Serving the community, traveling whenever he can and watching nature documentaries in-between, junior sociology and communication studies minor and, as of April 10, Student Government Association president 2019-2020 Michael Matrick said he wants to make a difference for students during his term.
Matrick grew up in Brandon, Miss., and attended Raymond High School. He said he had a fairly normal high school experience. He said he was extremely active in extracurricular activities. He was on the competitive swim team, in show choir and theater all four years of high school and he was also a part of student council but could not remember his position.
“I really liked my extracurriculars. That was—to me—where I got to hang out with friends and kind of relax even if we were doing some work or practice,” Matrick said. “I just liked hanging out with people and getting to know them.”
Matrick said one of his most memorable experiences in high school was senior year during their annual canned food drive that put them in a competition against neighboring schools.
“When we did our canned food drive, me and one of my good friends at the time went to one of the local grocery stores, and we sat out there all day just begging people to drop off cans,” Matrick said.
Matrick said he did not count the number of cans he and his friend ended up getting, but it was well over a thousand. He said his school won the drive.
“It was nice to see that we helped a little bit,” Matrick said. “We were able to not only gather those but help drop them off at the food pantry, and they were able to show us just how many people actually came to get food.”
Matrick said this experience was his first big wake up call that the world was bigger than just his hometown. He said this helped him to want to learn about people and their personal experiences and make connections to those people.
“That was one of those really big, impactful moments for me of like, ‘Oh wow, I’m pretty privileged, and I need to stop and think about that sometimes,’” Matrick said. “We are very good at staying in our one area, and we don’t really like to think about the whole as much, but there’s billions of people in this world, and that was one of my driving forces growing up.”
Matrick switched majors a few times when starting at Southern Miss. He started as a theater major, moved to nursing and landed on sociology, where he stayed. He said changing his major was part of the process of college life.
“I don’t know if sociology is often something people just run into college wanting to study, but over time, I learned to appreciate it and learn more from it,” Matrick said.
Matrick said in his first year, he was not very involved with the campus, and he did not really understand why because he was so active in his high school.
“In my mind, it was, ‘let’s see how this first semester goes, see how it goes and maybe do stuff later on,” Matrick said.
Matrick said he felt like something was missing, and that is when he joined Southern Style. This helped him to get involved and build friend groups.
“What got me involved [with SGA] was I kind of went out on a limb,” Matrick said. “The reason I got involved in the first place was to really try to look at what’s happen now on our campus.”
Matrick said when he was a part of the Southern Style team, he was working with incoming students, but he also wanted to help students already at Southern Miss.
“I started to get to thinking, ‘What else can I do?’ and I said, ‘Well, why not student government because you work with current students?’” Matrick said.
Matrick said he was emailed by senior communication studies major and SGA president 2018-2019 McKenna Stone, and he was ultimately given a position in cabinet as the executive director of communications.
Stone said she and Matrick met a year ago when he had an interview for a cabinet position. She said she could see his passion for Southern Miss, service, diversity and inclusion.
“He walked in and killed the interview,” Stone said. “I said, ‘This guy has got to be on my team. He is phenomenal.’”
Stone said she called around to learn about Matrick, and she only got good feedback. She said her decision to appoint as an executive director Matrick was a little unusual because he oversaw an entire branch of people as his first position in the SGA.
“Usually when people apply for cabinet for the first time, and they haven’t been in SGA yet, they start as an assistant director, co-director or director,” Stone said. “There is still a lot of responsibility in that, but they are not managing people, but I saw so much potential in him.”
“I’ve enjoyed [working in the SGA] so far. I really have, and it had its times when it has gotten really busy and very stressful because we do so much and want to try to do so much that it is hard to get a handle on things,” Matrick said.
As executive director of communications, Matrick worked closely with many students. Sophomore marketing major Halle Johnson worked with Matrick as the public relations and marketing assistant director.
“He is always so bright and friendly,” Johnson said. “With [Matrick], it feels like you’re not working. You’re always working, but he always makes it fun.
Johnson said the meeting Matrick runs are always fun and engaging, and he listens to everyone’s input.
Matrick started his SGA career in a leadership role and moved to the leader of the student body for the whole of Southern Miss and its campuses. He said leadership is not innate in someone but can be brought out. He said he values good leadership and the role leaders play in organizations.
“A leader is someone who, if everything goes wrong, they can still smile and say, ‘That’s my bad. That’s my fault,’ even if they have nothing to do with it,” Matrick said.
Matrick said he does not regret a moment of his college life.
“There is not an experience in college that I would want to change,” Matrick said. “Has everything gone my way? No! Things have happened to me that have been bad, but I still think of those as learning experiences. The only way you can have success is if you fail along the way.”