Liberal Arts Principles Shaping Ryan Derfler's Career

More than a decade after leaving The Valley, Ryan Derfler ’04 is still proud to be a Dutchman and enjoying the journey his education continues afforded him. 

Derfler currently works at Geneva Global as director of client experience. This company is behind some of the largest privately funded global efforts in the world. Geneva Global does work for a range of clients from smaller groups to large ones such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Derfler enjoys his role and working with clients, as he knows their success makes the world a better place.

However, before this job, Derfler enjoyed a variety of positions. Between both the east and west coasts he has worked with a mural arts program in Philadelphia and for a nonprofit group in Silicon Valley. 

Reflecting about LVC and how it’s left an imprint on his career, Derfler especially still feels the impact of the philosophy courses he studied. While he was a business major initially, his general education courses encouraged him to add a philosophy major. He believes the classes taught him flexibility and thinking patterns that continue benefiting him in his current position.

“Liberal arts… you take classes on subjects you wouldn’t necessarily pick at first,” he said. “I personally believe that in life having diverse topics around which you can talk, or having different ways of looking at things, makes you a richer person. It makes you better able to connect with other people and cultures.”

He also found that the difficult reading material in philosophy courses taught him to be a better and more critical reader. Today Derfler finds this useful when he faces a denser document in the business world, as the same close reading skills he learned in school apply to reading in his job. 

While he was a student at The Valley, Derfler took advantage of his liberal arts education: studying abroad in Perugia, Italy; studying for a semester in Key West, Fla.; and working with faculty to develop a mural-making course at LVC. The school allowed him to learn about a variety of topics, which Derfler still sees as the competitive advantage of a liberal arts degree today. 

Plus, he enjoyed being able to connect with a tight knit community of peers and professors. After graduation he continued to keep in touch with these people who had influenced him so strongly.

“For me it was a knowable community at LVC. You weren’t lost in a sea of people,” he said.

He fondly recalls a job earlier in his career that he wanted with a mural arts group in Philadelphia, remembering that it had a tough applicant pool of people who probably had better qualifications. Yet he decided to ask LVC’s president at that time, Dr. Stephen MacDonald, to write him a recommendation for this position. The president was absolutely thrilled to write the letter to the folks deciding. 

Derfler got the job and he still attributes it to the relationship he had with President MacDonald and that letter MacDonald took time to write. He cites that story as one out of many times that relationships with the LVC community opened doors for him in his career. 

“Was part of it luck? Was part of it just persistence? I don’t know,” he said. “But, the point is that these kinds of things happen more often at LVC than at other places.”

Derfler is a great example of how LVC’s customizable liberal arts education prepares students for more than just their first job after graduation. For many of its graduates, the classes and relationships forged at The Valley continue opening the door to a lifetime of opportunities and success.