Matthew Gaston was homeschooled the majority of his life… which explains the majority of social and physical drawbacks. Being homeschooled did have its benefits though, most notably having the opportunity to spend the majority of his days outside playing in the woods, along with building and destroying a variety of things, and being able to call that ‘school work’. If the conditions outside were not favorable then Lego construction became ‘school’. It was through these experiences that he determined that building things was fun and being outside was the best location to spend time. He also liked history and geography but who wants to do that when you can be outside?
Like all 8 year-olds, he determined that it was time to find out what he was going to do with the rest of his life. He proceeded to ask his mother, "What profession designs things and gets to be outside?" To which she answered ‘civil engineering.’ This one statement was used to decide his future career. Over the following years life was filled with various sports and entrepreneurial ventures, most notably an Epic Landscaping company, but the end goal of civil engineering was never lost. It was also during this time period when travelling was determined to be a good time, and a much more enjoyable form of learning compared to reading about the same thing in a book. While getting his A.S. he figured that understanding what civil engineers actually do would be good before totally committing to the profession. With this in mind, he began an internship at a local firm that would greatly influence his future plans.
After interning for four months he figured that working full time would be pretty cool. So after getting his A.S. he took a year off to determine what exactly is fun and not fun in civil engineering. His assessment revealed that while there were many valuable and interesting aspects of all the divisions of Civil Engineering, Environmental Engineering was the most appealing. Most importantly, though, is he learned that working in developing countries was fun and rewarding (and you got to be outside). After the year of full time work was complete Matthew enrolled at UNC Charlotte to once, and for all, become a Civil Engineer.
While at UNC Charlotte he noticed that most of the student engineering organizations were in need of some energy and organization. After numerous failed attempts to try and convince his colleagues to make them slightly better, it was understood that he would actually have to do something. Over his last two years, most of his time was dedicated to meetings and events for EWB, AWWA/WEF and ASCE. It was in the middle of this exciting time, while working for another engineering firm, the summer before his senior year, that he realized the majority of civil engineers just sit in meetings or in front of a computer for most of their life. Understanding that going outside was a good 10% of their job was a depressing realization, so he asked, ‘Do I want to do this?’ The answer, of course, was no.
What was to be done now, then? Naturally, Google was consulted first. He came across this program at USF. After finding the program, he asked his advisor if she knew anything about the program. Little did Matthew know that she knew Dr. Mihelcic and already had a student come down to the program. After hearing about how great the program was for a good hour it was determined that USF would be the next step in his quest for academic knowledge and understanding.
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