Matthew Winston

By: jackiereedy

Jan 28 2010

Category: Uncategorized

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Aperture:f/4.5
Focal Length:28mm
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Shutter:1/125 sec
Camera:Canon EOS 30D

Matt Winston, the assistant to President Michael F. Adams at the University of Georgia, poses in his office on Friday, Nov. 13, 2009 in Athens, Ga.

Matt Winston: Assistant to the President
By Jackie Reedy

Matt Winston sits in his office chair perpendicular to Katie Barlow, the president of the University of Georgia student government association. He presses his fingertips together making a pyramid with his hands and listens intently to Barlow’s every word concerning game day trash, budget cuts and the H1N1 pandemic hitting the campus. The white of Winston’s eyes stands out. He wears a blue and red wristlet his son gave him that says, “Losing is not at option.” Winston looks alert and sharp in his blue dress shirt, brown and blue patterned tie and brown pants, light reflecting off his shiny bald head.

“The president will be talking strategies about trash today,” Winston assures Barlow. “And I will be sitting in on those meetings ready to contribute.”

Barlow nods and asks how she should approach Dr. Rodney Bennett, the vice president for student affairs and dean of students, at lunch that afternoon.

Winston leans back in his chair and explains the university policies that will come into play. He says he already “planted a seed” with the vice president and suggests Barlow “really push the trash issue.”

***

As an assistant to President Michael F. Adams, Winston acts as a liaison between the students and administration at the University of Georgia. “Matt’s primary role is to support and to make sure the president has everything that he needs,” says Meg Amstutz, the chief assistant to the president. “Equally so, he serves as a go-between for individuals and students, making sure their needs and issues are addressed.”

Fun-loving and highly respected, Winston “really humanizes President Adams,” says Kate Kotsko, the founder of Forever Young Campaign, a mentoring program in the Athens-Clarke County area. “Matt has a Facebook page. He understands the college culture, and he genuinely cares to help students succeed in any way that he can.”

Additionally, Winston challenges students to think critically and helps them to see the bigger picture. “He considers all sides,” says President of the Graduate Student Association Will Rooks. “Matt has to understand budget implications, undergraduates, graduates, faculty, staff, the larger Athens community and the institutional perspective.”

And Winston is always thinking in the long-term. Rooks says that when he lobbies Winston about graduate student health insurance, Winston responds with a series of provocative questions. “He asks me, ‘Have you thought about it from this angle?’ or ‘How will the university fund this down the road?’ ‘Would it be worse to implement something now that we cannot keep in the future?’”

Quick-witted yet slow to speak, Winston puts people at ease. Students know they will have a good experience when they walk into his office. “Matt is always about finding the best solution and making compromises,” says Cameron Secord, the vice president of the student government association. “He treats you as a professional and as an equal, but he also operates knowing that he is working with students and recognizes that we are learning.”

***

Winston earned a bachelor of science in marketing management in 1990 from Virginia Tech University. “When I first went to college, I wanted to make super bowl commercials,” Winston says thinking fondly of his alma mater. His career goals changed when he got involved with student affairs at Virginia Tech and realized how rewarding it was to interact with students. Winston spent eight years directing the news bureau at Virginia Tech University prior to coming to the University of Georgia. In July 1998, he moved to Athens, Ga., to become the news bureau manager in the university communications office. After two years of running news media relations for the university, Winston applied for a position as an assistant to President Adams. “Matt’s skills in public affairs, his broad understanding of how the university works and his commitment to higher education made him the most qualified for the job,” Amstutz says.

A warm and communicative personality, Winston has a direct relationship with his colleagues. “He has a collaborative style of involving as many appropriate people as possible in a project or solution to a problem,” says Virginia Tech Vice President for Alumni Relations Tom Tillar. “Matt welcomes input, and he is comfortable with hearing and exploring many viewpoints or recommendations.” Welch Suggs, a fellow assistant to President Adams, describes Winston as “Buddah-like” because of his bald head and calmness during meetings. “He is always very aware of everything going on around him,” Suggs says. Winston is never afraid to take an unpopular opinion. “He really enjoys playing the devil’s advocate to make sure what we are doing is helping students and advancing the university,” Amstutz says.

At a university with over 32,000 students, Winston says that his work day is anything but typical. He serves on the Clarke County Mentor Program and Leadership Education Awareness Development steering committees and supports student leaders involved in organizations such as Relay for Life, ugaMiracle and Hearts Everywhere Reaching Out. Winston says he strives to connect students with faculty and administrators, but aims to stay behind the scenes as much as possible. “It’s never supposed to be about Matt Winston,” he says. “Sometimes the best support is to stay out of the way.”

In addition to working with students professionally, Winston spends time outside of the office with students. President of Graduate and Professional Scholars Marcus Coleman says he met Winston on the Ramsey Student Center racquetball courts. “In a match I lost against Matt, there was a particular play where I hit the ball, jumped over it and ducked all within a matter of seconds,” Coleman says. “When Winston brings up that game though, he doesn’t talk about winning. He talks about the move I made. And that just tells you that it is never about Matt. He is always about everybody else.”

***

Winston shakes hands and looks sharp in a suit and tie at the seventh annual founder’s award scholarship luncheon put on by the black faculty and staff organization. He has a refinement about him people respond to positively. Winston doesn’t sit down at the table with the other assistants to the president until the presentation is about to begin. He smiles a practiced, engineered smile when someone brings up his dual love for Virginia Tech and University of Georgia football. His eyes glint with humor.

Dr. Rodney Bennett has worked and socialized with Winston for more than eight years on student affairs issues. “Matt is very polished,” Bennett says. “He approaches life with a sense that we have serious work to do, but we should not take ourselves too seriously. When it is time to laugh, laugh. When it is time to let our hair down, let our hair down. When it is time to be focused, be focused.”

When Mark Dawkins, the associate dean of Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia, walks up to the podium, Winston’s face turns serious. He directs his attention forward.

***

In the meeting with President Adams, someone presented the idea of purchasing billboards on Highway 316 to show photos of North Campus before and after game day tailgating. Winston says he thought about the consequences that action would bring. Taken out of context, would the billboards give the university a negative image?

Winston says he suggested not cleaning up the mess and just letting it sit there a few days. This action could become an international story, but in the end, would it only punish the university students, faculty and staff? Winston says he made the suggestion mainly to spark an idea in someone else. “It can be worth throwing out radical ideas like that because sometimes the group can bring an idea back and make it work.”

Winston informed President Adams that the student body was concerned at how the campus was being treated and had offered to do whatever they could to help find a solution.

President Adams ultimately decided it was most important to get the students and university talking about the trash issue. Winston provided student leaders with publicity tools, such as a digital poster of mascot Uga VII standing on a pile of trash, to send out through e-mail and to spread the word about cleaning up during football tailgates.

***

Operating on the idea that he is at the senior table to represent the students, their needs and concerns, Winston says, “An accountant brings the numbers. I bring the human component.” He describes college students as fearless, always raising the bar and disregarding the obstacles in their way.

“My entire career has been in higher education, and I love working with students and in a student environment,” says Winston. “I think and hope that I will have the opportunity to work for a university for the rest of my life and play a part in students’ success.” Always ready and willing to help, Winston looks to aid students with future issues.

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