by Stewart Prest, submitted 2010
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. When Matt Hebert first enroled at Augustana, he wasn’t planning on sticking around to finish a degree. “Actually,” he says, “I planned to transfer to the University of Alberta after my first year and become a teacher.”
He did end up staying, however. By the time he graduated, he had changed his major to political studies, served a term as President of the Students’ Association, and found a future in provincial politics. Right now, he’s working as a Special Assistant to the Honourable Mary Anne Jablonski, the Alberta Minister of Seniors and Community Supports.
Matt relishes the path he’s chosen. “There’s a great sense of satisfaction in an environment like this, the opportunity to play a small role in the political process.”
Though Matt was always interested in politics, he only decided to stay at Augustana and major in it after a class with Roger Epp in his second semester. “I owe a lot to him. He challenged students to go beyond their usual way of thinking, to look at politics in a more critical manner. There were a number of professors who kept me on my toes, kept me honest, and helped me to become a better and more well-rounded individual.”
Matt’s lessons weren’t limited to the classroom, either. In 2003, he was elected Students’ Association President. “Serving as president equipped me with skills related to people management, communication, and decision-making. It wasn’t the pinnacle of political power perhaps, but it certainly prepared me for a lot of the work I do now as an assistant to a cabinet minister.”
During his term in office, Augustana completed its merger with the University of Alberta, and Matt played an active role in the process. “The provincial government was heavily involved in the merger, and as a result, I was exposed to that process. I was able to see how government business gets done.”
Eventually, it also led to his first full-time job in politics. “I had a number of conversations with Leroy Johnson, then MLA for Wetaskiwin-Camrose, during the merger process. Eventually, I convinced him to hire me as a summer student in his constituency office.”
In addition to professional connections, Matt made developed lasting friendships with other students at Augustana. “I met a lot of terrific people there, many of whom remain among my best and strongest friends.
“There’s a unique culture on campus. If you don’t want to get lost in shuffle, I think Augustana is a great environment to start off with. You feel like you’re a part of an integrated community, with the ability to contribute meaningfully. You make some great friends, and have the opportunity to discover who and where you are in the world.”
“If I had left after first year, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities and experiences, and perhaps wouldn’t be working in the field of politics, which is where I want to be.”
No, it wasn’t supposed to be this way, and Matt couldn’t be happier.