The term “holistic student experience” may sound elaborate, but to Matthew Interis it simply means taking care of the whole student and not just their academics.
And that’s exactly what Interis — who began July 1 as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences (CAFLS) — is tasked with in his new role at Clemson University.
“I admire Clemson University’s excellent reputation for academics and its focus on a well-rounded educational experience,” he said. “The university prioritizes the holistic development of students through athletics, extra-curricular activities, student support services and its general culture embodied in the Clemson Family. This is an excellent opportunity for me to support student well-being every day and pursue my interests and passions at a broader scale.”
Interis comes to Clemson after 14 years at Mississippi State University, where he most recently held the position of professor and graduate coordinator in the Agricultural Economics department. He taught and conducted research in the field of environmental economics and worked with students, faculty and staff in the university’s leadership development and community engagement programs.
He pointed to both Mississippi State University and The Ohio State University — like Clemson, both land-grant institutions — being pivotal to his training and career as an environmental economist.
“Environmental economists are particularly trained in accounting for beneficial and harmful things that are not bought and sold, such as air and water quality, wildlife habitat, green spaces and services provided by ecosystems, such as aquifer regeneration and carbon sequestration,” he said. “The field is often housed in colleges of agriculture and related sciences, and in the same department as agricultural and other applied fields of economics, so much of my work has overlapped with agricultural management, food production and consumption, and human health.”
While at Mississippi State University, Interis also supervised undergraduate researchers, advised student organizations, participated in workshops on student academic success and general well-being and health, and published pedagogical papers — things that were not necessarily part of his job description, but just as important, nonetheless.
And Interis hopes to use his familiarity with the tripartite mission of land-grant institutions —education, research and Extension — and data-driven view of decision-making to contribute to the multiple and evolving goals of CALFS and Clemson University.
CAFLS Dean Keith Belli said, “Dr. Interis brings a wealth of experience at land-grant universities and has demonstrated a passion for helping students navigate a successful path in their growth throughout his career. We have a wonderful record with our CAFLS students in terms of retention, job and graduate school placement, and in our graduation rates, and we expect him to only continue this upward trajectory. I’m excited to welcome him to the Clemson Family.”
As Interis arrives on campus, the Clemson Elevate strategic plan has been recently introduced and will be implemented over a 12-year period to build on those areas where the University already exhibits strength.
“My history of focusing on a holistic student experience, being productive in research, including actively integrating students into my research agenda, collaborating with Extension colleagues, and service in my professional and personal life will align well with the three pillars of Clemson Elevate,” Interis said.
And Interis has been preparing himself to do just that for quite some time now.
Upon graduating from Binghamton University with a B.A. double major in economics and music, Interis knew he wanted to return to graduate school at some point, but he was also curious about community outreach opportunities.
That led to his decision to volunteer in AmeriCorps, where he built low-income environmentally friendly housing in Austin, Texas, while working with historically underserved high schoolers, prior to returning to advance his education.
“That was where I started to recognize my affinity for connecting with young people and supporting their development,” he said. “So, in academics, I still enjoyed that aspect of it — not just teaching or testing students, but helping them, however I could, to improve their leadership skills and other positive personal and professional aspects of themselves.”
Prior to graduate school, Interis also volunteered at YouthBuild, which focuses on strengthening young people’s potential and power to transform themselves and their communities, and the Smokey House Center, which promotes sustainable agricultural and forestry practices through things like educational programming that helps young people be productive and self-sufficient community members.
“Service has played a crucial role in my life, and I look forward to working with students, staff, faculty and stakeholders to improve the lives of all Clemson Family members. I appreciate the warm welcome by the Clemson Family and am excited to join a college and university on such a bright path,” he said.
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