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From Dropout to Director

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Abi O'Neal

Associate Director of Marketing & Communications

Ana Faria

Digital Marketing Specialist

Dr. Matthew Brinton’s Dream

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Alumni  •

At the University of Denver, almost 90% of first-year undergraduate students come back for their second year 1. Across the country, though, around 30% of undergraduate students drop out. Students leave both undergraduate and graduate programs for many reasons, including economic hardship and a lack of community 2,3. Dr. Matthew Brinton is not ashamed to share the reason he left college the first time around: he failed. 

During his hiatus from education, Matthew realized that he “didn’t want to work in restaurants for the rest of [his] life.” His decision to return to school was firm. Driven to start somewhere, he did what only 13% of college dropouts do 4. Matthew began classes at his local community college. Later, he completed his bachelor’s at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC). His path then led him to the Morgridge College of Education (MCE). At MCE, Matthew found his passion: “supporting students and expanding educational opportunities.”

Matthew’s Morgridge experience was fortified by a strong and intentional community and facilitated, in part, by the economic burden of pursuing higher education being diminished. For him, being a scholarship recipient - and surrounded by peers and leaders who challenged and encouraged him - helped make his dream a reality.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of not only my family, but also of some incredible faculty, staff, and classmates. It drives me to be successful and to give back.”

Matthew earned his Master’s in Higher Education in 2010. Since his time at MCE, his career has been focused on finding ways to ensure that “every student [has] access to high quality educational experiences.”

“Students are the reason we exist as higher education institutions. How we identify pathways for students to succeed is the lifeblood of my work and career. While some pathways overlap, each student takes their own journey which is why it becomes so important for there to be multiple opportunities for students to plug in and find their sense of belonging.”

After earning his master’s, Matthew went on to become the Assistant Director of Student Activities at Metropolitan State University of Denver, earn his PhD in Higher Education and Student Affairs Leadership at UNC, and fill increasingly impactful roles. In November 2022, he was selected to be the University of Washington’s new Director for Advancement for the Division of Student Life.  The “kid that got asked not to come back to campus at the end of [his] first year of college” now holds a doctorate, is in a position that he loves, and gets to support students in ways he had only dreamed of.  

Today, Dr. Brinton lives more than 1,000 miles away from the beautiful Rocky Mountains and University of Denver campus. Despite this distance and having completed his program more than a decade ago, he remains strongly connected to the MCE and DU communities. His time at Morgridge “cemented [his] passion for [his] work [and] dedication to supporting students” and he is “passionate about the work happening at DU.” Matthew is active in the DU Alumni Council because he believes that it “is important to contribute both the graduate student and non-traditional student voices” to their work. “As alumni,” he said, “we have an important responsibility to teach future alums what it means to lean in and be engaged and involved.”