Supreme achievement - Regis University alumnus Ryan Malphurs authors book on Supreme Court; credits success to education received at Regis
Donnie VeaseyMay 10, 2013
(DENVER) – When 2002 Regis University alumnus Ryan Malphurs was experiencing the daily daunting challenges of taking Honors-level classes in philosophy and English during his undergraduate days, he never imagined that Jesuit-based academic rigor would one day help him reach the pinnacle of higher education goals and spark the creation of a book about the highest court in the land that is the first book-length study of oral arguments within the field of communication.
In fact, on that May morning when he walked across the stage in front of 4,000-plus attendees crowded onto the freshly mowed green grass of Boettcher Commons at the 2002 spring commencement to receive bachelor’s degrees in English and philosophy from Regis University, Malphurs notes that he imagined heading off to pursue his passion for his two academic majors.
Man plans, God laughs -- or so the saying goes.
Fast forward a decade later to the present where Malphurs now holds a doctorate in communication from Texas A&M University, works as a consultant for Tara Trask & Associates, and is the proud author of a recently released book titled Rhetoric and Discourse in Supreme Court Oral Arguments: Sensemaking in Judicial Decisions. He unabashedly credits the undergraduate education he received from Colorado’s only Jesuit Catholic university with helping him attain his goals.
“I never realized how the strength and depth of Regis' education would shape my graduate and professional career,” said the Dallas, Texas native. “Regis education had such a profound impact that I actually used methods learned in my senior English class (and Honors Thesis) in my doctoral dissertation. My doctoral dissertation was written at Texas A&M in a communication department, but the techniques I applied and used in my research came largely from my education at Regis University.”
In his book, published by Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group and already nominated for several awards in communications associations, Malphurs examines the rhetoric, discourse, and subsequent decision-making within the oral arguments for significant Supreme Court cases, visiting their potential power and danger and revealing the rich dynamic nature of the justices’ interactions among themselves and the advocates. The synopsis also points out that while legal scholars, psychologists, and political scientists commonly voice their skepticism over the influence oral arguments have on the Court’s voting pattern, this book offers a contrarian position focused on close scrutiny of the justices’ communication within oral arguments.
High brow stuff indeed. But a powerful reminder of how Regis University’s mission of learners becoming leaders in the Jesuit tradition truly impacted Malphurs path.
“It's striking to me what a profound impact the English and philosophy departments had on my greater graduate education,” Malphurs adds.
The news of Malphurs’ success comes as no surprise to Regis University professors who taught Malphurs during those undergraduate days.
“Ryan Malphurs was a fine student and this is terrific news, for him and as he says, for us,” said Mark Bruhn, professor and chair of the English Department and one of the professors who taught Malphurs during his undergraduate days at Regis University. “He was an English/philosophy double major, an honors student, and an athlete, and as his Marshall and Rhodes Scholarship applications suggest, truly dedicated to higher learning. He’s always spoken in glowing terms of the Jesuit education.”
His educational journey at Regis University began after graduating from Jesuit College Prep School in Dallas in 1999.
“I originally came to Regis University both for the Jesuit education but also because of their prominent rugby team,” said Malphurs, who captained the club team from his freshman year forward. As a rail-thin 6ft, 4 inch 175 pound freshman, Malphurs didn’t have the prototypical rugby player size. Thanks to a roommate who was into bodybuilding and a cafeteria with all the food he could eat, Malphurs added 40 lbs in four years, tipping the scales at 215lbs when he graduated.
He laughed while fondly recalling eating 22 steaks at a Regis University steak night in the cafeteria and consuming 17 steaks during another steak night event, and, along with a fellow rugby player, downing 20lbs of crawfish for Fat Tuesday.
After graduating from Regis University, he taught British Literature at his high school before deciding to pursue a doctorate in English, which he later changed to communications. That was also the time when he was first introduced to Supreme Court oral arguments, and employed the very same analysis that he used in his senior honors thesis at Regis University.
Malphurs’ employment history included stints as a linguistics laboratory assistant at Texas A&M University, instructor at Bishop Dunne High School, Lonestar Community College and Texas A&M University, and to his current position at Tara Trask & Associates. And along the way he has captured a wealth of awards and crafted a plethora of articles and presentations, including winning the National Communication Association’s 2009 top graduate paper in the Legal Communication Division.
Giving back to the community through service also continues to be a powerful tenant of Malphurs life. He has provided pro-bono services to many organizations and individuals including the Human Rights Initiative, Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, the Collin County Prosecutor’s Office and consulting for plaintiffs of the Bastrop, Texas fires in 2011. He also serves on the executive board of the pro bono committee for Dallas Fort Worth’s chapter of the American Society of Trial Consultants, and welcomes anyone seeking pro bono trial services. In addition, he has served as an assistant rugby coach at Jesuit College Preparatory School and as a peer mentor to incoming doctoral students at Texas A&M.
“I'm very proud of my work with the Human Rights Initiative in assisting asylum seekers with their court hearings,” Malphurs said. “I've been able to personally help a handful of individuals escape persecution and certain death if they had been forced to return to their home country.”
His experiences over the years continue to remind Malphurs that “Regis University is a special place.” In sharing a message to his former professors, Malphurs offered the following expression of gratitude:
“I know some of you banged your heads against the desk as I argued minor grammatical points, or tried to compare broad philosophical or literary theories. I hope you all now know that the time you spent with me was well worth it, at least in my eyes, and that you all helped to produce a scholar who plans to continue researching, writing and contributing.”
To learn more about his book visit http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415640046/.
Director of Media Relations