Photo caption: Ryan Dainsberg will graduate from UW-Eau Claire this month with majors in marketing and Spanish, yet his University Honors Program thesis is in philosophy. He says his research topic reflects his diverse interests and UW-Eau Claire’s willingness to allow students to pursue their passions even when they fall outside their academic programs. Knowing he would have a variety of experiences was among the reasons he chose to be a Blugold. (Photo by Bill Hoepner)
Ryan Dainsberg will graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire this month with majors in marketing and Spanish, so it’s no surprise that his University Honors Program thesis is in … philosophy.
While the philosophy-focused research may surprise some people given his business and language majors, Dainsberg says the research reflects his diverse interests and UW-Eau Claire’s willingness to allow students to pursue their passions even when they fall outside their academic programs.
“I really enjoy having variety in my coursework to become more well-rounded, which is partly why I got into Honors my freshman year,” Dainsberg says, noting that he’s long had an interest in philosophy as well as in business and languages.
Opportunities to pursue multiple interests and to have a variety of experiences while staying on track to graduate were among the reasons he chose to study at UW-Eau Claire, says Dainsberg, noting that he also was drawn to the university because of its strong and affordable academic programs.
“UWEC encourages versatility,” Dainsberg says. “Being interested in Spanish and business, I was able to get both majors and graduate in four years, which was very appealing to me. UW-Eau Claire also has a high-level and affordable business program. Throughout my four years, I have expanded my horizons and gained an interest in so many other disciplines I might not have ever experienced elsewhere.”
With an interest in philosophy and research, Dainsberg joined an undergraduate research project led by Dr. Matthew Meyer, an associate professor of philosophy and religious studies. That research project grew into his thesis for the University Honors Program.
“The main topics of the project were information and power,” Dainsberg says of his research. “We did a lot of reading on the current power and information dynamic, including large corporations and politics, to put together a picture of how this affects society. We then applied Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy to the conversation of power to suggest ways in which people can individually navigate the current landscape and achieve their personal goals.”
Dainsberg credits Meyer, who he describes as “so incredibly kind and intelligent,” with making the research and thesis possible.
“I learned so much from Dr. Meyer about how to analyze texts and create a strong, logical argument, which I will take with me in my career,” Dainsberg says.
Dr. Heather Fielding, director of the University Honors Program, says Dainsberg’s thesis is “very exciting” as it touches on how flows of information and power in the current socio-political system affect democracy.
“It’s an interesting project, but it’s also exciting to me to see a business student pursuing advanced research in philosophy,” Fielding says. “I think that Ryan — who is off to a job in Pennsylvania after graduation — will be a creative, multidimensional thinker from day one in his job. He will be someone who is always focusing on the big picture, who considers the ethical and social ramifications of business decisions.”
Excelling in business, language programs
While his research project has been a valuable learning experience, Dainsberg also enjoyed UW-Eau Claire’s quality business and language programs.
“I have had a ton of great experiences in classes for my majors,” says Dainsberg, a native of Eden Prairie, Minnesota. “I would have to say that my favorite class for marketing has been 'Buyer Behavior' because it helped me learn the interesting psychological aspects of marketing. As for Spanish, I really enjoyed my two linguistics courses because they helped me learn a ton about the science of language, which I can use in my use of Spanish.”
The faculty in both his marketing and Spanish programs were fantastic teachers who inspired and motivated him to push himself in new ways, Dainsberg says.
“Dr. Fabiola Varela-Garcia was one Spanish professor who was especially inspiring,” Dainsberg says. “In the classes I had with her, she made a point to stay after class and have conversations about my interests and goals, which was so nice. She motivated me to pay attention to detail and improve my Spanish.”
Varela-Garcia says she was impressed with Dainsberg from the from the moment she met him.
“The first time that Ryan approached me at the end of one of our 'Spanish of the United States' classes, he was deeply moved and full of questions, creative reasoning and reflections,” says Varela-Garcia, a professor of Spanish. “I thought, ‘Here I have a brilliant and compassionate Sentipensante.’ This is the profound word that comes to mind when I think of Ryan: a human being who does not separate his emotions from his reasoning.”
Dainsberg “experiences his education from his most authentic core where sentimiento and razón meet as an integral whole,” Varela-Garcia says, adding that “I only wish that he never loses his compass. I do know that wherever he goes, Ryan Dainsberg will flourish.”
In the College of Business, Jennine Fox, an associate lecturer of management and marketing, was among the faculty who was especially influential during his undergraduate years, Dainsberg says. Fox, who Dainsberg says was “extra supportive,” was his advisor when he served in leadership positions in student business organizations. He says he “really learned a lot from her guidance.”
Fox says she was impressed with Dainsberg when she met him while he was serving as vice president of the Affordable Integrated Marketing Solutions (AIMS) consulting group within the American Marketing Association (AMA) chapter on campus.
“He was very organized, balancing multiple directors and projects over the course of the year,” Fox says. “He was very detail-oriented and did high-quality work for his clients. And he put a lot of time and effort into finding clients to work with to grow the consulting business and give the team additional experience.”
Fox also was Dainsberg’s internship course instructor when he had a summer internship with Hormel.
“I was able to witness additional growth, professionalism and high-quality work with that internship,” Fox says. “The high-quality work that Ryan did in that internship led to a full-time position with Hormel after graduation.”
Embracing leadership opportunities
Being a part of the University Honors Program was “an awesome experience,” Dainsberg says, adding that he “really enjoyed the variety in my Honors coursework.” For example, as an Honors student, he took classes such as “Cultural Anthropology,” “Ethical Reasoning” and “Indian Nations of Wisconsin,” all topics that were interesting but fell far outside his majors.
Dainsberg also found value in serving as a mentor to other Honors students. As a senior, he co-led a class of first-year honors students, an experience he says helped him “grow a lot as a leader.”
He also gained leadership experience through the American Marketing Association, where he served on the executive board for two years. That, he says, is “where I really bloomed as a leader.”
Through the student organization, he was able to compete and place in many business competitions, lead directors and collaborate with other students, all of which helped him become “a more skilled business professional,” Dainsberg says.
A bright future
Last summer, Dainsberg’s internship with Hormel Foods “taught me many business analytics skills and showed me what the real-world workplace is like,” he says.
After he graduates, Dainsberg will move to Pennsylvania to work for Hormel Foods.
“I am super excited to be working for a company that has a lot of opportunity to grow, learn a variety of things and even possibly work internationally,” Dainsberg says. “At some point, I would love to do some graduate work either in business or philosophy because I think both would offer me some great knowledge to continue to learn new skills.”
Wherever the future takes him, Dainsberg says he always will take a bit of UW-Eau Claire with him.
“I had such a pleasant experience here at Eau Claire, and I will always look back on this time with fond memories,” Dainsberg says.