Asst. Teaching Prof. Matt Hurwitz is all about serving students, both inside the classroom and in the wider campus and Lowell communities.
In fact, he’s always trying to link students with the community, whether by bringing his first-year writing students to the Lowell public schools for service-learning projects or by connecting first-generation students with campus resources that support their academic and personal growth.
“If a student comes to UMass Lowell, they’re ours – and we owe them everything we can do to help them succeed,” he says.
Hurwitz’s ethic of service through education is a family legacy. His mother was a public school teacher and still teaches art and music, while his father volunteers as a court-appointed special advocate for abused and neglected children. They also raise and train seeing-eye dogs.
“The air I breathed growing up was suffused with a fundamental idea: Meaning in life comes not from doing for yourself, but finding joy in doing for others,” he says. “For myself, helping students learn, read, write, grow and – practically speaking – graduate and get good jobs is how I try to live by my family’s creed of helping others.”
Hurwitz teaches writing and literature courses in the English Department and the First-year Writing Program. He advises students in the College of Fine Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences.
He also directs the River Hawk Scholars Academy, a campus community that offers focused advising, practical support and special events for first-year, first-generation students who are academically prepared, but may not have the resources to navigate other aspects of college life.
Hurwitz helped to design the program with Vice Provost for Student Success Julie Nash, Dean of Academic Services Kerry Donohoe and faculty and staff across the university. The work has been very fulfilling, he says.
“Creating structures that can support students – and that can last – is really empowering,” he says. “It demonstrates the power of public institutions to make a difference in their communities.”
His dedication earned him the National Academic Advising Association’s 2019 “Award of Excellence” for a faculty advisor in the Northeast. (UMass Lowell also garnered the award for a full-time advisor: Jennifer Keene-Crouse, who advises all first-year students in the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences.)
Hurwitz incorporates service learning into many of his classes. Some of his students serve as “literacy buddies” to second- and third-graders at Bartlett Community Partnership School, sharing favorite books and completing projects together. Others meet with students at Lowell High School to answer questions about college and to give and get feedback on essays they’re writing. The learning always goes two ways, Hurwitz says.
“I think it’s valuable for students to take what they’re learning and apply it in the real world, connecting academic concepts and theories and research to the messiness of the unpredictable,” he says.
He also promotes community service for the River Hawk Academy scholars. He wants them to see that their education has real value – and that even if they’re just beginning their college careers, they can contribute by inspiring young children who may also grow up to be the first in their families to attend college.
“I’ve always felt called to have students realize there’s an audience far beyond the college classroom,” he says. “An objective a public university should have for all of its students is for them to get joy and meaning out of learning, to discover a sense of purpose and civic pride in what they’re doing.”