Fall 2011

[Alumni News]

Ryan Sundberg

A Tradition of Giving Back

Ryan Sundberg

RYAN SUNDBERG COMES FROM a tradition of public service: His uncle serves as chairman of the Trinidad Rancheria and for years, his grandmother shuttled between Sacramento and Washington, D.C., lobbying on behalf of Native Americans.

So it came as no surprise last year when Sundberg, who is of Yurok descent, decided to run for Humboldt County’s fifth district supervisor. The McKinleyville native won the seat in November on a campaign emphasizing job creation.

“I was brought up to give back,” says Sundberg (‘02, Business Administration). Before taking office, he was an insurance broker and member of the tribal council for the Trinidad Rancheria, which operates a casino and harbor north of Arcata.

Sundberg recalls one particular experience at Humboldt State that significantly influenced his later success: an assignment from Professor Michael Thomas to write a business plan for a local business. Sundberg chose the Seascape Restaurant in Trinidad, which had recently been acquired by the Rancheria and was struggling financially. His suggestions, he recalls, were just what the restaurant needed to get back on its feet.

“Sometimes you go to school and you don’t know whether you’re going to apply what you’ve learned in the real world,” Sundberg says. “For me, it was different.”

Years later, Sundberg used the skills he acquired as a business student to help the Rancheria secure more than $50 million in state and federal grants, fund several community improvement projects and create hundreds of local jobs.

“I think education was definitely a big piece of it,” Sundberg says. “I wouldn’t be in the position I am today without it.”