Criminal justice major Matt Levenson loves an adventure and a challenge — and he’s bent on seizing every opportunity he can while at UMass Lowell.
He’s joined the Mock Trial team and started a minor in psychology. Through an internship with Neil Shortland, program director for the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies, he’s on a team competing in the P2P: Challenging Extremism contest sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. And he’s planning to spend the fall semester of his senior year at The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars in Washington, D.C., studying and interning for an agency that deals with counterterrorism or homeland security.
“There are so many things you can only do once. You can’t take anything for granted,” he says. “Whenever you’ve got an opportunity, you’ve got to take advantage of it.”
Levenson also joined the Honors College for access to unique, interdisciplinary honors seminars, including Art and the Nazis and A Call to Adventure. Levenson heard the call to adventure before he ever took the class, in which students examine the stages of the hero’s journey through movies, books and essay writing.
Levenson’s parents kept him and his siblings busy as children because, his mom said, they were bound to find adventure one way or another, so better that it be constructive. He became an Eagle Scout and a Tae Kwon Do instructor before he turned 18 and took home 10 state titles in Tae Kwon Do competitions. Now he helps run a martial arts studio in Chelmsford.
But Levenson says A Call to Adventure, taught by Julian Zabalbeascoa, a visiting professor who has traveled across five continents and also leads the Honors College’s study-abroad trips to Spain and Cuba, has expanded his definition of adventure and made him more purposeful. “This class is absolutely, 100 percent making me more intentional about the actions I take and the hero’s journey I want to be on,” he says.
Now Levenson is planning his own travel adventures. He visited London and Paris over Thanksgiving break, and he’s signed up for a summer study-abroad experience in Portugal — a combination of a seminar on criminal justice issues in Europe, taught by Shortland, and an internship involving terrorism research.
Levenson is preparing for a solo trek next Thanksgiving break to the abandoned bus in Alaska made famous by Jon Krakauer’s book “Into the Wild.” And he hopes to take an all-expenses-paid “birthright” trip to Israel with his brother, to learn more about his Jewish heritage, before he turns 26.
Most important, he’s learned that adventure is an attitude, whether it’s getting out and exploring Lowell or climbing mountains in nearby New Hampshire. “Incorporating adventure into your everyday life is even more important than travel,” he says.