Civil engineering grad Matt Thomas never gives up

Recent grad Matt Thomas is a never-give-up kind of person. A former avid athlete who became paralyzed in 2009, Thomas fought through injury and rehabilitation, and earned his master’s in civil engineering in 2015 through CSU Online.

matt thomas

Hailing from the tiny town of Etna, Calif. – population 900 – Thomas loved math, design and building, and majored in civil engineering at the University of Idaho, where he graduated in 2000.

A self-described outdoorsman and athlete, Thomas enjoyed whitewater kayaking, skiing and mountain biking. In 2009, a mountain biking accident left him paralyzed from the chest down.

The road to recovery

Of course, his first priority was to focus on his physical recovery and learning to walk again. He moved to San Diego for spinal cord injury rehabilitation through Strides SCI Functional Fitness.

While working on his recovery, he discovered the organization Swim with Mike that provides scholarships for injured athletes. This gave Thomas the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree, and he decided to focus on water management because of his passion for all things water related.

“I’ve been a river enthusiast my entire life and was a professional whitewater kayaker prior to my injury,” Thomas said. “I had always wanted to go to CSU because of their excellent reputation in the field of water resources, and lucky for me they had an online program focusing on water resource management.”

CSU Online a positive experience

Thomas states that most of his professors were very understanding of his condition and easy to work with in regard to his disability. He is unable to move his fingers, so he devised a way to write using an iPad and a note-taking app. That made it possible to take class notes and complete tests.

He says the online experience was positive in that his classes were concurrent with on-campus classes, and often the questions asked by on-campus students were helpful in understanding the material. “In addition, the flexibility of being able to watch the class on my own schedule made it possible to continue my therapy,” Thomas said.

Thomas hopes to join the workforce in an area that would have a positive impact on the river environment, so that he “can give back to the rivers that gave me so much.”