When Matthew Hwang graduated from Shenandoah University with a business administration degree in May 2018, he knew he wasn’t going to step into a business-related job. Instead, his eyes were on the skies, anticipating a career as a pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps.
He’s heading into the military this fall, with skills honed by the positive challenges he experienced at Shenandoah.
Meeting And Greeting Challenges
“Academically, I was placed in practical learning environments where I had to apply what I was learning, which improved my critical thinking. It is a skill that I can take wherever I go,” Hwang said. “Emotionally, I was taught how to deal with stress. I was involved in a lot of things in the community, in school and in sports, so I learned how to compartmentalize and stay calm in stressful situations so I could act effectively. Athletically, tennis was a passion of mine. I cared about being good in the sport, cared about winning, and cared about the guys I was playing with. All of this pushed me to work harder every day on my craft and my mental strength. Spiritually, Shenandoah put me in position to find my faith and learn how to hold onto it during stressful times. Some of my favorite classes were the religion classes at Shenandoah. They were challenging to say the least, but it forced me to find truth in the word and learn how to love Christ.”
At Shenandoah, Hwang served as captain of the men’s tennis team, participated in student government, played lead guitar at Abundant Life Church in Stephens City, volunteered his time with student life, and made a mark with Spiritual Life. “Matthew was involved in a number of different ways,” said Assistant Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Spiritual Life Rev. Justin Allen, D.Min. “He was active in our Bible study ‘Home Sweet Home’ (meets at my house). He played guitar and was a Communion steward for our Higher Ground and University Chapel worship services a few times. He preached at the RE-3 event we had in September 2015 in partnership with Virginia Tech, Randolph-Macon, the University of Virginia, Ferrum, William and Mary, and more. He is truly gifted and used his gifts in a myriad of ways to benefit the whole of Spiritual Life and Shenandoah University.
He was an academic success story, an athletic success story, a Spiritual Life success story, and now he enters a vocation of service and sacrifice,” Dr. Allen said.
Becoming A Leader At Shenandoah
Hwang said Shenandoah not only provided him with leadership opportunities, but also exposed him to many different types of people. “In today’s Marine Corps, there is a very diverse group of Marines wherever you go. Knowing how to work collaboratively with different kinds of people at Shenandoah definitely set me up for success for when I entered the Marine Corps.”
Hwang revealed his leadership abilities at Shenandoah, even when he may not have felt ready to do so, Allen said. “Matthew came to Shenandoah like a lot of students, eager and energized. However, college can sometimes be a challenge with so many different people from so many different walks of life. Matthew was gifted from the beginning and wanted someone to push him to be better academically, athletically, and spiritually. However, it wasn’t long before he was the one pushing others to keep up with him, and encouraging them to be their best, perhaps before he anticipated ever doing so. That, I believe, was hard for Matthew. I think he was waiting his turn to be the leader and everyone else was looking to him to be the leader before he thought it was his turn. So, when he finally got done waiting, his college life took off when he started to assert himself. Matthew learned a lot about leadership when he took the authority upon himself to lead and model the way for others.”
Bringing The Shenandoah Spirit To The Marine Corps
The next stage of Hwang’s life as a leader begins on Oct. 1, when he reports to Quantico, Virginia, for The Basic School, a six-month-long program where commissioned officers learn how to be Marine officers. Then, he’s set to head to Pensacola, Florida, to learn how to be a Marine pilot.
He’ll carry Shenandoah with him into the future, within his memories and heart. “Shenandoah has become home to me. The professors, the people, the campus have all become something I feel safe with. It has helped me grow in every way possible and I couldn’t be more thankful. I will never forget the incredible people I have met here. They are what made my experience priceless and what makes Shenandoah home for me.”
Hwang’s potential is so great, Allen said he can’t even dare anticipate where the future will take him. But he does know this: “Whatever he does, I know it will be morally and ethically aligned with his Christian values to love his neighbor, his enemy, and his God.
“Knowing that he is now a Marine makes me feel better about our country,” Allen said. “He will be made better by the Marines and he will make the Marines better.”