Student Spotlight: Ryan Stark

Ryan Stark

Behavioral therapist pursuing A.S. in Nursing

Ryan Stark, 29, is making a career change from the mental health field to nursing. Ryan is earning his Associate of Science (A.S.) in Nursing at Inver Hills Community College. He’s on track to graduate from Inver Hills in December 2023.

“I have worked with the pediatric population in mental health for almost nine years,” Ryan said. “I enjoy that work very much and, as an RN, I plan to continue working with this population. I recently went through training to deescalate patients who are actively going through a mental health crisis.”

After earning his Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Psychology at Minnesota State University, Mankato, in 2016, Ryan went on to work as a behavioral therapist at the Minnesota Autism Center Minnetonka in Eagan. He had already been working three years as a mental healthcare practitioner at Connections in New Ulm, Minnesota, while attending MSUM. That job helped him pay for his education. He currently works as a psychiatric associate at Riverside Minneapolis in the inpatient intensive treatment center.

Three words that describe you as a behavioral therapist:

Ryan initially chose psychology as his major and career path because he has always found the human brain fascinating.

“Something I’ve always wanted to know—and still aim for while I’m working with patients—is to understand why people do the things they do,” he explained, “and why some people make different decisions when placed in the same situations.”

Ryan plans on going to work as a registered nurse as soon as he earns his A.S. in Nursing and passes the NCLEX-RN exam. He is dual-enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) program at Metropolitan State University. He is looking forward to completing that degree and is open to the idea of becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner.

“I think that I am still unsure about which nursing field I am most interested in,” Ryan said. “I know that I enjoy working with children, but I want to branch out of my comfort zone and explore more aspects of healthcare.”

Extracurricular activities at Inver Hills

Phi Theta Kappa Induction Ceremony Fall 2022

Ryan was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) at Inver Hills in early November 2022. He also belongs to Psi Beta, the community college national honor society in psychology. Founded in 1982, Psi Beta is for students who plan on majoring or minoring in psychology as well as for students who would like to more about the scientific study of human behavior, thought processes, and emotions.

Ryan at PTK Induction

“I like that Psi Beta is open to all students interested in psychology,” Ryan said. “By joining the honor society, students will learn more about the mind and mental health. This knowledge can benefit healthcare majors because patients often need mental health help along with medical help.”

Jennifer Parta

Jennifer Parta, MS, serves as psychology faculty at Inver Hills. Jennifer is also the Psi Beta faculty advisor. She holds a Master of Science (M.S.) in Counseling and Student Affairs from Minnesota State University, Moorhead, and has nearly 25 years of experience as a college counselor; she has taught psychology at the college level since 2017.

Jennifer considers joining Psi Beta an excellent way for students in any major to enhance their ability to understand human nature. Those insights can prove invaluable on any career path.

“I enjoy seeing students receive recognition for their academic achievements, especially in psychology, as their greater understanding of themselves and others enables them to be critical thinkers and contribute positively to our world,” Jennifer said.

Psi Beta Mission Statement¹

Psi Beta was founded for the purpose of stimulating, encouraging, and recognizing students’ outstanding scholarship and interest in psychology.

Psi Beta’s mission is to encourage professional development and psychological literacy of all students at two-year colleges through promotion and recognition of excellence in scholarship, leadership, research, and community service.


Psi Beta Induction Ceremony October 2022 gallery

Photos courtesy of Kimberly Swinney

More about Ryan…

Ryan and family

Originally from Mankato, Minnesota, Ryan graduated from Mankato East High School, Class of 2011. Ryan and his wife, Elise, were just married this past March at the Como Zoo Conservatory. Elise works as a health unit coordinator (HUC) on a long-term acute care unit. Ryan’s brother, Nick, is also married; Nick and his wife, Steph, have two sons, Salem and Lazlo. Ryan’s parents, Brian and Micki, own their own T-shirt shop in Mankato called B. Stark & Co. and working there was Ryan’s first job when he was little.

Ryan has a rescue dog, a 6-year-old Lab/hound (most probably) named Vernon.

In his free time, Ryan likes playing video games, mostly first-person shooters; his favorite so far is Fallout 3. He likes running long distances, too—he completed a half-marathon in mid-October this year. He usually runs between three and five miles when the weather’s nice enough.

Ryan also enjoys spending time with loved ones, watching movies, playing board games with friends, exploring the outdoors, hiking, and cooking.

Ryan, Elise, and Vernon reside in West St. Paul.

Ryan Stark family gallery

One word that best describes your experience at Inver Hills:


Ryan Stark Q & A

Ryan Stark
What inspired you to enroll at Inver Hills to pursue your nursing degree?

The campus is located fairly close to my home and I had talked with a few coworkers that had completed their nursing degree.

What advice would you give working adults thinking about changing careers?

Try to save a little extra money so that you don’t need to work as much while going to school.

What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of working as a therapist with young people?

The most rewarding aspect of the children that I have worked with is to watch them grow and understand coping skills you’ve taught them. The most challenging aspects that I have experienced is to stay calm under dangerous situations. I have worked a lot with patients that have aggression problems, and it’s very important to stay calm while you’re trying to redirect their behaviors.

How will your experience in the mental healthcare field help you navigate both your nursing training and future career as a nurse?

The experience that I have gained from working in the mental health field has helped me understand how to empathize with patients with varying diagnoses. I think this information will help me understand how to be compassionate towards all types of people with different situations going on in their lives.

Three words that describe you as a college student:

What do you like best about attending Inver Hills?

I like the size of the campus and how much of a community it feels like. I’ve enjoyed getting to attend my classes in person this semester.

What person has influenced your life the most and why?

I believe that the person that has influenced my life the most is one of my best friends named Nate. He helped me get my first job working at a group home and has always tried to keep me as a part of his life. He’s always been helpful in helping me see a different perspective even when I can’t see it myself.

Where do you hope to find yourself in 20 years?

I imagine that I will be working as a nurse still and will hopefully be traveling. I would maybe want to be living somewhere not as busy as the metro area.

Ryan Stark 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Running
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Machu Picchu
  3. Most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Traveled to Spain for two weeks
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Open my own pediatric hospital 2) Buy a home for me and my wife 3) Save half of it for my family and their future children
  5. Best book or movie you’ve read or seen lately: Zoolander
  6. Time period (past or future) you would explore if you could time travel: I would want to time travel to the 1990s to enjoy things from my childhood as an adult.
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in your life: Provide a stable environment for my family and future children
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Red-tailed hawk
  9. Dream occupation: Pediatric nurse practitioner
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Will Ferrell
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: I think it would be cool to learn how to create video games
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Global hunger
Learn more about Psychology and Psi Beta at Inver Hills by contacting:

Jennifer Parta
Psychology Faculty
Psi Beta Faculty Advisor

Inver Hills Community College
Virtual Visit

Learn more about Nursing at Inver Hills by contacting:

Inver Hills Community College
Virtual Visit

¹ SOURCE: Psi Beta

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *