Activities: Humanities Department Graduation Speaker, Residence Life (Resident Assistant Clothier Hall and Brett Hall), Aresty Research (grant for three-year individualized research project), Scarlet Ambassador for four years, Study Abroad in Florence, Italy, Greek Life (Theta Delta Chi Fraternity), Phi Beta Kappa, Order of Omega
What attracted you to Rutgers University and the Honors/Scholars Program?
The quality of the program and the diversity of the university and people with whom I would be learning. The Honors Program Accepted Students Day was helpful in my decision to choose Rutgers over other universities.
Why did you choose your major and minor?
I followed my interests and passions, which led me to those fields. I generally think you should follow your passions, as it usually works out for the best!
Tell us a little bit about what you're doing now. What was your first job after Rutgers? Where do you live?
I currently work at PageFair, an AdTech startup in Dublin, Ireland that is helping website owners and publishers survive the rise of adblock software and sustain the free internet. I am one of the earliest hires at the company and head Communications and Product Design.
My first job after Rutgers as a teacher with Teach for America was also my most important; it was foundational in my professional trajectory and allowed me to work with and learn from high-performing, like-minded professionals to help our students learn and achieve their goals. I taught reading fundamentals to struggling readers at Miami Northwestern Senior High School in Miami, Florida. At the same time also completed a M.S.Ed. in Education and Social Change from the University of Miami so that I could understand how to become a better teacher and affect change within the United States' system of education.
My experience as a teacher and within Teach for America helped me to understand and shape a career trajectory in EdTech, and I have spent the time since developing the skills that I feel will help me be successful in that field. I was fortunate to win a Henry Luce fellowship, which brought me to Taipei, Taiwan where I worked at a ASUSTeK, a prominent Taiwanese technology hardware company, and studied Mandarin Chinese. I next won a George Mitchell Scholarship in order to pursue a M.Sc. in Creative Digital Media from the Dublin Institute of Technology and learn how to design and develop new technology.
What has been your greatest professional and/or personal accomplishment since you graduated Rutgers?
Helping my students become stronger readers so that they could graduate from high school and move closer to their life goals. Watching my kids walk across the graduation stage last year was one of the proudest moments of my life.
Was there a class and/or experience at Rutgers that led you to pursuing your current career?
The mentorship and life guidance from my long-term research and thesis advisors, Dr. Jenny Mandelbaum and Dr. Barry Qualls. They helped me navigate challenges both at Rutgers and also in my personal life, and through their guidance I tried to make values-based decisions. I don’t know what my Rutgers experience would have been like without their mentorship and friendship. Additionally, the ongoing and support from Dr. Art Casciato of the Department of Distinguished Fellowships and Grants, who supported me in applying for the Luce, Mitchell, and several other fellowships. Art is a caring and passionate person who has changed the lives of many Rutgers students, including myself. He is the man (Art, you’re the man). These three people have made an immeasurable impact in my life and are three of the best that Rutgers University has to offer.
What three words describe your experience at Rutgers and the Honors/Scholars Program?
Interdisciplinary. Terrific. Engaged
How has your Rutgers and Honors education benefited you in your post-Rutgers life?
My entire career has been built on the educational experience that I received at Rutgers, and the Honors Program was a big part of that. It was a school within the larger University where I could cut through red tape and get things done. I had competent and caring deans, professors, and employees looking out for me, and a community of friends who are still very much a part of my life. Viva Brett Hall.
What advice do you have for our current SAS Honors Program students?
Get involved! Be part of it all. Choose an interesting and creative research project, write a funding proposal, and go do it. Make sure you study abroad too.
For more information about this Honors alum, visit: www.matthewcortland.com