Alumnus gained self-confidence to mentor others

Alumnus gained self-confidence to mentor others

M att Mize, ’06, ’08, was from a small town where many of his peers grew up to be farmers or took over their family’s business. As an introvert, he lacked confidence to be successful in college until he met Dr. Michael Digby—professor emeritus and former chair of the Department of Government and Sociology, as well as assistant dean and interim dean for the College of Arts and Sciences at Georgia College. 

Matt and Kati Mize at GC's campus.
Matt and Kati Mize at GC's campus.

“He just had a way of making classes not intimidating for this 19-year-old kid who wasn’t even sure college was right for him,” Matt said.

He met Digby a few weeks before the semester started, when he was visiting Georgia College one day and wandering in the government wing of the College of Arts and Sciences building.

“Dr. Digby introduced himself to me,” said Matt. “I told him I was here just looking at campus. I suppose I appeared lost. He asked if he could help me.”

Then, Digby became his advisor in the global science department. He thought having his advisor also serving as the department chair was nothing short of awesome.

“Dr. Digby had a really practical way of presenting topics,” Matt said. “He didn’t talk over your head. It was the comfort level and confidence Dr. Digby gave those who came in contact with him. He saw something in me that led him to present me with opportunities, whether it was an internship or leadership roles.” 

Dr. Michael Digby (far left) and other Georgia College Political Science professors.
Dr. Michael Digby (far left) and other Georgia College Political Science professors.

Matt majored in political science, because he wanted to go to law school. However, as he went through the program, he experienced burn-out.

“I remember having a conversation with Dr. Digby about going to law school, and told him ‘I wasn’t sure it was what I wanted to do,’” Matt said. “He talked about the option for me to stay and do a Master of Public Administration (MPA) and said that if I do an MPA, and still want to do law school, it's a good supplement to have.”

During his first semester of pursuing his MPA, Matt was given an opportunity to be a graduate assistant for Admissions. Six months later, Georgia College offered him a full-time job.

“When I was 25, working in Admissions and finishing the Master of Public Administration program, Dr. Digby gave me the opportunity to teach an introduction to political science course,” he said. “He just had a way of finding opportunities and inviting me to do something that stretched my confidence level, ultimately giving me more confidence in myself than I thought I would ever have.”

Although he was a kid from a community where most don’t go to college, getting a degree was an expectation for Matt because his parents believed in him.

His professors showed their support by inviting him to join different groups and organizations, which also boosted his confidence. 

“I remember when the Dr. Michael Digby Scholarship was created. I was a young professional at that time. It was a no brainer for me to have the opportunity to support a cause in honor of somebody who made a big difference for me in terms of confidence and believing in myself.”
– Matt Mize

As an employee at Georgia College, Matt was able to serve on various committees across campus, which provided him with a holistic view of how the university operates. One such organization was the Program Prioritization Committee, which provided him with insight on campus programs.

“There was value serving on this committee that evaluated all the university’s programs and majors,” said Matt. “The University System of Georgia had just come through a very difficult few years financially, and we were charged with which programs at Georgia College were most beneficial and cost effective. That was enlightening. We reviewed budgets and perceived the academic impact of every organization. That just solidified that I like to be in an organization that's small and cares enough about its people and students.”

“Why wouldn't I pay that forward? I think the biggest impression Dr. Digby left on me is that I can help other people gain confidence and progress in their career,” said Matt.

As the regional director of development for the University of Georgia (UGA), Matt and his team spend much time in the community working with potential and current donors—his favorite part of his profession. They also explain UGA’s mission, what it has to offer and why people should invest in the university.

“I get to engage with people who care about making a difference for students,” Matt said. “We meet with really interesting individuals who have done well in their lives and are open to having a conversation about how they can use their resources to impact younger people. It’s also getting to see people decide to invest in something that's larger than themselves.”

Now, Matt will help articulate a need for the Dr. Mike Digby Scholarship at Georgia College, deciding how it can impact student lives. This scholarship means a lot to Matt, since he modeled himself after Digby and tried to copy Digby’s knack for making people feel special. 

Kati and Matt Mize attending the Annual Alumni Awards Gala for the Terry College of Business at UGA, where he worked from 2016-2019.
Kati and Matt Mize attending the Annual Alumni Awards Gala for the Terry College of Business at UGA, where he worked from 2016-2019.

“At work, I've had an opportunity to mentor younger staff. That's been rewarding. And that goes back to people, like Dr. Digby, who took an interest in me, and the confidence he gave me,” Matt said.

“I remember when the Dr. Michael Digby Scholarship was created,” he said. “I was a young professional at that time. It was a no brainer for me to have the opportunity to support a cause in honor of somebody who made a big difference for me in terms of confidence and believing in myself.”

Matt’s wife, Kati, ’07, received her master’s degree in teaching at Georgia College. She also supports the scholarship, because of the lasting impact the university made on her.

“The thing I’m most fond about at Georgia College is its sense of community,” she said. “It’s a welcoming place, and I made lasting relationships not only with the professors in my program, but with friends who are now colleagues.” 

Along with annual contributions, Matt and Kati have gifted a portion of their life insurance to the Dr. Mike Digby Endowed Scholarship in political science. The scholarship honors Digby’s contribution to academic excellence and his extraordinary leadership. Undergraduates enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in political science with a minimum 3.0 grade point average, and who aspire to have a career in public service can apply.

“Our financial gifts make us proud we can support students who may have been in a similar situation that we were in at Georgia College.” said Matt. “It’s for those students who haven't fully determined a career path, but can focus on opportunities that may come their way without the added stress of financial pressure.”

“Our hope for the students who receive this scholarship is that they’ll leave Georgia College with the confidence they’ve received from a great education,” said Kati, “and that they will use their gifts and talents to positively impact the lives of others.”

To learn how you can leave a gift through your life insurance policy, contact Bob Preston at bob.preston@gcsu.edu.