On the record with Dean Margot Matt

Nick Sabatino

Most Villanova students that walk into the office in Dougherty 202B are not doing so voluntarily. Most students expect an alcohol and drug “Nazi” to welcome them at the door. Most students expect to be berated for hours at the expense of this “Nazi.” Most students could not be more wrong.

That office belongs to Margot Matt, the assistant dean of students for alcohol and drug intervention at the University. Her job consists of speaking with students who have been involved with incidents that may be drug or alcohol-related regarding their use of the substances. It goes without saying that this job comes with the expectation of being misunderstood by students, but this does not seem to bother Matt, who has experienced an assortment of jobs before her current position.

Matt grew up in the area, attending what is now Arcadia University, which at the time was an all-girls college. There she was a biology major planning to study medicine. She was unsure of this decision, so she went on to work in clinical research for a few years. This gave Matt her first glimpse into the world of drugs, although most of them were legal, including an anti-acne medication. While working with overdoses and the side effects of these drugs, Matt grew weary.

“I was seeing things I didn’t like,” says Matt. “My idealism was being shattered.”

Working more off her biology background, Matt decided to switch into an environmental firm, running a lab which monitored Environmental Protection Agency compliance with water and drug discharge and emissions. Engrossed in the work, Matt decided to earn her Masters in Environmental Science. She soon became “bored” with this line of work and began to focus herself in a different direction.

Matt became involved with school programs, including one at the Benchmark School working with children having learning disabilities. She knew she had found something here, and soon went back to school to obtain her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from West Chester University. While doing an internship in Chester, Matt was exposed to the use of many substances and the profound effects it has on people.

“I realized many of the problems stemmed from the use of substances,” Matt says.

With Matt’s new focus in life, she knew she had to get experience with the use and effects of substances. She began working for a small non-profit organization which provided all sorts of services regarding substances. Her task was to evaluate parents who had lost custody of their children as a result of their substance abuse and then Matt would make a recommendation to the court. She also began working for the juvenile court, evaluating those individuals as well as those in the school system.

Matt’s work at the University began10 years ago when she filled in at the Center for Alcohol and Drug Assistance (now the Health and Wellness Education Center) for a woman on maternity leave. In that job, Matt did far more counseling and peer education work than she does in her current job. In what was only to be a temporary job, Matt soon found for herself a home at Villanova, working full-time in the Center.

Over these last ten years, Matt has completed many addictions programs to become certified in the field. She is also a licensed professional counselor in the state of Pennsylvania.

Matt has great love for her job, despite the fact that she may look like the “bad guy” in the eyes of many students. She is comfortable with her role and is confident in what she has to say to young people.

“The purpose of my job is not to punish,” Matt says, “but rather to give the student an opportunity to reflect on their use and how that might be impacting their well-being.”

She is most concerned with how the student feels about himself or herself and whether the substance use is creating a “disconnect” between who each student wants to be and who he or she actually is.

After meeting with students, Matt will assign an education component to a student. This varies from booklets to read, movies to watch, or, perhaps, further counseling. This is simply an attempt to help students make better decisions by giving them more information on which to base those decisions.

With alcohol and drug use so prevalent on college campuses, and with so many problems stemming from this use, it is important that all students are educated as much as possible on the issue. Margot Matt is here for this purpose.

“Basically, my task is to provide students with a different perspective about alcohol and other drug use,” Matt says. “I don’t see bad experiences as negative, but rather as great opportunities to make lifestyle changes. And I do not consider individuals who have dependencies in any way bad, lesser or weak. You deal with what you are dealt.”

In a day and age where so many mixed messages are handed to young people, Margot Matt’s message is clear: substance abuse is a problem on college campuses, and she is here to help educate on this problem. She is here to listen and teach each individual she comes across. She is here for the students, despite the fact they may think otherwise.