VERMILLION, S.D. -- To say Matthew Tysdal is making the most of his college experience would be an understatement. The University of South Dakota junior is president of his fraternity, Phi Delta Theta; he’s active in Political Science League; and he just completed another term as a member of the Student Government Association Senate. Tysdal is also a double major in economics and political science, and he’s an enlisted member of the South Dakota Army National Guard, where he serves with the 196th Regiment, Regional Training Institute, which is located in Fort Meade, S.D.
His selection as USD’s 14th Harry S. Truman Scholar shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who know him, but Tysdal is thrilled his commitment to success in and out of the classroom is paying off. The son of Ron and Marilyn Tysdal of Sturgis, S.D., has gone through his share of making tough decisions as a student, so receiving news he was The U’s eighth Truman Scholar in 11 years was a great reward.
“I originally planned on being a doctor,” said Tysdal, who also interned for Sen. Tim Johnson, D-SD, in 2009. “But I fell in love with economics.”
His choice of attending USD after high school graduation was dependent upon medical school. He believed that by going to USD as an undergraduate it would better his chances at being accepted into USD’s Sanford School of Medicine.
“I felt good about USD and, really, what brought me here was the school’s academic reputation,” admitted Tysdal.
However, as a sophomore, he was faced with an interesting dilemma. A member of South Dakota’s National Guard since 2006, Tysdal learned that he had been accepted to the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., but it meant leaving USD where he had developed so many positive relationships. He sought the advice of several people on campus, but the decision was his to make and to this date, he’s happy with the outcome.
“Ultimately, I thought it would be more beneficial to me, personally and academically, if I stayed.” he explained.
Looking back is always hindsight, but in the meantime, Tysdal joined Phi Delta Theta becoming the chapter president. He also ran for SGA President this spring and he added another major (political science) along the way.
“Matt is an intelligent student, a hard worker, and a strong leader,” said Michael Allgrunn, assistant professor of economics at USD. “Those qualities will serve him well as a Truman scholar and in a future career in public service.”
Tysdal credits Allgrunn as one of many people who influenced his decision to stay at USD. He said it shows the commitment faculty has when it comes to nurturing student success.
“Matt’s success thus far has a lot to do with the person he is, but it also demonstrates the strength of our programs here at USD,” added Allgrunn. “The hard work of faculty and staff here really helps create an environment where students like Matt can excel. His selection as a Truman Scholar is something we can all take pride in. I have no doubt that he will continue to do great things for his community and country.”
Tysdal also credits Susan Hackemer, Nationally Competitive Scholarships Coordinator, for going the extra mile while he was applying as a Truman Scholar.
“I was waiting for my interview in Minneapolis and I began to visit with South Dakota’s other Truman applicant, who just happened to be a student at Princeton,” Tysdal described. “No one prepared him at Princeton for the interview while I had three mock interviews at USD. That showed me just how much USD cares about its students.”
Hackemer, who helped prepare more than a dozen USD students for nationally competitive scholarships, noted that Tysdal’s leadership qualities didn’t hurt as he applied for the scholarship.
“Matt’s leadership skills are unusual for a college junior,” she said. “In the Army National Guard, he earned the highest student leadership position attainable, Student First Sergeant, during Advanced Individual Training at Ft. Lee, Va. He is president of his fraternity, ran – albeit unsuccessfully – for student body president, excels academically and has drafted a U.S. Senate bill.”
Tysdal interned for Sen. Johnson last summer, but how many interns use a summer gig to change policy? Tysdal was combing through the Dole-Shalala Commission’s report on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors. Ultimately, his research resulted in the writing and introduction of Senate Bill 1664. This bill seeks to modify the appointment and grade of the Chief of the Army Medical Specialist Corps so that the professionals who make up the Medical Specialist core (occupational therapists, physical therapists, dietitians and physician assistants) secure a voice equal to those who represent the Army’s physicians, dentists, nurses and veterinarians.
As a recipient of the Truman Scholarship, Tysdal will receive a $30,000 award from the Truman Scholarship Foundation for graduate study. While he’s not sure where graduate school will be at this point, Tysdal, though, is focusing his future on making more policy changes.
“I definitely want to get my M.P.A. (Master of Public Affairs),” said Tysdal, who will graduate from USD in May 2011. “What I want to do with that is to work for the Department of Veterans Affairs and effectively deal with those issues.”
In 1975, Congress established the Truman Scholarship Foundation as the federal memorial to Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States. To date, 2,730 Truman Scholars have been chosen since 1977. Sixty students from 54 colleges and universities throughout the United States were selected as 2010 Truman Scholars on the basis of leadership potential, intellectual ability, and likelihood of “making a difference.” The 2010 class of scholars will assemble at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., on May 25 for a leadership development program. They will receive their awards in a special ceremony at the Truman Library, which is located in Independence, Mo., on May 30.
A photo of Matt is available for download at www.usd.edu/urelations/images/Matt_Tysdal.jpg.