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Current Scholars

Ryan McKenney

Class of: 2015
Hometown: Memphis, TN
School: Arts and Science
Major(s): History, Political Science
Minors(s): Corporate Strategy

A lifelong volunteer thanks to his mother’s passion for volunteering in Memphis nursing homes and schools, Ryan has always been conscious of the need to serve his community. He got his start volunteering with United Cerebral Palsy, De La Salle Elementary School, and Ave Maria Nursing home throughout grade school and high school, and learned that service is never a chore, but rather an imperative and characteristic part of a life led by compassion and empathy. Ryan came to Vanderbilt with the hope of continuing his service to children, to those with disabilities, and to the elderly.

Throughout his freshman and sophomore years at Vanderbilt, Ryan sought to make the leap from someone who just participated in service projects to someone who constantly and actively advocated for the people and issues about which he felt passionate. Ryan found his niche at Vanderbilt as an advocate and friend of young people with disabilities all along the educational spectrum by becoming involved with the Murray House Susan Gray School Fellowship, Best Buddies, and the Next Steps Program—working with students aged two to twenty-four. By becoming an officer within these organizations and taking time to meet the families of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Ryan came to the realization that mobility and long-term independence were unmet needs for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Next year, he hopes to be more involved in solving issues related to full independence and mobility for young adults working to overcome their disabilities. 

After a summer interning for Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, Ryan is energized about extending his love for and interest in politics and government into a career in public service. At the Mayor’s Office, Ryan worked to make the resources of Vanderbilt’s Kennedy Center available to all Nashvillians with disabilities through working with community centers, churches, and schools across the city. He also met with community advocates and business leaders to gather information and form partnerships in an attempt to bring a full-service grocery store to the North Nashville area—Nashville’s largest “food desert” (an area without nearby access to nutritious food).  These projects will continue throughout the year and he is excited about the prospects of helping government work for those who most need care and advocacy.  

At Vanderbilt, Ryan serves as the Community Service Chairman for his fraternity, Delta Tau Delta, introducing his brothers to the issues of education, disability advocacy, and food access about which he is so passionate. He loves his work as a Resident Advisor, serving his residents on the Ingram Commons and also introducing them to all that Nashville and Vanderbilt have to offer. Ryan frequently cooks dinner for the men at the Dismas House and teaches nutrition to young people at the Martha O’Bryan Center, while also tutoring young people at elementary schools across Nashville. Involved with and passionate about government in all its forms, he serves as the Vanderbilt Student Government Deputy Director of First Year Relations. He sincerely thanks Vanderbilt and the wonderful people who live and work there for introducing him to the many organizations and activities that have made his first two years so incredibly enjoyable.  Ryan could not be happier to be a part of the Ingram Scholarship Program. He believes having the support and creativity of the Ingram Scholars community will allow him to extend his service while also bringing him to a deeper understanding of true service and compassion, as well as allowing him to cultivate lifelong friendships with his fellow Ingram Scholars.