UCI Connected: Ryan Foland

Name: Ryan Foland

Title: Senior Administrator of Social Media & Marketing, Office of the Vice Provost of Teaching & Learning

Volunteer/Charity Organization Name: Bully Buster USA and Southern California BULLY Project

How do you give back? I enjoy giving back by supporting individuals and families who are affected by bullying. I am the founder of Bully Buster USA and have been the regional leader of the So-Cal BULLY Project for three years. Under Bully Buster USA, I authored a book and developed workshops about bullying that are offered to the community. I have also developed a unique anti-bully form that teaches kids 10 tips to deal with various bullying situations. I enjoy supporting local and regional anti-bullying events throughout Southern California and partnering with schools, karate studios and other organizations to help make a positive impact.

Recognizing the rise of cyberbullying, especially as the use of cellphones rapidly increased across all ages, I also took to technology to help create one of the first anti-cyberbullying apps called WordBully. The app prevented identified words from reaching targeted phones and notified parents if their children were either being bullied or were being bullies.

In 2013, I was contacted by the BULLY Project out of New York, and was asked to be the regional leader for the So Cal BULLY Project. I took on the new role with pride and we built the group to over 500 people on Facebook, supported local community events and created a safe place online for people to share their stories and connect with others. We continue to have a core group of enthusiasts and I am always looking for anti-bullying events to support, either by being a guest speaker, donating copies of my book or volunteering.

It is also important to understand that the issue of bullying is not limited to children and teens. Recent efforts have been made to call out bullying in the workplace. In fact, on Jan. 1, 2015, a new California law, AB2053, went into effect that requires that employers with 50 or more employees to provide training on the “prevention of abusive conduct,” along with the sexual harassment training already required by law.

I love my job at UCI, and feel that the friendly culture creates a supportive work environment. Unfortunately, this not the case for all of corporate America. I have recently become interested in the topic of bullying in the workplace, and have been researching and creating content that might help new companies comply with this law, and more importantly, help those companies instill a safe and enjoyable work environment. As time permits, I hope to offer keynotes, talks and workshops under my Bully Buster USA brand to help employees gain confidence in understanding office bullying, and how to deal with these situations without the fear of ridicule or fired. I believe that everyone deserves to be treated with respect, and if I can help leverage my public speaking skills and experiences with bullying to make a difference, that is exciting.

Tell us about why this cause matters to you: I was the freckle-faced kid at school who got made fun of because I was the “nerd.” I was an eager student, which was great for teachers, but not so great for making friends.

I was always the outcast, the easy-target and the kid who never got picked for sports teams. My mom felt so bad for me that she bought me a basketball of my own, but it didn’t change the fact that I had no one to play with.

This taste of ridicule and harassment at such a young age only made me stronger – after I enrolled in TaeKwondo that is. Martial arts gave me a newfound sense of confidence. I went on to earn my black belt and have continued training on and off ever since. I enjoyed teaching martial arts over the years because it gave me the opportunity to teach and empower children with the same valuable lessons I had learned myself: to have the confidence to stand up and speak out against bullies. These experiences have led me to be passionate about anti-bullying campaigns.

How can others get involved? The best way to get involved in stopping bullying is to be kind to everyone, respect people’s differences, and stick up for others when you see they are being picked on.

There are many local and national organizations that need volunteers and support. National Bullying Awareness month is in October, and many anti-bullying groups are especially active during that time. Search and find an organization that resonates with you, and ask them how you can help! For my team, we are looking for individuals who want to help get our social media back on track. If you are interested, feel free to reach out to me at rfoland@uci.edu.

When I give back, I always like to do so locally. This allows me to witness the impact of my efforts, and helps to make my community a better place. When searching for different ways that UCI is working to address the issue of bullying on campus, I came across something very powerful – The Green Dot.

The UCI Student Affairs created the concept of a “Green Dot,” as a great way to get involved to encourage a campus culture that does not tolerate bullying. According to their website, “a Green Dot is any choice, behavior, word or attitude that promotes safety for everyone and communicates intolerance for power-based personal violence in our UC Irvine community. A Green Dot is anything you do to make our community safer. When you do something Green Dot worthy, you can submit it, and it appears on a heat map of the campus! The more Green Dots, the more you know UCI students, faculty, and staff are taking steps to make the campus safer and more tolerant. “

Want to get involved? Start here at UCI, and promote safety for everyone. You can learn more about the Green Dot program here: http://www.studentaffairs.uci.edu/greendot/submit.php

 

Are you a faculty or staff member who lives to volunteer and give back? Do you have a coworker who spends their weekends helping others? Tell us about the organizations you love and the people who inspire you! Email the UCI ZOTline editor at zotline@uci.edu to be featured in an upcoming issue.

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