President Kelly Spotlights MSW Grad in Commencement Remarks

Monday, Jun 06, 2022
President Kelly Spotlights MSW Grad in Commencement Remarks

Matthew Patterson, BSW alumnus and Spring 2022 MSW graduate from the Sandler School of Social Work, was congratulated during President Kelly’s commencement remarks for his tenacity in overcoming his difficult past to begin a very bright future. Below is what Dani Groton, Ph.D., assistant professor of Social Work, and Donna Chamely-Wiik, Ph.D., associate dean for Undergraduate Research and Prestigious Fellowships, said in their proposal to President Kelly for why Matthew should be featured during commencement.

In December of 2018 school was the last thing on Matthew Patterson’s mind. He had dropped out of college nearly a decade prior and was homeless and struggling with substance abuse. In January of 2019, he checked into rehab, became sober, and was inspired to become a social worker, and decided to take a chance and give college one last try. He was able to utilize Florida’s homeless tuition waiver to enroll in school.

Matthew came to FAU and became connected to Champions Empowering Champions, our organization supporting students who are facing housing insecurity. There he learned about the new Office of Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (OURI) research program supporting students who experienced homelessness/foster care, and started working on an undergraduate research project under the guidance of Dr. Danielle Groton, Assistant Professor of Social Work. His research project, investigating the experiences of students attending college while homeless, won first place in its category at the OURI symposium in April 2021, and he presented his project at a national social work conference last fall. He is interested in continued research with a vulnerable population of persons experiencing homelessness. His passion for this project stems from his own lived experience and he hopes to further his own understanding of the needs and supports to students who are homeless so that educational institutions can continue to work on providing educational opportunity to students with similar experiences.

Matthew is also a co-founder of a Collegiate Recovery Community on FAU’s campus and is frequently a panelist and invited speaker at recovery events. Matthew feels his experience here has been transformative: “My time at FAU has been one of the happiest and most fruitful years of my life. I have met more amazing people than I ever imagined, and my world has become so much bigger than I ever thought it could be. Addiction is dark and lonely, and I never believed I would be accepted and supported as much as I have been here at FAU.”