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BA Economics and Political Science, 2015
Matthew Sebastiani was awarded the 2014 Glenn Berg Super-Duper Chosen Few award for his commitment to community service and his dedication to his studies while enduring health challenges. Glenn Berg is an SFU Economics Honours Alumnus who understands the challenges of working while being a full-time student. Matthew‘s perseverance, academic success and positive attitude make him a well-deserved choice for this new award.
Matthew’s interest in politics started when he was only 12 years old. Matthew volunteered to help Richard Stewart, (now Mayor of Coquitlam), on his provincial campaign. This experience sparked a passion for politics. As of 2014, Matthew has volunteered on eight different campaigns at all levels of government. Helping with campaigns at the municipal, provincial, and federal level gave Matthew a perspective on the policy issues at each level of government.
Matthew has worked on many parts of a political campaign, but he especially enjoys canvassing and connecting with voters. As he puts it in simplest terms, "Canvassing is meeting voters on their doorstep and asking them questions". Creating a connection from campaign to community is satisfying and this added layer of gathering information about voters fascinates Matthew.
Matthew has also leveraged his campaign experience to work in political offices. In the summer of 2012, he was an intern at the Vancouver Minister’s Regional Office (of the federal government) working with the Honourable Minister James Moore, who was the Minster of Canadian Heritage. In July 2013, he became the Regional Assistant to Senator Yonah Martin, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate. Matthew continued in this role on a contract while continuing to pursue his degree. Matthew’s duties included coordinating all of Senator Martin’s BC meetings and events, communicating with local constituents, preparing briefing notes, and researching and analyzing issues or concerns.
While Matthew was making a difference in his community, he was also achieving top marks as an SFU Economics Honours student with a minor in Political Science. He decided to study economics because of its versatility. His ability to think critically and to analyze policy has helped Matthew with his positions in political offices. Studying Economics has helped him achieve his long term goal of entering politics by developing his work ethic while giving him the tools to understand policy.
Matthew’s most memorable moments at SFU were writing his capstone papers in ECON 448W, Seminar in the Economics of Crime with Professor Stephen Easton, and ECON 499 Honours Seminar in Economics with Professor Doug Allen. In ECON 448W Matthew chose to write a paper on capital punishment in America. In order to complete his paper, Matthew wanted to analyze data from the American government. He even wrote to the FBI asking for data from 1960 to 2010, which they sent to him. Matthew was surprised that the FBI mailed the data he requested a week within his request. In Econ 499, Matthew liked the individually and flexibility of the course which allowed for original research. Matthew researched how partisanship among senators in federal upper chambers of Australia, Canada and the United States are affected by the varying institutional constraints Senators have from voting with the majority of their party caucus. These course experiences, coupled with the mentorship that Professor Easton and Professor Allen provided, helped Matthew develop academic writing skills while understanding the benefits of persistence.
Matthew’s academic and professional achievements prove that he is a hard working individual. His success is even more outstanding when Matthew shares his health challenges. In 2011 Matthew was diagnosed with a chronic illness, ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease. While the illness is ongoing, it is often aggravated by stress - something any typical university student trying to juggle exams, part-time work, and extracurricular activities, would experience.
After Matthew was diagnosed, he recognized that his health was his biggest struggle through university. In addition to this diagnosis, in November 2012 and again in January 2013, Matthew suffered two separate, spontaneous lung collapses. Matthew had to have an emergency surgery when his lung collapsed the second time. After his hospital stay in 2013, he still managed to complete a full course load that semester, and achieved excellent grades.
In the wake of these challenges, Matthew has grown to appreciate his education. He believes that learning should be cherished and advises students to “enjoy every day at SFU”. As he has done in ECON 448W, Econ 499, and various other courses, Matthew has gotten to know his professors. He believes that these interactions have helped him develop a network and encourages other students to reach out to their professors.
Matthew graduated (BA Honours with Distinction) from SFU in Spring 2015. He was offered admission to UBC’s Masters of Economics Program, but decided to accept a job opportunity immediately after graduating instead. In May 2015 Matthew left Vancouver to work in Ottawa on Parliament Hill as Special Assistant to Senator Martin where his duties range from policy to communication work. Matthew continues to have his eyes set on working in a government role as a long term goal and will consider further education in the near future. Matthew has proven that he is able to achieve his goals during his time at SFU, and will continue to succeed in his future plans.