Historic preservation has been important to Ryan Rowberry since a guest speaker came to his third-grade class in Idaho with Egyptian artifacts. Even at eight years old, he understood the importance of what the past has to teach us about where we’ve been and where we’re going. Through experiences like these, he decided to devote his career to cultural heritage law– and as of late, trying to protect the cultural heritage of coastal communities that are rapidly disappearing due to climate change.
“Our ancestors all dealt with coastal change in a pre-industrial society,” he said. “They developed more natural methods—not concrete dams or levees– to deal with coastal change. There is a lot of info they have to teach us about sustainable strategies in this era of climate change.”
The opportunity to pursue his passion for cultural heritage law is part of what attracted Rowberry to the College of Law eight years ago. He had just finished up as a Supreme Court Fellow at the U.S. Supreme Court and was looking for his next step. The law school’s Center for the Comparative Study of Metropolitan Growth appealed to him because of its global perspective on how cities respond to an array of challenges—from infrastructure and economic issues to rising sea levels.
Since being here, Rowberry has studied coastal cultural heritage preservation in Denmark through a Fulbright Scholarship. Through that opportunity, he created the College of Law’s exchange program with Aarhus University where two Georgia State Law students go to Denmark to study E.U. and international law topics and two Danish students study aspects of U.S. law at Georgia State.
“As sea levels rise and erode the land, cultures on the coast are the most vulnerable,” he said. “In the U.S. we’re so far behind places in Europe in protecting our historic assets, it’s ridiculous. Having the opportunity to see firsthand how other countries, like Denmark, approach things is invaluable to my research and will be a benefit to our students’ legal education.”
In his new role as associate dean of academic affairs in the College of Law, he will continue to look for more opportunities to better the learning environment for students. He will be working closely with the registrar’s office to ensure that courses and exams run smoothly, as well as overseeing the dual degree and LL.M. programs. He will also continue to teach Natural Resource Law in the fall and History of the Common Law in the spring.
Even with all of the new administrative responsibilities he has on his plate, Rowberry says his favorite part of the job is teaching.
“I love teaching here,” Rowberry said. “Our students are diverse, which makes for more interesting conversations in the classroom. The other characteristic about them I love is that they aren’t entitled. We have students who are driven and want to succeed and I want to help them.”
Written by Kelundra Smith