International community builder: Matthew Fully

Matthew Fully (’17 sociology and criminal justice), plans to change the world by bringing people together with activism, volunteerism and community-building.

Fully came to Iowa State University in 2015 as a transfer student from Des Moines Area Community College and began studying sociology and criminal justice. During his time on campus, he made his mark by leading the volunteer committee of the African Students Association and participating in the Black Students Alliance, the Trio Student Support Services Students Advisory Board and serving as a cultural ambassador on the International Students Council. Fully also served as the president of ISUnity day, an organization he founded to help Iowa State unify a diverse student body.

“I think that he’s a great role model for future students. He works really hard, and when he first came to Iowa State, he had some bumps in the road, persevered and pulled himself up,” said Kate Simmons, adviser in the Department of Sociology.
A positive attitude, hard work and a passion for working with people have been the keys to Fully’s success – and he is no stranger to overcoming adversity. Fully is from Liberia, and lived there during the Liberian Civil Wars.

“I was born in Liberia, and when I was five months old there was a civil war and my father died because he worked for the government. Everything changed. The wars lasted for 14 years and instead of living in the city, we had to live in a village, and I became a refugee,” explained Fully.

During this time, Fully was motivated to help the people of Liberia overcome many of their struggles and founded the Liberia Association of Volunteers in October 2012. The organization offers free tutorials, public lectures, teaches health awareness, does community clean-ups and more. The organization donated materials to an Ebola holding unit and a several communities during the Ebola crisis from late 2014 to 2015.

While he was accomplished prior to coming to Iowa State, Fully knows that faculty and staff at the university helped him achieve his goals and set his sights on graduate school.

“My adviser, Kate Simmons, gave me every bit of information I needed and she was more than an adviser to me,” said Fully. “Professors are accomplished and care about students. They are always willing to talk.” And it wasn’t just support on campus that helped Fully succeed.

“I want to thank my mom,” said Fully. “I was five months old when my father passed. My stepfather passed in 2007. My mother has believed in every decision I’ve made and supported me along the way. I am thankful for God's blessings throughout my life, without which I would not have been as successful as I have been or was at ISU. I also appreciate my family and friends for standing by me during those years as well.”

Though he had help from others, Fully worked hard, participated in class and always asked questions. Now he is a graduate student at the Pennsylvania State University School of International Affairs. He knows that if other students do the same, they can also find success at Iowa State.