Gustie of the Week: Matthew Swenson

Empowering men to have healthy relationships and friends to rely on.

Matthew Swenson, co- president of M-Pact, strives to create gender equality and healthy communication between both men and women to expel stereotypes about men. His role in the group has allowed him to strengthen and deepen the work of M-Pact.

“It will succeed and flourish with the care Matthew brings to it,” Director of Vocation and Integrative Learning in the Center for Servant-Leadership (CSL) Chris Johnson said.

“[M-Pact] is a group focused on mentoring men in three main areas: first, trying to get men involved in meaningful activities. [Second, to] create a space for guys to come together to talk about pressures they feel. Trying to recognize and encourage men to find value in meaningful relationships,” Matthew said. “We stand up against any ways that men tend to abuse power; any injustices driven by men.”

M-Pact was involved in organizing the Jackson Katz lecture, Men Can Stop Rape and the White Ribbon campaign, which pledges to neither commit, condone nor remain silent against violence toward women. It challenges men to look at their own actions and how men have privilege. Matthew believes that there are changes everyone can make, and that is part of the driving force behind M-Pact.

In 2008, Matthew joined M-Pact and was soon asked to commit to a larger role by planning the Men’s Leadership retreat. He planned the second and third annual retreat that includes men across all spectrums on campus. The participation of older mentors allows men to have a safe space to talk about pressures, privileges and vocation in their lives. Matthew himself plans on returning as an alumnus to participate.

“[It] create[s] a space for men to come together to talk about these important issues that men don’t usually talk about,” Matthew said.

Matthew asked, his now fiancée, Kelly to marry him in the Arboretum. Note his wet knee from kneeling. Submitted.

Although the group does deal with mens’ issues, Matthew stresses that it is not just men that need to have this conversation.

“We’re trying to be clear with our language that it’s not a men’s group, it’s a group focused on mentoring men,” he said. Having female members is an advantage as they are able to bring different perspectives to the group, and they often collaborate with the Womyn’s Awareness Center. “It’s not exclusive to men,” he said.

For Matthew, M-Pact has allowed him to develop leadership and public speaking skills.

“It’s extremely fulfilling,” Matthew said. “For me, it’s been a process of figuring out what I valued and cutting back on the things that didn’t really fit the best with who I was and what I’m passionate for.”

“M-Pact is kind of his baby … he really wants to see it take off,” M-Pact Co-President Josh Connell said. Matthew has put in a lot of hours to get M-Pact where it currently is, but he doesn’t take the credit.

“He’s really humble about everything he does,” Connell said, a sentiment echoed by others. He appreciates any contribution, no matter how small.

“He serves as an example of what a leader can be like. He’s been raising the standards of what it means to be a leader,” Connell said.

Through M-Pact, Matthew reaches out to people that aren’t as engaged with extracurricular life at Gustavus.

“Trying to get men to take a step, take a risk, into that world [of extracurricular activities],” he said. “It’s a constant experiment of figuring out new ways to reach people.”

Learning about his own strengths as an individual and leader has allowed him to better communicate and work with others.

In Matthew’s future lies work as an Actuarial Analyst and a summer 2013 wedding. Matthew’s wedding will take place at Gustavus, the place that has largely shaped in his life. Part of his experience at Gustavus was meeting his future fiancée in his Greeter group.

While in the Dive, a card game paired Matthew and Kelly together as Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. They then had a conversation that continued long after the initial one.

“He was one of the first people I had a one-on-one conversation with,” Senior Kelly Maloney said.

A walk through the Linneaus Arboretum last January soon turned into something memorable when Matthew hit the button to light up collaged photo letters spelling out “Marry Me?”

Putting it simply, “It was a cool night,” he said.

The care that Matthew gives to his fiancée extends to the community of Gustavus and his friends. He strives to push people to their highest potential. Johnson says that Matthew aims to empower and equip people to make a difference in the world.

“He helps the people around him … [realize that] their contributions are valuable,” Johnson said.

“He’s really behind what M-Pact is for,” Maloney said.

Matthew invests in relationships wholeheartedly, wanting to make a difference in the world.

“He help[s] people attain balance in their lives,” Connell said. “He really wants to see everyone succeed as much as they can.”

“He wants to show people that they are appreciated,” Maloney said.

Through M-Pact, Matthew helps provide a place for discourse. Working with M-Pact has given him significant experience with people, a leadership role and time for reflection.

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