People and Community University

Dominoes with the Dean

Ryan C. Holmes shares his rich history with the game of dominoes, how it helped empower him, and his hopes of creating a welcoming environment in some friendly competition with UM students.
Dean Ryan C Holmes playing Dominoes

Dean of Students Ryan C. Holmes prepares for a game of dominoes in his office. Photo: Mike Montero/University of Miami

At family gatherings, Ryan C. Holmes remembers hearing the distinctive sound of dominoes clanking against tabletops when he was a child. The Shreveport, Louisiana native says he remembers the joy and laughter the game brought to his family and wants to extend that same joy to the students that he meets at the University of Miami too.

As one may know, Miami is no stranger to a friendly match of dominoes. It’s one of the many reasons why Holmes, the associate vice president for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, has developed this unique way for students to meet with him. Dominoes helped empower Holmes and he hopes to do the same for students.

“The dominoes table was always the loudest,” said Holmes as he recalled his family gatherings. “So even as a child, you’re drawn into it. You learn how to play in my family just by learning from your mistakes. No one was giving an instructional, there were Dean of Students, Ryan C.Holmes playing dominoes in his tutorials. So in order to keep from losing, you learned how to play really, really fast. It really built my confidence.”

Fortunately, Holmes says that if a student doesn’t know how to play, he’ll gladly take the time to teach them if the game is new to them. When making the appointment to play, students can sign up for two different playing sessions: instructional or challenge. If you win, Holmes will treat his challenger to lunch on-campus.

“The instruction will cover how to assemble dominoes on the board, how to score, and might also include certain strategies,” he said. “But if you want to win and try to get a lunch out of this, yeah – it’s going to be a competitive session,” Holmes added jokingly.

In his role, Holmes oversees student conduct, Greek affairs, campus chaplains, crisis management, and student-community relations. He also coordinates support and services for veteran students and the Sandler Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Education.

Holmes said, “I guess in some ways, I can be intimidating even if it’s not what I’m trying to do. It could be the position, it could be what people think about the position. And so I understand that. I’ve always been the kind of person, that regardless of where I am, I want to be a part of the community. And I also want to be what I believe my true calling is – and that’s to be an educator.”

Creating connections on campus is vital to Holmes. Most recently, Abdiel Caballero, the president of the Federación de Estudiantes Cubanos student organization, personally invited him to participate in their annual dominoes tournament. 

Caballero said, "Dean Holmes is truly galvanizing; his passion for this university and the students is inspiring. Every time we have events, he tries to stop by, with a huge smile on his face, he makes everyone feel so welcoming."

“The fact that a student went out of his way, to ask if I could be a part of something, that’s a connection,” Holmes said. “I like to be approachable and Dominoes with the Dean is just another vehicle to do that. People can’t learn anything from you when they are afraid of you.”

To request a session to play Dominoes with the Dean, contact the Dean of Students Office at