Senior Spotlight: Matt Houk

Matt Houk Senior Spotlight graphic

Matt Houk has always loved to learn.

That passion for education led Houk to the University of Missouri, where he will graduate this December with three degrees – political science, history and communication – as well as two minors and a handful of certificates, including the Honors Certificate. Houk accomplished a lot during his time at MU, and those achievements led him to being selected as the student speaker during the Honors commencement ceremony.

It was Houk’s interest in learning, as well as a desire to follow a blueprint that his older sister created, that put him on the path to have such an enriching experience at Mizzou. Houk arrived on the MU campus with a degree already under his belt. While Houk was working toward his high school diploma in Neosho, Missouri, he was also completing his associate degree at Crowder College.

“My sister and I have a friendly sibling rivalry, and she’s always been a big inspiration for me,” Houk said. “She received her associate degree while in high school. I knew if she could do it, I had to do it. I also knew that degree would set me up well for the future. Plus, I like learning and a couple extra classes here and there kept me out of trouble.”

Houk’s two years at Crowder College were made possible by a scholarship from the Wyandotte Nation. Houk is a member of Wyandotte Nation, and the funding allowed him to finish his associate degree in time for him to go to Mizzou.

Matt Houk posing for a photo at a Mizzou football game.
As Houk made more and more friends, he made the decision to stay at Mizzou for as long as he could, collecting three degrees in the process. Photo courtesy of Matt Houk.

“That scholarship was such a massive help in my journey,” Houk said. “I have a lot of pride in being Native, and I’ve worked really hard to raise awareness about the Wyandotte Nation. It’s definitely a mission that’s personal to me and something I’m passionate about.”

After receiving her associate degree, Houk’s sister found her way to the University of Missouri. Houk knew Mizzou would be where he continued his education, too. The siblings grew up in a family of MU fans.

“Honestly, there aren’t a lot of students who go to Mizzou from the small town I grew up in,” said Houk, who moved with his family to Neosho just before his junior year of high school. “But with my sister here, I knew I would have a bit of a support system already in place.”

A couple scholarships helped make the transition easier as well. Houk was a Missouri Land Grant Honors recipient and was also named a Brooks Scholar. He was originally an engineering major before switching to political science toward the beginning of his first semester.

“I’m not a big math guy; I didn’t even make it to my first engineering class before making the change,” Houk said. “I did debate in high school and had an interest in law school, so political science seemed to be a good move.”

Because he brought in so many credits, Houk was going to be able to graduate with his political science degree in less than two years. However, between exciting hands-on learning experiences and making new friends, Houk was having a great time at Mizzou. He began to have conversations with his advisor about how he could stick around for a bit longer.

“Originally, I was OK with graduating a bit early, as I thought it would be fine to get a jumpstart on law school,” Houk said. “But I soon realized that I wanted to be on a more similar timeline to my peers. I definitely enjoyed the college experience. The only way to really stay around was to add more degrees.”

Houk decided to pick up degrees in history and communication. An American constitutional democracy minor seemed like a nice fit, too. Houk’s second minor was in defense and strategic studies.

Matt Houk and James Long posing for a photo.
Houk said that James Long helped him stay connected to the Honors College through various events. Photo courtesy of Matt Houk.

“I’m a history nerd and my dad enjoys history as well,” Houk said. “I loved my history classes, and it seemed like a fun major to be a part of. Communication is a vital part of any career. I like to think of myself as an effective communicator, so I figured I might as well get a degree that says that.”

Scheduling was vital with Houk pursuing three degrees and being part of the Honors College helped in a big way. With early registration access, Houk was able to make sure he was enrolling in the credits that he needed to stay on track.

“I really don’t know if I could have got the classes I needed without being part of the Honors College,” Houk said. “That early access was so key. I loved being part of Honors in general, too. There are so many passionate professors. I enjoyed the fact that most of my courses through the college were discussion heavy. It fostered a healthy learning environment and allowed you to grow as a student. I’m thankful for the opportunities that the Honors College afforded me.”

While pursuing three degrees kept Houk plenty busy, he did find time to take part in a study abroad experience in Oxford through the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy. It was during that time he first got connected with Catherine Rymph, dean of the Honors College.

“I made a lot of great connections during my time at Mizzou,” Houk said. “There are so many opportunities to network.”

After graduation, Houk said he plans to head back to Neosho for a bit. He is going to help coach the varsity tennis team at his old high school and save up for law school. He’s already been accepted into three programs and is currently making a decision on which one to choose.

“It’s refreshing to have a few options,” Houk said. “Mizzou has prepared me to know that I can conquer just about anything no matter where I end up. I have great MU connections all over, and I know that I can find a community wherever I go. Mizzou exposed me to a much larger world and I’m ready to explore more.”