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  • Writer's pictureMatt Garris

Career Aspirations

The following post is adapted from my personal academic coursework.


My career has changed several times. I enlisted in the Marine Corps following high school and thought I would stay for at least 20 years. However, the Lord let me know that He was changing the direction of my life and I needed to be ready to follow Him anywhere. I did not understand, but I knew that Jesus said “No one can serve two masters” in Matthew 6:24 (NKJV). Belonging to the Marine Corps limited how much I could follow God. Thus, I made the difficult decision to leave after my second enlistment.


As a civilian, I accepted a position as a freight forwarder, coordinating logistics for major media outlets for 9 months while my wife finished college. Once she graduated, we relocated so I could attend school and we could be close to family. She stayed home with the children while I added a night job as an armed security officer for a major urban hospital.


After school, I left the hospital and taught at a small, urban high school about 90 minutes away from our church and extended family. After four years of driving back and forth, we moved back home. By this time, our family had grown too large to live on teacher pay, so I took a job driving a delivery truck. Within a few months, I moved into a leadership role and remained there for the next three years. Last year, my wife returned to work which allowed me to teach again, but I kept the other job part-time as it was beneficial for the company and me. Presently, I work both jobs full-time, but I expect that to be temporary.


Because I am working two full-time jobs and have a wife and four children at home, this may not be the best time for me to begin this Ph.D. program. However, I very much plan to continue, regardless of how impossible it may seem. While now may not be the “best” time, I believe it is the right time. Also, as Jesus said in Matthew 19:26, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”


My ultimate career aspiration is to start a national network of Christian alternative schools targeting boys in grades 6-12 who are on track to spend much of their lives in prison. In the long term, I plan to lead around 100 school districts serving about 500,000 students annually. Hopefully, this will drastically reduce the incarcerated population in the United States which Sawyer and Wagner state is about 2.3 million people in 2020.


To reach this goal requires steady growth. I plan to start the first cohort of 100 6th graders and add a cohort of 100 6th graders each year so each school will have up to 700 students. I plan to add another local campus within a few years, then another city, and replicate this process nationally. Thus, my short-term goal is to plan for, acquire funding for, and start the first cohort at the first school.


Merida says that “Business leaders need wisdom to organize a growing business.” I believe the Ph.D. program will help me develop in this organizational wisdom by strengthening my educational leadership skill set, expanding my limited business knowledge, and affording me the opportunity to research. Specifically, I hope to learn which populations of men spend the most time in prison (i.e. Are the commonalities related to race, fatherlessness, gang activity, mental health, poverty, etc.?), the underlying reasons for this (i.e. What about thess characteristics leads to incarceration?), and effective interventions for reversing these trends. While I have the knowledge to run a school, I hope to acquire additional knowledge on how to start a school/business and how to best serve my future students.


References

Holy Bible, New King James Version. (2020). Thomas Nelson (Original work published 1982).


Merida, T. (2015). Christ-centered exposition commentary: Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Kings. B & H Publishing Group.


Sawyer, W. and Wagner, P. (2020, March 24). Mass incarceration: The whole pie 2020. Prison Policy Initiative. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2020.html

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