Building an Academic Community: TRIO Star Matt Fortier

Matt Fortier1Matthieu Fortier
Expected Degree: BA in Psychology (Honors), May 2016

Matt Fortier admits it: he wasn’t the most engaged student at Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester, Vermont. He was more interested in fitting in and having fun with his friends. But he’d enjoyed his psychology class, his grades were good enough to get him into college, and the first-generation student arrived at Castleton hoping to major in psychology.

Matt may have been a lethargic student in high school, but Castleton’s faculty woke him up. One day, he asked his psychology professor a question. “I don’t know,” his instructor replied. “You figure it out. Then come back and tell me.” This was startling, but exciting. Matt liked taking responsibility for his own learning, and he appreciated being treated as a member of an intellectual community. He immersed himself in study and research, earning a cumulative GPA of 3.74 and serving as a Teaching Assistant in psychology and English classes. He is a member of the Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society.

Now a senior, Matt is working on his honors thesis, which explores the relationship between wisdom and well-being. After graduation, Matt hopes to pursue a PhD in psychology at University of Vermont or Temple University. He is particularly interested in lucid dreaming and its implications for treating phobias and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

In addition to his professors, Matt credits Castleton’s Academic Support Center (ASC) and TRIO with his success. A Summer Transition participant, he has also taken advantage of the ASC’s Writing Clinic, graduate school counseling, and academic mentoring services. He has also been a Summer Transition Mentor and tutored other students in psychology.

“Matt provides a wonderful model of how to use college to change your life,” says Becky Eno, Castleton’s Academic Counselor, who has worked with Matt in Summer Transition. “He appreciates the way faculty and staff ushered him into the intellectual community as a valued, contributing member, and he enjoys welcoming other students in as they show interest. And he does it all with his inimitable, quirky sense of humor!”

-Dorothy A. Dahm

Study Smarts and Money Smarts: TRIO Star Amanda Larabee

Amanda Larabee1Amanda Larabee
Expected Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Multidisciplinary Studies, May 2016

Growing up in Clarksburg, Massachusetts, Amanda Larabee knew she wanted to become a teacher. Amanda’s mother encouraged her daughter to pursue her goals. “It’s K-16, not K-12,” she always said. But the first-generation student knew paying for college would be a challenge.

When Amanda was accepted at Castleton, she threw herself into financing her education, applying for over 60 scholarships as a high school senior. Her hard work paid off: she received more than $16,000 her first year. At Castleton, she researched both personal finance and her financial aid. She always holds two to four part-time jobs to reduce her college debt.

But Amanda’s struggles haven’t kept her from excelling in and out of the classroom. Math has always been difficult for her, so she sought help at Castleton’s Academic Support Center. Again, her efforts paid off. With a cumulative GPA of 3.46, she recently received the Dr. Diane Wolk Scholarships for Promising Educators. She has also been active in the Student Government Association.

Amanda’s ultimate goal is to give back. She aspires to teach first grade in New York City public schools, where she hopes to make a difference in students’ lives beyond the classroom. Today, she serves other TRIO students as a Financial Literacy Peer Educator. She wants to help other students reduce their debt and manage their money.

“Amanda has laid the financial foundation for her future,” said Kelley Beckwith, Director of Academic Support at Castleton. “She’s gone out of her way to educate herself about managing her money. Students like Amanda are what TRIO is all about.”

-Dorothy A. Dahm