|Ryan Derfler ’04 Finds Fulfillment Through Faith and Nonprofit Work
Since graduating from Lebanon Valley College, Ryan Derfler ’04 has been on what he describes as a “wild ride.”
As a student at LVC, Derfler maximized his experience by participating in several unique opportunities—studying abroad in Perugia, Italy, spending a semester in Key West, and even helping develop a mural-making course at the College. “LVC was willing to entertain my passions and wild ideas,” he said.
Derfler stands as proof for how the customizable liberal arts education made available at LVC prepares students not only for their first job after graduation, but for a lifetime of opportunities and success.
A business and philosophy double major with a studio art minor, he began working as an intellectual property rights salesperson, and spent his free time volunteering with Bridge of Hope, an organization with the mission to end and prevent homelessness for single mothers by matching them with trained mentor groups from within local church congregations.
He then worked as a corporate event specialist until an opportunity arose in Philadelphia, where he became the tour manager and director of business development for the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.
“At that point, the corporate environment had lost its initial appeal. Nonprofit was a better fit for me,” Defler said.
Drawing from his interests previously explored at LVC, Derfler helped increase the quality of tour products and branding, and oversaw the design, construction, and all operations of an experience center in downtown Philadelphia.
Between 2007 and 2012, and during his work with the Mural Arts Program, Derfler was also represented as a model and actor for Reinhard Talent Agency, having bookings with QVC, Taco Bell, Bank of America, Calvin Klein, Tiffany & Co., Ralph Lauren, and others. He contacted an LVC alumnus working in NYC as a model for advice, whose guidance was “very valuable” and helped him become established in the field.
Despite living a successful life, having a stable management position in Philadelphia, and winning awards, all while only several years out of college, Derfler still felt what he describes as “emptiness,” prompting a renewal of his Christian faith.
“As a philosophy student, I had explored those big questions that faith gets at. There are bigger things than what you do for your job, and my eyes were opened to that,” he said.
Soon, he found himself amid “crazy circumstances and deep friendships,” which led to another career move.
In 2012, a recruiter contacted Derfler via LinkedIn regarding a ministry opportunity in San Jose, Calif. Just before flying across the country for an interview, his talent agent contacted him letting him know that he had been selected for a role in an upcoming film. After considering staying on the East Coast, he turned down the acting offer and accepted the ministry position.
Derfler now lives in Campbell, Calif. and is the director of experience for Cityteam International, a nonprofit organization that serves the poor, homeless, and lost in communities around the world. He currently works to create new events and coordinates internal and external special projects, along with partnerships and investments.
Derfler feels that his move has affected him positively. “I work as a servant in the community, which has made me much more gracious and invested in the people around me,” he said.
Despite living what he describes as “quite an adventure,” Derfler’s faith has sustained him. “You can flow with the wind, whichever way it goes, and that’s what I’ve done, but my faith has given me a good foundation, and it has made me a different person.”