Mary Ryan

President Emerita

Mary founded the Washington Internship Institute in 1990 and served as its President from 1990 until 2012.


In consultation with academic colleagues, Dr. Ryan developed the “Capital Experience” internship program which combines the best theories of intentional student learning and the applied liberal arts in a practical and professional internship setting. The Capital Experience pioneered the concept of a learning portfolio which justifies and demonstrates the student learning over the course of the semester.

The Washington Internship Institute, in cooperation with the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), also developed the Faculty Fellows Internship Program which allows faculty to enhance liberal learning, interdisciplinary learning and the connections between the academic and non-academic work environments.

Dr. Ryan is considered one of the nation’s leading experts in the field of experiential education. She has published in the field experiential education, writing “Standards of Excellence for Experiential Learning through Internships.” She is frequently asked to present at educational conferences, most recently for the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and the American Association of Higher Education (AAHE).

Prior to founding the Washington Internship Institute, Dr. Ryan’s career spanned a variety of positions in higher education. She served as a Vice President for Academic Programs at an educational nonprofit, Dean of Students at a private liberal arts college, Director of an International Students Office, and as an assistant and associate professor of human development.

Throughout her career she has consulted for a number of colleges, universities, associations, government agencies, and businesses. She served on five Middle States accreditation teams. She was a grants reviewer for the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, and FIPSE in the area of community service. A leader in the field of service learning, she researched and wrote “City of Virginia Beach – Volunteerism in City Departments” with colleagues at Penn and Associates. In addition, Dr. Ryan served on the evaluation team for the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel. She provided management training or consulting services for such organizations as the Children’s Hospital of Richmond, Booz Allen Hamilton, Avemco, and the International Quality & Productivity Center.

Dr. Ryan received her doctorate in Higher Education Administration and Student Development from The American University. She earned a master’s degree in counseling and a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Duquesne University in Pennsylvania.

Dr. Ryan was born in Canada and grew up in the U.S., Europe, Saudi Arabia and Korea.