School of Education alumni spotlight: Tim Rymel (AET, ’09)

School of Education alumnus Tim Rymel’s path as an adult educator and trainer is rooted in his early career as an ordained minister, followed by years as an outreach director for a religious ministry. “I did a lot of traveling and speaking and was always watching the audience and seeing the ‘lights go on,'” says Rymel. “I was fascinated by that perspective and curious about how people learned.”

After leaving the field of ministry, Rymel moved into corporate training. He earned his B.S. in business management and spent 15 years working as a corporate trainer for Fortune 500 companies across the country. Two decades of education experience, in both religious and corporate environments, led Rymel to pursue a master’s degree. However, it was his personal experience of examining his own cognizance that led Rymel to the School of Education’s Adult Education and Training specialization at Colorado State University.

CSU ‘fit really well’

“I chose CSU because it was a fit at the time for where I was in my life,” says Rymel. “I really liked the program and that there were different disciplines of study—it fit really well with where I was and where I thought I was headed at the time.”

For Rymel, “at the time” includes a period of his life during which he grappled with his self-identity, a struggle that included questioning his upbringing, his religious education and his sexuality.

“When I was in the process of coming out—that’s where all of this culminated, where I became really interested in my own cognition,” he says. “How did I get here? Why did I think the way I did? I just kept thinking about Piaget’s method, or Erickson’s theory, where we have different levels of learning, and we can’t move on to the next level until we fix what was broken.”

Processing through these questions led Rymel to focus on cognitive learning as part of his course of study in the AET program.

“These things were running through my mind,” he explains, “and then I took the cognitive piece of that and started putting all these pieces together—how we think and how it impacts our lives on a regular basis. Part of it became very personal for me. I was just trying to figure myself out.”

Journey of self-discovery

Rymel earned his M.Ed. in 2009, and continued his journey of self-discovery. In 2012, he published his first book, Everything I Learned About Management I Learned from Having a Kindergartner, a business management book that leveraged Rymel’s cognitive learning education and experience in corporate environments to teach effective management skills.

His second book, Going Gay: My Journey from Evangelical Christian Minister to Self-acceptance, Love, Life, and Meaning, was a more personal endeavor, a reflection of his life experience. This book, Rymel says, is very different from his first.

“I’ve always been passionate about teaching and learning, and helping others grow,” says Rymel. “I think I added a new layer to that when I got more self-reflective and had to deal with my own issues. I wrote Going Gay in a way to show the cognitive changes I went through, coming from a fundamentalist Christian perspective to finding self-acceptance.”

Overall, Rymel says, his experience in the AET program gave him a stronger understanding of the power of education. His passion for understanding how people learn and how that knowledge can affect change drives him to continue researching and writing about topics related to religion, beliefs, politics and sexuality.

Life-changing program

“Education is incredibly important,” he says. “Being able to connect with people in a way that is much deeper than simply teaching them how to do something is empowering for them and helps them take charge of their own lives. That’s what I got out of CSU. I came out [of the program] with more tools than I knew what to do with; the program literally changed my life.”

This year, Rymel is slated to release his newest book, Rethinking Everything When Faith and Reality Don’t Make Sense. Additionally, he is a weekly columnist for Huffington Post and The Good Men Project. He lives in California with his spouse and two daughters.