Sue Ryan is the first woman to be a spokesperson for the university. Ryan worked in college athletics communications for over 15 years before coming to Notre Dame in January 2013 as associate director of communications (internal communications) — her first day falling on the last time Notre Dame competed in a National Championship. Since she grew up in a big Irish Catholic family — proudly represented by the family crest displayed in a glass frame on her desk — working at Notre Dame was a dream for Ryan. In February of 2014, she became director of media relations, followed by a promotion to executive director of media relations and spokesperson in July of 2023. Her desk is located on the fifth floor of Grace Hall, where she manages a team of seven as the executive director of media relations. In 2022, Ryan was selected as a Top Women in Communications by Ragan Communications and PR Daily in the “Crisis Navigators” category for her “effective communications campaigns and leadership” in the university’s response to COVID-19.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
What's your favorite part about working at Notre Dame?
The people for sure. It’s about the community that is Notre Dame. We have amazing young people who are doing fantastic things. We’ve got staff that is top-of-the-line in whatever field it is we’re talking about — if it’s safety, or if it’s finance or our general counsel's office — we’ve got world-class leadership at the university at all levels. And the faculty as well. World-class faculty, research faculty, the work that they’re all doing. You want to be the best that you can be because you know everyone around you is so good and striving for excellence.
Do you have a favorite topic to write about?
Every year I write the valedictorian and salutatorian press release. I don’t work with students a lot in my day-to-day work. I always hold the valedictorian and salutatorian press release as my shining moment for the year. Somebody else on my team could do it, but it’s the one thing that I really love doing because I get to interview those students and talk to them about what they’ve been involved with for four years and what they want to do in the future. I just love hearing their stories and then telling their stories on our platforms.
What does it mean to you to be the first woman spokesperson?
It's humbling. It's really a true honor. There are so many other inspiring women leaders on campus — in our president's office, in our general counsel office — and our enrollment division’s vice president is a woman. When I look at those women, it's really inspiring to me to think that someday I could elevate to a level like that. It’s humbling, and it’s exciting, but it's not good news every day. Just knowing that we’re trying to do the best that we can to keep our students informed and safe, our overall campus informed and safe and make the best impact that we can with the work that we do is kind of what drives me there.
I have two daughters who are both in college. So, for me, it’s important to model for them the things that women can accomplish. When I started my career in college athletics communications there weren’t a lot of women doing that. Going into jobs like that I always thought to myself, I don’t care why they hired me — if it was because I was a woman, or because I was from this place or that place — but I wanted them to know once they hired me that I was the right person for the job. That’s kind of the spirit with which I raise my daughters and help them think about what they want to do professionally. They have totally different career paths than what I have chosen, but I hope to inspire them in some way to work hard and to know that who they are or where they come from doesn’t have to be a limit to where they can go. If you work hard and do the right thing, the sky's the limit.