Every Gustie has a unique story that explains how they ended up making Gustavus Adolphus College their home for four years. For Pennsylvania native and 2010 alumnus Matt Wood, that story started at a national youth convention in Atlanta when he spotted a Gustavus t-shirt in the crowd.
“It was a great marketing campaign by Gustavus. A few years later I found myself on a recruiting visit for swimming and fell in love with the community,” he said.
While it was difficult to leave family and friends from the northeast, Wood – an economics and management major – quickly discovered that making friends and connections at Gustavus was seamless. He met many people through his involvement in Big Partner Little Partner, rugby, and swimming. He was also the president of the Phi Alpha fraternity, a group leader for Habitat for Humanity, and a Gustavus Technology Services consultant during his four years.
“I was able to make relationships with a wide spectrum of incredible people that inspired me to follow my heart and to fulfill my goal of becoming a Peace Corps volunteer,” Wood said.
Wood met many faculty members and classmates who helped steer him in the right direction while at Gustavus.
“I had a life changing j-term experience in South Africa and Namibia with John Clementson,” Wood said. “I was able to understand the importance of social responsibility and learn first-hand experiences about foreign cultures. This experience ignited my flame to work abroad.”
Jon Carlson, the men’s and women’s swimming and diving coach was also an influential figure during Wood’s four years at Gustavus.
“Coach Carlson played an instrumental role in helping me obtain an internship at Mutual of Omaha that later helped me become accepted to the Peace Corps,” Wood said.
While involved in Habitat for Humanity, Wood was also influenced by Dave Newell, the Assistant Director for Community-Based Service and Learning in the College’s Center for Servant Leadership.
“Dave and I would always talk about future career plans together,” Wood said. “All three of these staff members have strong values and served as mentors for me during my tenure at Gustavus.”
After earning his bachelor’s degree at Gustavus, Wood moved to San Carlos, Rio San Juan in Nicaragua where he has served in the Peace Corps since May 2011. He will finish his two-year stint with the organization this July.
Primarily training teachers in entrepreneurship, Wood coordinates teacher workshops for those at the equivalent of high school seniors throughout the school year along with planning and co-teaching directly with five other teachers. The workshops train individuals for the annual business plan competitions at the local, regional, and national levels in Nicaragua.
“I have helped in the orchestration of the national entrepreneurship competition and convention for the top 100 student entrepreneurs in the country,” Wood said.
In addition to the training, Wood designs and implements numerous business workshops to improve management for business owners. The themes taught include customer service, analyzing your business, marketing, general finances, and creativity in the workplace.
Wood is also working with Self Help International, a microfinance organization, by designing and implementing a curriculum to assist women’s groups in expanding their business knowledge and improving their economic status.
Throughout his time in Nicaragua, Wood has not only gained valuable career experience, but he has also expanded his knowledge in the Spanish language “All the work has been done in Spanish. It has been a very exciting ride,” he said.
Wood’s plans after returning to the U.S. this summer include completing his master’s degree in international business or international development.
To find out more about Wood’s entrepreneurship organization, check out the Emprendedurismo Facebook page at facebook.com/emprendedurismonicaragua.