October 2, 2011
A passion for culture, arts and politics has allowed Matthew Sellers to experience some of UGA’s more fascinating programs, including the Honors Program, the Roosevelt Institute, CURO, studies abroad and more.
BA in English
University highlights, achievements and awards:
I knew I wanted to study literature after my CURO Summer Fellowship. I spent the summer of 2009 reading poetry by Robert Penn Warren and evaluating Warren’s spirituality and poetics under the direction of Dr. Hugh Ruppersburg. That work led to my honors thesis, which examined representations of populism in Warren’s novels. I was honored to receive the Virginia Walter Award in recognition for my studies in English last May.
In addition to my studies, I have been involved with the Roosevelt Institute, a student-run, nonpartisan think tank, as Domestic Policy Center director and now as a teaching assistant for the Roosevelt Scholars Course. It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my undergraduate career. Roosevelt aims to tackle the nation’s most pressing problems by empowering students to write and advocate for progressive policy. I will always remember traveling to coastal Alabama with fellow Roosevelters to research and write policies about the Deepwater Horizon oil crisis. I am always amazed by the passionate students I have met through Roosevelt and their commitment to making an impact in their communities. In addition to my involvement with the Roosevelt Institute, I am the operations manager of JURO, UGA’s undergraduate research journal. I love having the opportunity to read about all the outstanding research being done by undergraduates across campus.
The interest I developed in public policy through the Roosevelt Institute led me to spend the past two summers in Washington, DC, as an intern. In summer 2010, I was an Honors in Washington intern with the National Association of Counties. This past summer, I worked at the U.S. Department of Education on a new program called the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, which aims to encourage sustainability and environmental education.
Since my freshman year, I have also served as a volunteer at AIDS Athens, a nonprofit organization serving northeast Georgians living with HIV/AIDS. Athens is a wonderful place to live, and I have appreciated the opportunity to engage with the community through that work.
As a Mid-Term Foundation Fellow, I’ve been privileged to have amazing international travel opportunities. I’ve been to Italy, France, India, Tanzania and the United Kingdom during my time here. While all of the trips were unique, studying at Oxford through the UGA in Oxford program was one of the most exciting opportunities I’ve had. The program’s demanding coursework pushed me to become a better writer and student of literature.
Perry High School
Family Ties to UGA:
I am the first in my family to attend UGA. Both of my parents attended the University of South Alabama in Mobile, but they were quick converts to the Bulldog nation when I decided to become a dawg.
I chose to attend UGA because...
I wanted a small community for my undergraduate education, but I also wanted a large, diverse institution. The Honors Program provides a wonderful opportunity to meet passionate, committed students; and UGA offers a broad range of programs, engaging faculty and great support for undergraduate research.
My favorite things to do on campus are...
...attend the myriad of interesting events and lectures put on by the English department and the Honors Program. I have attended several readings by authors and poets in my time at UGA, including Junot Diaz, Janisse Ray and Eileen Myles, and I’m always fascinated to hear what they have to say about politics, culture and art. One of the most memorable lectures I attended was by Elinor Ostrom, the first female winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics.
When I have free time, I like...
...to see films at Ciné or use one of the piano practice rooms in the School of Music. I wish had more time to do both!
The craziest thing I've done is...
...travel to Bagamoyo, Tanzania to teach English at a primary school with my best friend. We just packed up and took a bus to the village! We planned the trip ourselves, and there was support for us when we arrived. I have so many memories of the trip—swimming in the Indian Ocean, eating traditional Tanzanian food with my host family and chasing my students through markets when they ran away from me.
My favorite place to study is...
...the seventh floor of the Main Library. I get too distracted in coffee shops and stir crazy at home, so I like the quiet of the library. When I have a paper due, I make frequent use of an out-of-the-way desk with a view of campus.
My favorite professor is...
...Dr. Hugh Ruppersburg. He’s currently interim dean of the Franklin College, but even with his demanding schedule he’s always made time to meet with me to discuss my academic and personal endeavors. I think this testifies to his deep commitment to mentoring students, and I am so fortunate to have had his guidance for my thesis. His incisive comments push my work to a new level.
I have also had many wonderful faculty mentors. Dr. Barbara McCaskill taught me my first graduate course, which was a survey of multicultural American immigrant women writers. Her scholarly work on the civil rights movement taught me the importance of service in an academic career and in life. Dr. Susan Rosenbaum, Dr. Bob Hill and Dr. Pamela Kleiber have all also been instrumental in my development as a student and leader.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with...
I would love to share it with Virginia Woolf. As part of the Bloomsbury group and one of the leading figures of modernism, she fundamentally changed the way we read literature. I would love to hear her take on the artistic process and the role literature should play in shaping societies. She also interacted with some of the greatest minds of the twentieth century—including T.S. Eliot and Roger Fry—and I would be interested to hear her describe the British literary scene in the early 20th century.
If I knew I could not fail, I would...
...write the next great American novel. I’ve dedicated so much of my undergraduate career to studying works of literature, and I more and more want to contribute my voice to the body of literature we study.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be...
...seeing the Taj Mahal at dawn. The group I was with woke up earlier than necessary because our guide wanted us to be the first inside. Since there weren’t many people inside yet, the reflecting pool was completely still, and the compound was silent. Seeing the marble change from rosy pink to brilliant white as the sun rose was breathtaking; and the opportunity to reflect on the enduring power of Shah Jahan’s love for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, was a surreal experience.