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Giving, a lifelong commitment

Through his dedication to campus, Matt Lawson reveals his philanthropic spirit

Tuesday Mar 17, 2015

A philanthropic spirit is often born from early experiences. It may be one cause a person is passionate about or a powerful experience that grabs your attention and drives you to contribute for the benefit of others. It may start small, a mere interest in helping move something forward, and before you know it, it snowballs into a lifetime of giving back.

For many, a lifelong tendency toward giving back starts in college. Students like Matt Lawson, for instance, get involved with activities and organizations that will benefit their overall educational experience, and they soon learn that their involvement has larger impact than they originally had imaged. The Indiana University Northwest senior is a shining example of what one’s commitment to campus can really mean. And how one person’s involvement has the power to spur others toward action.

Lawson, 23, is the Student Government Association (SGA) president and a political science major. In his role, he brings the concerns of students to the attention of the administration by serving on committees, such as the IU Northwest Council, and representing the All University Student Association (AUSA) at IU’s Board of Trustees meetings.             

“Students are the lifeblood of the University. We are the reason everyone is here and so it’s important for our voices to be heard,” Lawson said. “And, the administration wants that representation. We all have to be more proactive in actually doing that.”

It takes a student like Lawson to lead that charge. Not only to fill the student seats at the meetings, but to illustrate why their role matters and how it is actually an effective means of improving the college experience for all students. Even more than that, Lawson’s example, and those of other student leaders, serve another, bigger purpose, and that is to inspire others to become involved in campus activities.

There is hard proof that Lawson’s personal involvement is contagious. In the three years that Lawson has been at IU Northwest, and involved in the SGA, the group has grown from four to nine members and has a much larger presence on campus. SGA members are at the forefront of demonstrating to students, and everyone with a stake in the campus, how their involvement makes for a thriving campus life and a personalized educational experience.

“When people see that students are involved in giving back to their campus and contributing to an active, involved community of students, they tend to see the value in their contributions and want to contribute themselves,” Lawson said.

A recent example, Lawson said, was when students rallied together during Philanthropy Week – delivering coffee, writing thank-you notes, showcasing the ways in which students’ lives are impacted – all in an effort to spread awareness of what gifts to IU Northwest accomplish.

Students, although they are among those who need support the most, are certainly among the University’s biggest givers of time and talent. Through their involvement, they share valuable skills and insight from their diverse experiences that help others immeasurably. At the same time, their future philanthropic decisions come into sharper focus, shaped by their personal experiences as students.

A first-generation college student, Lawson said he fell into the category of students who couldn’t rely on wealth or exemplary academic achievement to have his schooling paid for. As someone who is paying for school without the help of scholarships, he knows that there will never be enough scholarship assistance to go around, but that the impact is significant for those who do receive it.

“A lot of people miss out on college for monetary reasons,” Lawson said. “The people in the middle are those with extenuating circumstances and (scholarships) make it easier to bear that burden.”

In the future, Lawson says his philanthropic efforts will focus on assisting students much like himself through scholarships.

“I definitely won’t forget IU Northwest and its influence on me,” Lawson said. “I know that once I do become prosperous, I’ll be back. And, I’ll give in a variety of ways.”

Lawson has also been on the receiving end of others’ time and talent, from the professors who have given him extra time to the administrators who have counseled him toward his own growth as a leader and professional. Thanks to them, he feels ready to tackle law school and pursue his aspirations of public service as a future Congressman.

IU Northwest has afforded him the opportunity to fully tap into his potential. He describes himself as a typical student who has grown into a leader and professional.

“Being involved not only prepares you for the real world but it will also help you academically,” Lawson said. “I attribute the improvement in my academics to being involved here on campus. Some students think that you can just come to school, get a degree and get a good job, and that’s not how it works. That is something that I have learned about being involved on campus.”

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