Chats with Matt #3

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By: Christian Sarna

This week, President Matthew Wilson discussed his new Together We Soar scholarship, what experiences led him to focus on student involvement and his dream convocation speaker.

What is the Together We Soar scholarship?

As part of his recent presidential installation, Wilson announced his new Together We Soar scholarship. According to Wilson, this scholarship is a way to recognize more students for the challenges they have overcome on the paths to their education.

“A big part of what we wanted to do was highlight student experiences at Missouri Western,” Wilson said. “I truly think that the experience that you can have here on our campus can be magical.”

Twenty students who submit a brief essay about their Missouri Western experience will be invited to dinner at Wilson’s home. One of the 20 students will be chosen to receive a $1,000 scholarship. According to Wilson, however, more than one student might have the opportunity to receive a small scholarship based on community support.

“I had a couple of people come up and say, ‘Well, why don’t we do more than one scholarship, donate a little bit more money?’” Wilson said. “Among the 20, it may turn into a couple of scholarships as opposed to one.” 

Why are you so involved?

As students old and new learn more about Wilson, many have questioned the extent of his student-first approach. According to Wilson, his focus on student life is largely a result of experiences he had as a student himself. He attended large schools for both his undergraduate and law school and enjoyed the experience, but something was missing.

“I never felt connected, oftentimes I felt like I was just a number,” Wilson said. “I never felt lost, but I never really felt welcome.” After a semester abroad in Japan with a professor who was very involved with her students, Wilson realized his passion for student engagement. 

Wilson immediately told his professor he wanted her job whenever she left the position. She called him three years later after being offered a position she couldn’t refuse. Wilson was chosen for the teaching position and began his career in higher education. He said that moving from teaching to a presidential role might seem daunting in terms of connecting with individual students, but he had always found a way to make it work.

“I saw how the students responded to me being engaged and saw how I could make an impact on their lives on a personal note,” Wilson said. “You can do it on any scale if you care enough.” 

Who is your dream convocation speaker?

Hours after his first convocation, Wilson said that he was already thinking about future speakers who could make an impact on students. He said that one name at the forefront of his mind was Michael Morell. 

Morell served as George W. Bush’s daily intelligence briefer during the 9/11 terrorist attacks and as deputy director of the C.I.A. during part of the Obama administration. Wilson had the chance to hear Morell speak at the University of Akron during Wilson’s presidency and appreciated his insights.

“When you have the opportunity to listen to someone who has overcome various challenges that we all have, they’ve gone out and made their mark on the world,” Wilson said. “There’s so much you can learn from the stories and experiences of that individual.”

Wilson said that he encouraged students to take opportunities to learn from others and that he was looking for more creative ways to bring insightful speakers to campus.

Have a question, comment or concern for President Wilson? You can submit them directly to his office at missouriwestern.edu/wilson/feedback-form. According to Wilson, he views every submission personally. For a chance to have your questions answered in the newspaper, send a direct message to @Sarna_GN on Twitter, a message to The Griffon News on Facebook or email thegriffonnews@gmail.com.