing high school, he started taking college classes.

“I made my first attempt at college then, but it didn’t work out. It was a hard school, and I just wasn’t ready yet,” he said.

After leaving college, he shifted gears and focused on work.

“In my early 20s, I joined Job Corps, which is a government-funded job training program. For that, I focused on culinary arts,” Ryan said.

Ryan’s involvement in Job Corps went well. Eventually, he participated in two years of advanced training in San Francisco through the program.

“After that, I worked in kitchens for the majority of my career. Now, I’m older and pursuing a career where I’m not standing for 10 hours a day,” he said.

In the hopes of attaining this goal, Ryan started taking classes at Bay during the fall 2018 semester.

“Bay was the closest community college with a program I was interested in pursuing,” he said.

When he got started at Bay, Ryan was not working towards his current major; instead, he focused on studying welding. Though he briefly considered going to a different community college after determining that he would not be able to learn about pipe welding at Bay, he eventually decided to stay there—but opted to switch his major to pre-engineering.

At that point, Ryan planned to get an associate degree in pre-engineering at Bay before transferring to another school to continue his education. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ryan found himself dealing with mental health issues that began to have an impact on his studies.

“I went to my advisor, Erica Mead, and talked about potentially taking a break because I wasn’t doing well. She talked me into finding a major where I didn’t have to worry about transferring to a university after graduating, but where I could find work when I finished classes here,” he said.

For Ryan, that major turned out to be CNSS.

“I’ve always enjoyed tech—it’s nothing I thought about having a career in, but I am a tech guy,” he said of his current field of study.

Ryan switched his major to CNSS in the winter 2021 semester and has been working towards a degree in this field ever since.

“I’m actually really enjoying the studies I’m doing and the type of work it involves,” he said.

Along the way, he has appreciated the support provided by his teachers.

“With every instructor at Bay, I’ve never had a bad experience. They go out of their way to help you,” Ryan said.

As a non-traditional college student, Ryan has also received valuable assistance through Bay’s TRIO program.

Currently, Ryan plans to finish his studies at Bay in the winter 2024 semester. His long-term goals include finding a job in the industry and working towards his bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity.

“Instead of going to a traditional university, I’m planning on working in the field and going to Western Governors University—they’re a 100-percent online university,” he said.

Ryan thanked Bay for helping him take the first step on his current path.

“It’s just opened doors for me that wouldn’t have been there otherwise,” he said of the college.