Michael Patoka


Having completed my Masters degree at UNSW in Masters of Commerce, helping to open and establish Colombo House from our inaugural year in 2014, has always felt like being at home! As the Dean, it gives me great privilege to welcome new residents to the College and watch them on their journey through  their studies. I have kept in touch with many Alumni from the college, attended graduations and have seen how they enter their early professional careers, all of them remembering their days in Colombo with a rose coloured nostalgia that they will never forget! Over the last 6 years of looking after Colombo we have created many warm traditions and the college continues to create new and exciting initiatives through our leadership and volunteer opportunities. 

I grew up in Sydney so know the city like the back of my hand! It is a beautiful city to explore and experience for our visiting students, both local and international. I love sharing my intimate knowledge of Australia's culture and landscape with our residents and making sure they know the best places to visit in their term breaks! I work closely with our College House Committee to make sure we are delivering the best community-building, inclusive and fun activities to our residents. Colombo House pastoral care team are always there for students needing support, we all live on site and this makes it easier to discuss matters, regardless how simple or complicated they may be. 

Colombo House is my home along with my family; my wife Stephanie and our three children; Matilda, Joshua and Rosy who have all grown up living in the College and consider the college community their extended home. 

It gives me great pleasure to welcome students from all over Australia and the world through our doors. We are a young, thriving college community and are continually working hard to build our respectful and diverse culture. I hope we get the chance to meet you soon!

What is your favourite thing to cook?
Cooking is a huge part of Colombo living! I love cooking for residents and our large Paella is famous for the start and end of College year celebrations.

How do you spend your free time?
I love making the most of our beautiful beaches! I enjoy surfing and watching the sunrise at Maroubra beach, running in Centennial Park or bushwalking in and around Sydney.

What was the highlight of 2020?
My family and I were extremely lucky to have a sabbatical year in 2020, and we travelled around Australia camping in our caravan. We travelled over 40,000 km’s across our vast stunning country. A particular highlight was taking the opportunity of cooking on an open fire, especially being able to cook what we caught ourselves when we fished or caught squid, crabs or foraged for Mussels or pippies.

What music do you like?
I love a broad range of music, and you will always walk past my office with music playing in the background. My office is always open – in fact I always have chocolates or sweets for students to grab when coming by and saying g’day.

What is your favourite event in Colombo every year?
This is a tough question to answer as I love attending all our events. I would have to say O-week as it’s a fabulous time to watch all our new residents meet so many others and quickly change from nervous first time arrivals to settling into our family environment and feeling confident settling into college + University life.

What's your favourite place on-campus at UNSW?
Colombo House obviously! Our rooftop is a great place to head up, do some gardening, have a BBQ or relax and watch the world go by.

Lauren Ryznar

Deputy Dean

I have come a weird and wonderful route to become Deputy Dean here at Colombo! Believe it or not I started out my career as a self-employed Dance teacher in Scotland, having studied a Masters of Science in Dance Science and Education from Edinburgh University, and was involved with both the Royal Academy of Dance and the Scottish Qualifications Authority. 

From there I moved to South Korea to teach in an International School on the beautiful island of Jeju, where I fell into the role of Housemistress and fell in love with how rewarding I found building relationships rather than delivering subject specific knowledge. This change of direction is what led me to my role here as Deputy Dean, where I have the pleasure of assisting Dean Mike, the House Committee, and the Pastoral Team in creating a College culture which is inclusive and engaging. 


Why I feel Colombo is special...

Having only moved to Sydney just before the Covid outbreak started I have been delighted to be welcomed wholeheartedly into the community here. If you don't know where the local shop is or how the postal service works, someone is always around and willing to give you a hand.

I also genuinely think everyone can find their niche here; from boardgames to barbeques, charity walks to cultural cooking nights, Mardi Gras to movie nights - there is something going on for everyone to get involved with and to meet like-minded people. I live in Colombo with my partner, Craig, and even though we aren't students (and are a little older than most residents) we still feel included and involved in the Community.


Fun facts about me

How do you spend your free time?

My free time is spent doing things I love - reading science fiction/fantasy; attending dance classes; baking cakes and doing circus.

My favourite place to travel in the world is…

Scotland! As clichéd as it sounds there really is nowhere like home, and after being away for the duration of the pandemic I can't wait to be able to travel back to see my family. Besides, it's a beautiful country with amazing mountains, cities, castles, and beaches (once you get over the cold weather) and well worth a visit!

My hidden talent is?

I don't know if I can count it as a talent (as I'm not very good at it) but I do flying trapeze and it is such a thrill!  

Interesting fact about me

I have performed in the closing ceremonies of two Commonwealth Games - Delhi in 2010 and Glasgow in 2014.

Resident Assistants and Student Fellows

Resident Assistants (RAs) are assigned to each floor of Colombo House. They’re volunteer senior student leaders whose role is to make sure each and every student has access to any support they may need. The RA team works closely with the SF, Deputy Dean and Dean, ensuring the pastoral care of all residents is of the highest quality.

A Student Fellows (SF) is assigned every year in Colombo House. They’re a volunteer senior student whose role is to create and run a range of proactive wellbeing initiatives for the entire college. The SF works closely with the RA’s, Deputy Dean and Dean, ensuring the wellbeing of all residents is top of mind.

Colombo SF & RA