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Meet Grant Matthews, Class of 2012

Each year, as part of the College's Hooding Ceremony a student is selected to speak as part of the program. Meet this year's student speaker, Grant Matthews, and hear what made his experience at Portland State so rewarding.

Grant Matthews, Master of Public Administration '12

Why did you choose PSU for your graduate program?

I wanted the program to be challenging. PSU is known for high quality, applicable graduate programs; the MPA program is a long, comprehensive, and very intense program. I felt like my instructors pushed me to dig into the material and really expand my knowledge, my skill set, and my academic abilities.  Also, I am from the Pacific Northwest, and I wanted to attend a program in the region to be able to eventually contribute to my community.

What was your favorite course?

As I reflect on the program, the Public Policy Origins and Process stands out in my mind as an influential and memorable class. At the end of the course, I felt like I had not only gained a significant understanding of the course content, but also practiced a research and communication tool that has and will continue to serve me professionally. 

What impact do you hope to make with your degree?

I plan to use my degree to help improve the community college systems in Oregon. I believe that the Public Administration perspective combined with education theory provides an important lens for making sure the community colleges in Oregon remain strong and relevant in the changing landscape of education. I want to make certain the foundations laid today are strong and inclusive. The Public Administration degree will help me keep the perspective needed and leverage the tools necessary to help achieve this grandiose goal in a very complicated and complex arena. 

What advice would you offer a student starting the MPA program? 

I would advise new MPA students to recognize that higher education, and graduate degrees in particular are in many ways dictated by the student themselves. What this means in simple terms: you get out what you put in. The instructors and classes provide a wealth of materials and research—take full advantage of these resources! If you want something out of a class, ask; if you have questions, get answers; if you have concerns, or criticism of material and perspectives, make them known.


An excerpt from Grant's Hooding ceremony speech:

Like many of my peers, I came to the College of Urban and Public Affairs in the throes of an already busy career. I was impressed and pleased to discover how completely my experience in classes related to my challenges at work. Countless times I greedily read and discussed the class materials finding the direct application to my responsibilities or found theories that seemed to finally answer the mystery of problems yet unsolved.

As graduates from the College of Urban and Public Affairs, we are proud of the hours of reading and research that gave us better skills and understanding of the underlying implications, the inequities, and the complexities of the world and our fields. We are proud of the tools and theories that will help us make a difference, change lives, and create health, or a better city, or a policy that is truly elegant.  We now have the privilege of helping define what Mark Moore described as “public good.” We can, and will, make a difference for our communities because of what we have learned and the experiences we have gained.

Tennessee State Public Administration professor and author Richard Couto wrote about the concept of heroic agencies, or heroic institutions. For Couto, heroics were defined as giving and creating more for those marginalized or forgotten in the struggle of power. Today, as we experience economic challenges and the wonders of a changing and diversifying demographic, the need for innovation is greater than ever. With change and diversity comes a wealth of new ideas; we have an opportunity to harness the creativity in how our institutions serve the public and how we reach out to communities for collaboration and involvement. Our classes have taught us how to discover and apply new learning and ideas; we can take these skills and develop the new models, the new theories, and the new best practices of inclusion and service.