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Employee Spotlight

Instituting Religion

At the corner of Lindsey Street and Elm Avenue in Norman, Oklahoma, sits an institute of religion building. University of Oklahoma undergraduate Travis Ruddle had seen the building often but hardly acknowledged it. In summer 2009, Ruddle diverted from his normal walk across campus and entered the inconspicuous one-story building. Inside, Ruddle found a new life and a new path that would one day lead to teaching in the MPA program at the BYU Marriott School of Business.

Photo of man sitting in a chair in an office
Travis Ruddle is an assistant professor in the MPA program.

Raised in a Methodist home in rural Oklahoma, Ruddle knew little about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints growing up. His first introduction to the Church came as a 12-year-old when his family traveled to southwest Missouri to go through his grandparent’s things after his grandfather’s death. On a dusty bookshelf, Ruddle found a copy of the Book of Mormon.

“I was fascinated by the book because it looked like scripture,” Ruddle says. “When I picked up that blue book, it felt like I should know about it. When I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. Something about it spoke to my 12-year-old mind.”

Ruddle remained active in his Methodist congregation, but he kept a copy of the Book of Mormon in his backpack everywhere he went. It wasn’t until early in his freshman year of college that his unplanned visit to the institute building provided opportunity for further study.

“I was supposed to be going to class, but instead I just walked right into the institute building,” Ruddle says. “I had no game plan to do so, and I had no blueprint in my mind about what to do next—I just walked in.”

Institute leaders and students immediately embraced Ruddle, even helping him enroll in a Doctrine and Covenants class. A few months and some long-needed missionary lessons later, Ruddle was baptized.

Ruddle went on to earn three degrees from the University of Oklahoma: a bachelor’s degree in political science, a master’s degree in public administration, and a doctoral degree in political science. During his PhD program, Ruddle worked as a graduate teaching assistant and also received a prestigious Boren fellowship. Ruddle’s research is focused on unethical behavior and organizational reputation in the nonprofit sector.

After graduating with his PhD in early 2022, Ruddle made the jump to BYU Marriott, where his faith aligns with his work more than ever. He now works with the Romney Institute of Public Service and Ethics as an assistant professor in the MPA program. He teaches courses on local government, nonprofit organizations, and ethical behavior.

Ruddle’s research and teaching on organizational ethics align with BYU Marriott’s mission to develop leaders of faith and character by giving students the practical tools necessary to promote ethical leadership. “The Savior is the perfect example of ethical behavior,” Ruddle says. “We should look to institutions that are guided by His teachings as leaders on this issue.”

A self-described “Okie,” Ruddle comes from a family of public servants. His grandfather served as an attorney for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, while other family members worked in education and the military. Those examples provided Ruddle a natural path to public service, though he admits he gravitated more toward the academic side.

At BYU Marriott, Ruddle also serves as the advisor for the local chapter of the International City/County Management Association. In this position, Ruddle builds connections between students and local government officials, creating opportunities for students to work on real projects with local municipalities.

Beyond his professional pursuits, Ruddle finds his new role personally affirming as well. Ruddle says that BYU’s mission gives him a sense of belonging that allows him to be his full self. “When I incorporate religion into what I do, I feel like the most natural version of myself,” Ruddle says. “I am my most authentic self at BYU Marriott.”

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Written by Alec Pope