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Alumni Profile: Matt Larson ’07

Mission Accomplished: McNair Graduate Matt Larson ’07 Completes PhD, a First for SHU-Based Program

Matt Larson
Matt Larson

Matt Larson ’07 was the first, and hopefully, not the last. The graduate of the McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program was the first Siena Heights University student to receive his doctorate since the program was instituted on the SHU campus.

Larson, who finished his dissertation and earned a PhD in criminology and criminal justice from Arizona State University last spring, is currently an assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Social Justice at St. Louis University.

“When I started at Siena I had no clue that I would go on to graduate school,” said Larson, a first-generation college student. “I was just thrilled to be pursuing my bachelor’s degree.”

In fact, Larson was perfectly content running on the track team and taking criminal justice courses until he discovered McNair, a federally funded program designed to encourage eligible students to pursue graduate studies leading to the completion of a doctoral degree.

“I found out about the McNair program at about the same time I started to fall out of love with running and in love with academics,” Larson said. “I knew at that point that graduate school was one of my options, so applying was a no-brainer.”

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From the President:

Sister Peg Albert, OP, PhD, President
Sister Peg Albert, OP, PhD, President

Success Comes in Many Forms

What’s your definition of success? In higher education, it may depend on the person whom you ask.

If you’re asking those in government, then it may be about student outcomes and the educational value that a college or university provides its students. I’m happy to report that over the summer Siena Heights was listed in several surveys that cited SHU as being a good return-on-investment. I certainly count this as a success story and reaffirms what we are doing as an institution. You can read more details about these honors in this issue.

For our students, I’m sure the answers will be all over the board. Many gauge success on what kind of grades they receive in the classroom. Others on the success of their athletic or extracurricular endeavors. Of course, we hope all of our students measure success when they are holding their diplomas in their hands!

For our faculty, staff and administration, their success is directly tied to our students’ success. It is our mission to see our students become more competent, purposeful and ethical during their time at Siena Heights. We want our students to not only become successful in their future jobs and careers—but also in their lives. Our Catholic, Dominican tradition mandates that we prepare our students to be agents of change in the world. We want them to help transform the world for good. And that’s a success story by anyone’s definition.

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Youth Movement

Willis Sowle III Begins Dominican Young Adults Chapter at SHU

Willis Sowle III ’15 is part of a youth move-
ment happening on the Siena Heights University campus.

The junior Religious Studies major from Toledo, Ohio, attended a Dominican preaching in action conference in Chicago in May 2012. Soon after that experience, he had a revelation.

“As I began to engage in campus ministry in the fall, it seemed like there was a missing piece in the faith community on campus,” Sowle said. “I came to realize that we are a Dominican university, and a vast majority of the students and faculty haven’t really embraced that idea. (This) led me to the conclusion that we need a student organization that enlightens students to the truth found in Dominican life.”

In October, Sowle helped form a chapter of the Dominican Young Adults on the Siena Heights campus. The DYA has replaced Sojourn, the campus ministry youth group that previously existed. He said the learning about the Dominican tradition and heritage has been a process.

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