Since graduating from Unity College, Matthew Shejen has worked his way up to a Senior Vice President role for one of the largest banks in the country
When Matthew Shejen (‘00) first entered into Unity College, he didn’t see himself ever becoming the Senior Vice President and Head of Strategy and Planning at Wells Fargo, which has roughly 76.6 million customers. In fact, growing up in Appleton, Maine, he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, who was the Police Chief in North Berwick and a Master Maine Guide, by pursuing a degree in Conservation Law.
“I wanted to continue on that path,” said Shejen recently from his corner office in Charlotte, NC. “I really loved the outdoors.” It’s no surprise, then, that Unity’s Nova program stands out as one of Shejen’s fondest memories from his time at the College.
“The initial introduction going through the Nova program was a breath of fresh air,” said Shejen. “Having that initial network of friends built when you come through the door was amazing to me. I still have pictures, and stay in touch with some of the people I went on my Nova trip with. There’s nothing that will bring you closer together than hiking for three or four days up on the Appalachian Trail.”
It left such an impression on Shejen that he would go on to head up his own Nova trips, helping develop the leadership and interpersonal skills he would later need to work with others in a professional environment. “Hiking with co-lead Lori Scory during summer and winter Nova trips still stands as one of my favorite memories,” he added.
“A big part of our curriculum, as any of our students know, is intended to give them those skills that can translate into any environment, whether it’s the workplace or graduate school,” said Dr. Melik Peter Khoury, President of Unity College. “We not only educate students to become environmental stewards but also high-character individuals who are versatile and persistent.”
While initially Shejen was planning to become a game warden or an agent for the US Fisheries & Wildlife Service, the competition for those positions was tough, as was the job market as a whole when he graduated. There were only three or four open spots, and more than 500 applicants, so he began to explore other options. Shejen had leadership qualities that other applicants didn’t, and he eventually found his way into the business world. Though it was totally foreign to him at the time, Shejen found he had a knack for project and process management.
“You always fall back on the fundamentals,” Shejen said. “Looking back at the Nova program, the interpersonal skills — breaking down communication barriers and finding ways to connect to get the job done — were critical to learning the ins and outs of the business world. Those fundamentals I learned at Unity.”
As many leading businesses are beginning to take notice of the importance of having business-minded environmental stewards on staff, Unity College has expanded its efforts and introduced a Sustainable Business Enterprise Bachelor of Science program.
Sustainable Business Enterprise graduates develop an environmental lens of the world through Unity’s definitive experiential learning processes, and are able to apply their resulting skills to address the challenges at the intersection of economy, society, and environment. The program capitalizes on the core scientific competency of America’s Environmental College while also aligning current course offerings with existing graduates’ career and graduate school choices.
“Sustainability is a key ingredient in sound business practices,” said Dr. Khoury. “This unique program will prepare innovative business leaders and managers who can effectively steward natural resources and create enterprises that have a positive impact on society while also achieving a solid bottom line. A course or two on the environment is insufficient to truly address the issues at hand — our students are immersed in sustainability science from day one, and will be able to recreate and reimagine the processes, products, and services of the industries they become involved in. This is not your average business degree.”
People sometimes will ask Shejen if he wishes he had gone to another school rather than Unity, and his answer is always the same. “Never!”
“Unity College provided me with skills and an appreciation that I use every day. Whether it was learning how to break down barriers with new students in the Nova program, organizational and management skills with Leigh in the bookstore, or statistics and crunching data with Barry Woods, my time at Unity — although unorthodox — has been essential to my success,” he said. “Where else can you do an internship with the Department of Environmental protection in Connecticut and have the opportunity to guard the president of United States (all thanks to Barry Woods for being the best monitor ever)? Talk about a resume builder! With the College’s new focus on sustainability in the business world, new students will be able to reach heights faster than ever.”