ASWC President Matt Dittrich ’12 looks forward in his final days as a Whitman student
Thursday, Apr 26, 2012
ASWC President Matt Dittrich ’12 is on the cusp of graduating from college but he has no time for nostalgia.
The first-generation college student and politics major from Camas, Wash., is too busy to start daydreaming of the pomp surrounding Whitman’s Commencement. After all, he has to prepare a presentation to the college’s Board of Trustees, and then there’s the small matter of writing his Commencement speech.
“I want to continue looking forward,” Dittrich said. “People talk about Commencement like it’s a threshold. To me, it’s just another chapter in my Whitman experience rather than a beginning or an end.”
While Dittrich might be hesitant to slow down, his Whitman experience is worth reflecting upon. The politics major will be the first person in his family to earn a college degree. He earned a Garrett scholarship to attend Whitman, the most prestigious scholarship the college offers. Since he matriculated, he’s been elected school president; lobbied for state education reform; and volunteered with such organizations as the Children's Cancer Association, Salvation Army and Share House to significantly bolster donations and help the organizations reduce their costs.
“Whitman allows you to explore a lot of aspects of the world and what makes it different from other places is how well it allows you to explore yourself and look inward,” Dittrich said.
“Whitman is a place where you can truly find out what makes you passionate. You can find out what makes you tick.”
Dittrich says he has a “silly passion” for community advocacy. Judging from his stellar academic record, he also nurtures a passion for academics. But it turns out working as a DJ at KWCW, Whitman’s campus radio station, also makes him tick.
“DJing was so much fun,” Dittrich said, talking about the two years he spent from 2009 to 2011 presiding over his own radio show on Friday nights. “I could tell jokes and nobody could tell me to shut up. I was playing whatever music I was digging at that moment.”
While he talks about his days as a DJ with quiet confidence, on his first day in the booth he had no idea what he was doing. Tellingly, once the “on-air” light illuminated he called his mother.
“I called my mom to make sure she could hear me.”
It makes sense he phoned his mother. Dittrich applied to Whitman because his mother grew up in Walla Walla. She always told Dittrich that if he had the grades to get into college he had to apply to Whitman. Being a “good mama’s boy,” he followed her advice.
“It was romantic for me to come to Whitman,” Dittrich recalled. “When I received my letter of acceptance, I was excited. But my mom looked at my letter and she was overcome with joy.
“Tears started squirting out of her face.”
One reason Dittrich refuses to coast through these last weeks of school is because as the first person in his family to graduate college he feels added pressure to succeed. So even though he still has classes, he’s already made his summer plans, which don’t include much time off.
Once school ends, he’ll go back to work for Washington State Rep. Jim Moeller, Speaker Pro Tempore. It was two years ago when Dittrich first decided he wanted to work on Moeller’s re-election campaign.
“I just sat down and wrote him a letter with my resume attached,” Dittrich said.
This chutzpah earned him an interview with Rep. Moeller, which turned into a job that saw Dittrich sticking signs in the ground and knocking on doors. However, before he knew it Dittrich found himself managing Rep. Moeller’s campaign.
“It gave me a chance to be in on the big political conversations,” Dittrich said.
While he’s excited to helm Rep. Moeller’s re-election campaign, Dittrich won’t be sticking around to see how the vote turns out because this fall he’s on his way to London.
Over the course of a months-long application process and several rounds of interviews with the prestigious management-consulting firm Bain & Company, Dittrich was selected from 5,000 applicants as one of 10 new consultants hired in Bain & Company’s London office.
“This absolutely would not be possible without Whitman,” Dittrich said.
While Dittrich credits the relationships he made at Whitman for helping him get in the door at Bain & Company, he aced the strenuous interviews thanks to the skills he honed as a Whitman student.
Part of the interview process, for example, included being handed an 80-page, business case study and quickly rendering talking points in order to give a presentation on his findings to the interviewers.
“I’ve never taken a business class. I had to use my instincts to analyze a complex problem, which is something we do every day at Whitman. Take disparate information and condense my thoughts and articulate them in a quick way. That’s what a liberal arts education at Whitman asks you to do on a day-to-day basis.”
With a secure job waiting for him, plus his summer mapped out to manage a political campaign, Dittrich continues moving forward because he wants to make his family, and Whitman, proud.
“I can’t slow down. I have a responsibility to those at Whitman who invested in me. I pretty much got a full ride to this place (thanks to the Garrett scholarship) and it has inspired me to work my fanny off so I can give something back to the school in the future,” he said.
“I also have a responsibility to my mother and my family. I don’t have the option to chill out. Graduation is important. But it’s just another step in my career.”
But before he starts his post-college career in London; before he manages another political campaign; and before the pomp and circumstance of Commencement, Dittrich has one more duty to fulfill at Whitman.
“I want another stint as a DJ on the radio,” he said.