2013 College of Business Labor & Employment Studies Undergraduate Honoree Matthew Miller
News + Events : 2013 College of Business Labor & Employment Studies Undergraduate Honoree Matthew Miller
The College of Business congratulates and extends best wishes to each of the ten undergraduate honorees of the graduating Class of 2013.
Each year the department's top performers are selected by the college's academic departments from its graduating seniors.
2013 College of Business Labor & Employment Studies Undergraduate Honoree
Pursuing a college diploma has been my life-long dream. As determined as I was 20 years ago, I was unable to achieve this goal. After being admitted to California State University at San Bernardino, my girlfriend became pregnant and I had to drop out of college to support our child.
Growing up, I did not know my own father, so it was extremely important to me to create a stable environment for my family. I went to work. Unlike many other single fathers, my daughter lived with me. Working and raising a child on your own with little financial help or family support is a humbling experience. No matter how hard it gets, you cannot quit that job.
I dreamt of a job that was intellectually stimulating and emotionally satisfying. Although I earned a steady income, the work was not a career. The closest I came to satisfaction was working as a labor compliance investigator for a nonprofit in Southern California. After 10 years as a union laborer, I was able to help others receive the types of rights that I had enjoyed for many years as a white male in the U.S.—rights they equally deserved, regardless of their race, gender or country of origin.
I always wanted to return to college. When my daughter entered high school six years ago, I saw an opportunity to return. Talking to her about the importance of college when I, myself, did not have a degree felt hypocritical. I wanted to prove my own commitment to higher education. Although I knew it would take time to complete my baccalaureate, I started taking a night class at Riverside Community College.
What I find interesting about returning to college is that, with all my experience, I know what I want to be when I grow up. My current major is quite different from the one I chose 22 years ago. As a curious young man I entered college to major in psychology. And today, I am graduating with a major in labor and employment studies. I have even been fortunate to be offered a permanent position with the Carpenters’ Union in labor compliance upon graduation. In this capacity I will put the skills and knowledge I gained at San Francisco State University to help working people again.
I did not know what to expect as a nontraditional full time student at SF State, but my goal was to put the same effort into my education as I put into my work. I was awarded several University scholarships, as well as the Bernard Osher Reentry Scholarship. Receiving money to help with school affirmed my belief I had made the right decision.
In my first semester, I was fortunate to take a GWAR course where I learned valuable research and writing skills. I was not a natural when it came to these skills, but after many revisions and hard work, I entered my final paper for the class into the David Selvin Student Essay contest and won first prize for undergraduates.
Because I improved my writing skills so much, I was able to begin an internship with The Alliance for Labor Standards Enforcement and Training. Run by two prominent women labor and employment lawyers, this educational website helps working people understand workplace rights, and enforces them when necessary. In this capacity I wrote tutorials in both public works investigation and enforcement.
As an SF State student I have been able to put my education first. Education is not like a job that you leave when your shift is over. You can always do more to improve a paper or study for a class. I did not want to miss the opportunity to see what I was capable of after having dropped out 22 years ago. While there are many opportunities for distraction—when friends are out for the night, or making weekend plans—I always stayed true to my goals. The ideals that made me a good and dedicated father made me the successful student who will graduate and fulfill a dream today. I have…had the honor of earning a position on the Dean’s list for three consecutive semesters. I will always look back on my experience here as an example of how to pursue my future endeavors with the same level of dedication and enthusiasm.