Four Lessons for a Meaningful Life
Hounds with Purpose is a space for alumni to share their stories of purpose and vocational engagement beyond their years at Assumption. This blog is created by the Center for Purpose and Vocation and the Career Development and Internship Center (CDIC) to better connect students and alumni through experiential storytelling.
In Fall 2022, students in the SOPHIA Program enrolled in the comparative literature course CLT 255 The Figure of the Seeker, taught by Prof. Esteban Loustaunau. A class assignment asked students to conduct interviews with alumni who had similar academic interests when they were in college. In these interviews, SOPHIA students, committed to discerning their own callings and to seeking a life of purpose, were interested in listening to the life stories of alumni in order to learn from their experiences since their time at Assumption, make new connections, and to find inspiration in their wisdom. We are happy to share these experiences with the blog readers.
Michael T. Matraia, J.D., M.S., C.P.A., is an Associate Professor of Practice in Accounting in the Grenon School of Business at Assumption. Since 2019, Prof. Matraia has been teaching a variety of law and accounting courses on campus. He has had a 30+-year career as a senior legal and audit executive with background in accounting and auditing, complex financial investigations, securities litigation, legal compliance, corporate governance, auditing, quality assurance, process improvement and professional development. Before teaching at Assumption, he was an Associate General Counsel at Deloitte. Prof. Matraia serves as a co-advisor for the Pre-Law program and as a faculty mentor in the Honors and Logos programs.
Tyler Flood participated in the SOPHIA program in his sophomore year. While at Assumption, he was a member of the Men’s Golf Team as well as Athletes Intervarsity. He is not sure what he wants to do yet in life but hopes to live a long and happy one.
Charlee Kennedy ‘25 is currently a Junior at Assumption University studying business. She is not 100% sure what she wants to major in, but possibly Marketing. She is a member of the Women’s Golf Team at Assumption University where she works hard to be the best team player she can be.
Ashleigh Richard ‘25 is a Junior at Assumption University pursuing a degree in Business Management with a Minor in International Business. She works at the Emmanuel d’Alzon Library and is also an orientation leader for incoming first-year students. She loved her time as a SOPHIA student in her sophomore year, because of all the opportunities the program has to offer.
In this interview, Prof. Matraia talks with Tyler, Charlee, and Ashleigh about his various interests and career paths in law and accounting. He also reflects on the value of his Assumption undergraduate education and the lessons he learned as a student here. Prof. Matraia also offers his thoughts on the meaning of success and provides four valuable lessons for living a meaningful life: believe in yourself, enjoy what you do, set of values for yourself, and don’t be afraid to face tough challenges. He closes the interview by describing his current vocation as being present in the here and now to teach and mentor his students.
Ashleigh Richard: I would like to begin by asking what motivated you to teach accounting at Assumption University? Why did you choose the business field?
Prof. Matraia: When I was a student here, I had a wonderful experience. I liked accounting very much and thought business would bring interesting challenges. I also loved to read and write, so I minored in English so I could do more of that. When I graduated, given the experience that I had here, I always thought that someday I might come back to teach and help students the way I was helped.
Richard: Can you tell us more about your life and career path?
Matraia: When I graduated in 1990, I started to work for an accounting firm as an auditor. This was a great opportunity to learn about all kinds of different businesses. The company hired auditors to go inside the company and check the financial statements to make sure that they were accurate. I was able to learn about all kinds of different business operations. I learned a lot about accounting and business more broadly, and made some great relationships with colleagues at the firm. After three years of working as an auditor, I went to Suffolk University Law School in Boston. After graduating, I represented investors in cases against public companies alleging securities and accounting fraud. It was a good mix of my background in accounting and my training as a lawyer. I did that for about 8 years and then I started my own law firm where I was advising companies, management, and boards of directors, on how to do a better job preparing their financial statements and complying with securities laws. Thereafter, I returned to the accounting firm I started my career at to work in quality assurance, risk management and law.
Charlee Kennedy: So, from that experience how did you transition to becoming a professor?
Matraia: My desire to teach never went away; it was always in the back of my mind. I had been an adjunct professor for the corporate governance course at Assumption since 2013 and I taught a few courses at Suffolk University earlier in my legal career. Then, in early 2019, the chair of the Accounting Department called and said that one of our professors was retiring and she asked me if I wanted to apply for the position. It was a little bit earlier than I thought I would do, but the invitation to apply got me thinking that sometimes opportunities don’t come exactly when we would like, so I decided to at least apply and see what happens. In the Fall of 2019, I was offered the job and I’ve been here ever since.
Kennedy: After discussing your path to where you are now, is there anything you would change about where you are now and how you ended up here?
Matraia: I’ve wondered about that question at times, reflecting on my career and past regrets or things that I wish I did differently. Like everyone, there’s been ups and downs and successes and some difficult times, but I feel like they all brought me to this place which is exactly where I want to be now. I believe that if something else happened along the way, maybe I wouldn’t be here. So, no, I would not change anything about where I am now or how I got here.
Kennedy: This brings me to my next question, how would you define success?
Matraia: That’s a great question. I think of success as the ability live life in a manner consistent with your values, as well as doing things that you really enjoy doing and helping others. I want to live a life that is meaningful and conforms to the ideals that I have set for myself. I wake up every day and there is a feeling that there’s new challenges and new opportunities in store for me and those around me. To me, that is success.
Tyler Flood: Thank you very much for that response professor. Since studying and graduating from Assumption, what major challenges have you faced along the way?
Matraia: Early in my career I had a lot to learn, as we all do. School takes you to a certain point and then you start working and I recall quite a few “growing pains” and at times being unsure about what to do in many situations. I can remember taking the CPA exam several times trying to pass and eventually I did pass but only after failing a few times. There were certainly some ups and downs and difficult times both early in my career and then later in my career when I went to law school. Law school was very challenging intellectually. I learned a lot of lessons about diligence, hard work and determination. I learned how to really dig into a complex issue and sort it out. I had wins and losses in the cases I handled as a lawyer and tried to learn from all of them. My Assumption education really helped me in significant ways and I felt prepared for all of the challenging experiences I faced.
Richard: What was one of the biggest lessons that you learned while you were at Assumption, and what do you recommend we take with us while we’re here?
Matraia: I think one of the biggest lessons I learned was to believe in myself. When I came into college, it was challenging and difficult at first. Adjusting to college and the academic aspect of it was hard. I had many doubts about my abilities. Over the four years I learned that I was more capable than I thought I was. I think that’s an important lesson, because sometimes we can be limited in the way we see things, if we don’t have full confidence in ourselves and our abilities. I can remember different classes that I found very difficult. But I would talk with the professor and ask for help. I think that’s probably another lesson that I learned — that it is okay to ask for help. I tried to do that throughout my time as a student at Assumption, and I found that professors were willing to help me, and if you are committed to working hard and doing your best work and you ask for help along the way, it’s hard not to succeed. By the time I was a senior I felt much more confident in my abilities. My hope is that you will grow as a person while you’re here. It’s certainly true when I think of the person I was when I came into Assumption and the person I was when I left.
Kennedy: Do you feel like your family had an impact on your journey?
Matraia: Yes, I do. Thinking back now, I had a lot of support from my family when I was a student here. Fortunately, they gave me financial support, but also emotional support. I can remember talking with them about school, particularly when challenges would arise. I also remember the “pep” talks as well as the guidance I was given from my parents about how to solve problems. In life we’re going to face adversity and difficulty and I don’t know what it would have been like if I didn’t have my parents along the way to just pick up the phone and call for guidance. I recall that I had a job at Charlie’s and back then it was a student-run business. I still remember my first day there and I had no idea what I was doing. I’m not a good multitasker. There were so many students ordering different things and I was back on the grill struggling to handle the orders. I remember that after my shift was done, I called my dad and told him how difficult it was. And he said, “It’s your first day. It’s going to be fine.” He was right. After a week or two, I knew what to do. I could handle all kinds of things at once and there’s probably 100 different stories like that where I had a lot of support from my parents. By the way, that was good advice then and it’s good advice now. If we are lucky, we will have lots of “first days” and we need to remember that as difficult as the first day is, it always gets better.
Richard: Thank you very much for that story, our very last question is how would you define your personal vocation as of now?
Matraia: I think my current vocation revolves around teaching and learning. I am trying not only to help students learn, but I’m also continuing to learn and grow personally and professionally. I want to be a mentor for students. I want every student at Assumption to have at least as good as an experience that I had here (and hopefully even better if that’s possible!). I’m involved in lots of different activities on campus, trying to have as broad of a reach as I can to different students, and I really enjoy that. I want to have some kind of interaction with every student that makes them feel that this is a special place for them, that they’re really learning and growing here, and that we care about them and their futures.
Richard: Thank you so much, I feel as if you helped us a lot.
Matraia: It’s my pleasure.
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