Friday, March 29, 2013

On a mission to make a difference: Wyoming EPSCoR’s Project Coordinator

 Earlier this year we started a series of blogs about the EPSCoR office. The follow is part four of the series and focuses on Project Coordinator Rick Matlock. 

Rick Matlock has been with Wyoming EPSCoR since 2002.
Raging snow storms and a rural setting were not exactly Rick Matlock’s idea of a great college experience. Rick, who today is the Project Administrator at Wyoming EPSCoR, could not wait to leave Laramie and its winters behind.
“When I first moved here, I lived in the dorms,” Rick said. “I moved up here from New Mexico and the blizzards were just enormous the first couple of years. I just despised it. And, it was a small town, with absolutely nothing to do. I just despised that too.” Rick laughs at this now and adds, “But the way to live in Laramie is to accept your surroundings and to be part of the outdoor scene.”
And that is exactly what Rick has done. While today he enjoys snowboarding, snowshoeing, hiking and fishing in the surrounding mountains, those activities were not what brought him to the University of Wyoming. He came instead to pursue a degree in psychology, in order to reach his goal to help people.
“When I first got out of high school, I wanted to be a helping-people-person,” Rick says. “I wanted to help the seriously mentally ill and depressed.”
After finishing his degree, Rick worked in the medical field in a variety of areas including an inpatient psychiatric unit, a home for at risk youth and the local crisis center. While these experiences were rewarding, each in their own way, they also took their toll on him and after almost twelve years, Rick found himself  burnt out.
“I kind of found out that this wasn’t really my calling,” Rick says. “So, I decided to try to put my psychology degree to use somewhere else.”
He came to UW and worked at the graduate school administrative office wanting to start into academic advising.
“I enjoyed that experience,” Rick says. “But then the job opened up to run the undergraduate program here at EPSCoR and I decided to take it.”
Rick is in charge of EPSCoR programs, such as our Undergraduate Research Fellowships and Undergraduate research day, which support students going into the science fields, but he makes sure things run smoothly for our grant projects.
“What I do now is, I administer or organize the various aspects of the EPSCoR goals,” Rick says. “It is making sure that everything is staying on track, making sure the EOD (education, outreach and diversity) components are coming together, and making sure we stay on track with the budget.”
While he is no longer helping people in the way he originally set out to do, he is helping to make a difference in the lives of future scientists through his work with our undergraduate programs. This work is inspiring for several reasons.
“The most rewarding part is working with a diverse group of people,” Rick says. “I am able to work with scientists I wouldn’t ever normally meet and I get to work with a lot of great students through undergraduate research. I am amazed by all the different things the students are doing.”
As a student in college, Rick couldn’t imagine ever saying this, but today he loves living in Laramie. “It’s got the best of everything, essentially.” 

By Kali S. McCrackin
Photo by Leah Yetter

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