Matthew Donlan has overcome a lot to get to where he is today.
After struggling with addiction for over a decade, he decided to use his experience to help others. Growing from a counselor position to being a director of an addiction treatment center, Donlan inspires the community by letting them know recovery is possible.
Earning his MBA in Healthcare Management was the logical next step in Donlan’s career:
“In the healthcare field, experience does not speak as loud as credentials. I had worked as a counselor long before I completed my bachelor’s degree, and as much as I excelled at my position, I was never paid as well as my cohorts because of my education level. An MBA speaks for itself. The fact that Florida Tech allows for the MBA to tie into Healthcare Management opens many doors in the field that I work in.”
While earning his MBA in Healthcare Management, Donlan went above and beyond, maintaining a 4.0 GPA and receiving the Oustanding Student of the Year Award and the Phi Kappa Phi FIT Chapter Award. He attended the Honors Convocation to accept his awards and said this of his experience:
“…I felt very welcomed on campus. Dr. Mary Bonhomme and Dr. George Maul from Phi Kappa Phi were amazing, as was Vice President of Online Learning Brian Ehrlich. I had never stepped foot on the FIT campus prior to the Honors Convocation, but they each went out of their way to make me feel like I lived there.”
He will walk alongside main-campus and online grads in the Spring 2018 graduation ceremony. We talked to Donlan about his academic success and future plans.
Tell us about your background.
I grew up in a low-income housing development in South Boston, Massachusetts, and early on, I made some poor decisions that ended up changing the course of my life. I struggled with addiction for over 10 years before finding recovery in 2004. Through this process, I discovered that I had a chance to make a difference in the lives of people with the same struggle. I worked as a Union Ironworker while taking classes at Cape Cod Community College and University of Massachusetts-Amherst. In 2013, I became a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor. I worked at the same program that had facilitated my journey to recovery for over three years.
In 2015, I was presented with an opportunity to relocate to Florida and join American Addiction Centers in opening their flagship residential facility, River Oaks Treatment Center. I relocated my family to Apollo Beach, FL, where I currently live with my fiancé Shayla and our Great Dane puppy, Larry. Since opening River Oaks, I have grown into more of an administrative role and was recently promoted from Program Manager to Director of Community Affairs. This position allows me to get out into our local community and share resources to people in need, letting them know that recovery is possible. My goal is to eventually move into an Executive Leadership position with American Addiction Centers and becoming CEO at one of our facilities.
What were the most important factors in your decision to choose Florida Tech?
The convenience of online learning was essential to me, as I have had success with online learning platforms in the past. My student services representative, Jordan, helped me navigate through any obstacles that could have presented themselves, and I felt confident that my choice to attend Florida Tech was the right one.
Do you have any future plans now that you have your degree?
I am currently awaiting acceptance into a Doctor of Behavioral Health program, which along with the completion of my MBA, will allow me to reach the heights I am aiming for.
What surprised you most about taking an online program?
I have taken online classes before, but I will say that the ease-of-use of Florida Tech’s online learning platform, powered by Bisk, has been the biggest surprise. I have used Moodle and Blackboard in the past, but neither compares to the way that the Bisk platform lets you interact in group study sessions and view interactive lectures.
What was your favorite class and why?
Essentials of Business Development 1 was, by far, my favorite class. It was my first introduction to a business class on the graduate level, and my professor, Rick Gordon, helped me navigate through the course and all of its expectations. I enjoyed creating a company and writing a full business plan for this company. It demonstrated exactly how much work needs to go into starting a business, and how many different aspects that business owners need to master to be successful.
What was your most valuable takeaway from the program?
My most valuable takeaway from the program is to remain teachable and to recognize effort. My professors have shown me that they are willing to go above and beyond to help someone who is trying, and I have taken this lesson and applied it to the people I supervise. I find that if I am closed-minded, I will learn nothing, but the more I open my mind to new ideas and helpful instruction, the more I benefit.
What advice would you give other students who are considering enrolling in the program?
Time management is essential. Make sure that you can set aside time to take care of your coursework. In my case, a demanding job, a new house and a puppy became very time-consuming. I found balance when I was able to identify the best times that I would be able to get my schoolwork done without distractions. I chose the best way to do so was to wake up at 4 a.m., Monday through Friday, and complete most of my assignments before getting ready for work at 7 a.m. Any work that was left over got finished on the weekend, but my Saturdays and Sundays were not consumed with day-long coursework.
Who has been your support system?
My support system has included my fiancé, Shayla, who has always encouraged me to follow my dreams and pursue my educational goals. We met when I was a construction worker taking community college courses at night.
My employer, American Addiction Centers, has also been a significant support. Our corporate CEO, Michael Cartwright, has personally invested in my education with hopes that I will help our company grow. My boss, River Oaks CEO Jeff Turiczek, has been instrumental in supporting my educational endeavors and has taught me countless lessons about the business aspect of addiction treatment. My family, although they are still in Boston, have always supported me and my quest to be a better person.
What was the most challenging part of your student journey?
Group projects were always the most challenging for me. I have maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout the MBA program, and I would often get frustrated with the lack of effort of the classmates I was grouped with. I needed to accept that everybody does not have the same drive for learning as I do, and at the advice of a professor, determined to draw up team contracts with clear expectations for each group member. This lesson will serve me well in the business world, where I now make sure that any expectations of employees are documented and understood clearly.
Who or what inspires you to succeed?
What inspires me most is that life is short, and we should all do the best we can while we are here. Most of my childhood friends are either dead or in jail, and I feel that I have been given a second chance to make a difference in the world. Most people who struggle with addiction never find their way to treatment or recovery, and my inspiration is that I can change that. My years of addiction caused me to hurt a lot of people, and I have focused my years of recovery on helping people. If I die helping more people than I have hurt than I will consider it a battle won.
What is one fun fact about you?
This may sound strange coming from someone who grew up in a housing project, surrounded by brick and concrete, but I find peace and solace in tending to my yard. We bought our first home after moving to Florida in 2015, and I have meticulously planted new sod, installed sprinklers, and managed the flowers and trees on my property ever since. I find it very relaxing. Doing yardwork takes me away from the hustle and bustle of work/school/recovery/etc. Everybody always asks me why I do not hire a landscaper to come and service our property, and the truth is I do not want anyone else to do the job because I enjoy it. It allows me to take pride in the work that I have done, and I refuse to let anyone else take credit for it.
Are you a graduate of Florida Tech’s 100% online degree programs? We would love to share your success story in our Student Spotlight series. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional details.