Kayaker brings love of rivers to online civil engineering courses

Matt Thomas fell in love with rivers as a 16-year-old whitewater rafting guide. He started kayaking before the sport had reached the mainstream, learning where and when he could. His early engineering career came second to weekends of mountain biking, skiing, and kayaking.

In July 2009, a mountain biking accident caused a life-changing injury. “I couldn’t feel anything below my neck and then next thing I know I’m in the ER,” Thomas recalls. Over time, Thomas has transitioned from using a power wheelchair to a manual wheelchair, but says that in many ways, things haven’t changed. “I’m still the same person. I still have these desires for adventure and adrenaline rushes and to be on the river and in the river, but I’m confined to this physical state.”

“Graduate school, for me, was a vehicle to apply myself the best way that I could.”
– Matt Thomas, online civil engineering master’s student

Thomas chose to pursue a master’s degree in civil engineering to reconnect with the rivers he loves. “I have decided to broaden my definition of recovery,” he says. “So I’ve been focused on other things, like school and career.”

CSU’s online program gave him the flexibility to study from home in a way that worked for him. Thomas says, “Watching the lecture at my own pace was really key. I would watch for a little bit, write, pause it, finish writing. Having the online program was very conducive for my physical limitations.”

Watch the video to hear more from Thomas about how he realigned his passion for rivers with his professional goals by studying civil engineering online with CSU.

Watch a video with more of Thomas’ story here.

CSU’s Online Programs

Colorado State University is a leader in water-related issues and one of the few institutions providing an online graduate degree in civil engineering with a focus on water resources engineering and management.

CSU’s online degrees, certificates, and courses provide students with the flexibility to study online while juggling work, family, and whatever else life throws their way. Learn more about CSU’s online programs at online.colostate.edu.