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Nielsen wins ‘USA Today’ award

February 12, 2001

To Matthew (Buzzy) Nielsen, the hallmark of leadership is understanding one’s convictions.

“Good leaders question their beliefs, examine other viewpoints and anticipate results,” says Nielsen, chair of the Student Academic Affairs Board.

Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., understood that principle. Their awareness made them effective and admired, Nielsen says. But dogmatic leaders, such as Stalin and Hitler, lack insight and act on emotion.

Nielsen, a junior from Langlois who is majoring in philosophy, is developing leadership principles based on the tenets of philosophy.

“Many disciplines make assumptions about the way things work,” he says. “That’s not true in philosophy. Anything is fair game.

“That’s why I respect each of my philosophy professors. They are open and intelligent, and they live what they teach.”

Nielsen’s commitment to leadership, to participation in student government and academic affairs, and to academic rigor have won him honorable mention in USA Today’s 2001 All-College Academic Team competition.

“I’m proud of this award,” says Nielsen, who maintains a 3.96 grade point average. “I consider this to be a testament to the opportunities available at Lewis & Clark College.”

As chair of SAAB, he helps other students pursue their personal academic goals. Since its inception in 1982, SAAB has granted more than $1 million to nearly 700 students to research and implement their academic initiatives.

Michael Ford, associate vice president for campus life, has high praise for Nielsen.

“Buzzy makes difficult decisions with resolve and sensitivity. He handles a myriad of responsibilities while maintaining his perspective and sense of humor.”

Nielsen also participates on the Associated Students of Lewis & Clark College Executive Council and is a voting member of the College’s curriculum committee.

Nielsen attended a Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership Conference (HOBY) during his sophomore year at Pacific High School that sparked his passion for leadership. Last year, HOBY invited him back to train program leaders. This honor is rarely bestowed on former participants. During spring break, Nielsen served as a counselor at the HOBY conference in Portland.

He plans to pursue his doctorate in philosophy and has already mapped out his dissertation topic: developing leadership from the philosophical discipline of pragmatism.

“Buzzy has the whole package,” says Curtis Johnson, dean of the College. “He’s bright, weighs questions carefully with the thoughtfulness of a philosopher, has a diplomatic style and is a master in the art of parliamentary procedures.”

“Buzzy has tremendous natural academic talent,” adds Nicholas Smith, professor of philosophy and department chair, who nominated Nielsen for the award. “On the other side of the equation, he gets the most from his talent because of his prodigious work ethic. He’s a leader who is so responsible that the phi- losophy professors treat him more like a colleague than a student. Several times during search committee meetings, Buzzy pointed out a candidate’s strengths or weaknesses and significantly influenced our decision.”

Nielsen is a member of the Dr. Robert B. Pamplin, Jr., Society of Fellows and won a Student Ambassador Scholarship and a Ford Family Foundation Scholarship. In addition, he is an undergraduate representative to the College’s Board of Trustees, peer consultant in the Writing Center, admissions tour guide, Russian tutor for Oregon Social Services, member of the National Association of Parliamentarians, member of the Greater Oregon Academy for Leadership and Service, and junior counselor for the Oregon Association of Student Councils.

—by Pattie Pace

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