By: Michael L. Jackson
Though the personal journeys of Kelley graduates John Reed and Matthew Pope have been very different during the past four years, their civic-minded approach to life ultimately led them to the same destination earlier this week.
Reed (BS’15) and Pope (BS’10) were two of 50 IUPUI students who received the 2015 William M. Plater Civic Engagement Medallion, which was presented as part of the 11th annual IUPUI Robert G. Bringle Civic Engagement Showcase and Symposium on April 14 at the IUPUI Campus Center.
Named in honor of IUPUI’s former Executive Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Faculties from 1988 to 2006, Dr. William M. Plater, the Plater Medallion is awarded each year to graduates who “have demonstrated exemplary commitment to their communities and have exhibited personal and academic growth, high levels of integrity, and significant community impact as a result of their civic engagement experiences during their college years.”
Reed arrived as a freshman on the IUPUI campus without much background serving in the community. A meeting with Khalilah Shabazz, who is currently the director of the IUPUI Multicultural Success Center, changed that. Shabazz encouraged him to get involved. For someone who “doesn’t put himself out there” that much, it would be a new experience for Reed.
“I wasn’t engaged in the community when I was in high school (at Lawrence Central),” said Reed. “When I got to IUPUI, it was really the environment here that made me want to get involved. I wanted to give back; not only to the minority population, but to anybody and everybody.”
Reed spent two years as an orientation leader on campus and logged 300 hours as a mentor with the IUPUI Diversity Enrichment Achievement Program. He personally advised more than 25 students who were coping with personal and academic concerns.
But it was his time mentoring aspiring college-bound students at Ben Davis High School with the IUPUI Student African American Brotherhood that opened his eyes the most.
“We wanted to make sure that we were leading by example and putting them in a position to be successful,” Reed said. “It was important for them to know that everyone can prosper, even if you come from a background that may not be supportive. While we played a big role in being role models for them, I sometimes felt like I needed to step my game up just to meet their expectations.”
In addition to his mentoring and leadership roles on campus, Reed also spent time volunteering with Gleaners, Eli Lilly, and IUPUI’s Day of Caring. He hopes to land a full-time job with a company that has a strong history of giving back to the community. Perhaps, he says, a degree in higher education is in his future. In either case, he wants to continue to make himself available for students in need of a mentor.
“It was a great feeling to know that I had an impact and was being recognized for it,” Reed said. “I haven’t been able to stop smiling ever since. Indianapolis will always be my hometown, and I want to give back to the city as much as I can.”
For Pope, his philanthropic spirit was honed at a young age while growing up in Central Indiana.
“Social service has been part of my life since I was a child,” he said. “It was instilled in me by my family and friends at an early age.”
Though he started as an accounting and finance major at Kelley, Pope switched to supply chain management and has used his logistics and operations skills broadly in the nonprofit sector. He is a REAL Change Fellow with RESULTS advocating to end global poverty, a Shot@Life champion for the United Nations Foundations, and also works as a news media representative for Provocate, a Central Indiana think tank which seeks local solutions for global problems.
The UN Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign is a worldwide movement to protect children by advocating for improved access to vaccines. In his role as a Shot@Life champion, Pope leads grassroots movements in the community by teaching the importance of vaccines, organizes fundraisers, and meets with members of Congress to lobby for the expansion of global access to vaccines.
In his work with the UN Foundation and RESULTS, he has traveled extensively across the United States and abroad.
“Most nonprofit organizations are filled with very passionate people,” Pope said. “They’ve seen the skill sets that I have from my undergraduate experience as well as my work experience in the community and given me the reins on a lot of projects.
“From an advocacy standpoint, being able to follow the logistics and the value chain for vaccinations in third-world countries is incredibly important,” he added. “With my Kelley education I’ve been able to help identify and promote both transportation and other technology improvements that help foster better efficiencies, as well as enhanced relations between countries.”
Inspired by a family member who suffered from mental illness, Pope returned to the IUPUI campus in 2012 to pursue a master’s degree in public affairs from the School of Public and Environment Affairs. Though he felt like he was good at what he was doing, he also didn’t feel like he was making enough of a difference in the community. And while he had interned at Mental Health America of Hancock County, he was also unsure if that’s how he wanted to transition his career.
“SPEA offered me the ability to learn more about and prepare for a career in mental health through their nonprofit management degree,” said Pope, who graduated with his MPA in December 2014. “But they also gave me the tools to learn about other initiatives going on in the community. I was able to build a better skill set so that I could do anything related to social service rather than being so specific. Now I know that I can do a wider array of things in the community, both locally and globally.”
In addition to the Plater Medallion, Pope was honored with the Immunization Advocate Award in December by the Indiana Immunization Coalition. He was also selected to IUPUI’s inaugural Elite 50 class. Representing the top one-half of one percent of the graduate and professional student body, the Elite 50 award strictly focuses on achievements outside the classroom.
Though is humbled by the honors that have been bestowed upon him during the past five months, he knows there is a lot of work to be done to in order to create lasting impact in communities across the globe.
“Honestly, I hope the highlights are yet to come,” he said. “It would be great if we could all work together and get to a point where a lot of these poverty-related issues no longer exist. I don’t gauge my success by these honors. I judge it by who I am able to meet in the community and how my efforts help develop the next generation of young people who will take over these initiatives.”