Matthew Ellenburg’s dream of helping people comes full circle

Communication major Matthew Ellenburg's path to the University of South Carolina Aiken has been a winding one, but he's grateful for the journey that led him here. An online student from Traveler's Rest, he previously earned an associate's degree in criminal justice from Greenville Technical College.

"I really just wanted to help people," he says. "Helping people has always been in the back of my mind."

After entering Greenville Tech as an Associate of Arts major in 2012, Ellenburg transferred to Francis Marion University but withdrew shortly thereafter due to illness. Back at Greenville Tech, he settled on criminal justice, a major rooted in public service to which he could apply most of his credits.

Although his illness was a setback, Ellenburg has no regrets. He says, "I'm glad I went through that because it taught me resilience and that if you want to go for something, then you need to go for it."

That mentality is ultimately what prompted him to pursue his bachelor's degree. After receiving his associate's degree in 2016, he worked in retail before becoming a consultant for artificial intelligence-generated content in 2018, a job that he still enjoys today. However, in 2022, Ellenburg felt that something was still missing, and the lure of a bachelor's degree dangled before him.

With the support of his wife and parents, he began exploring online universities that would give him the flexibility to continue working and remain at home in Traveler's Rest. He was intrigued by the online program and teacher-to-student ratio at USC Aiken.

He says, "The more I read about the communication program and the faculty, the more I was drawn to it. USC Aiken has the feel of a smaller school, but still has the USC name and reputation behind it."

Ellenburg enrolled at USC Aiken in August 2022, choosing a major in communication for its versatility. Today, he maintains a 4.0 GPA, is a scholarship recipient and has been inducted into the Lambda Pi Eta communication honor society. While he doubted himself in the beginning, he was encouraged by the support he received from the faculty and his family.

"My parents are very supportive and always told me to follow my dreams," he says. "But I was nervous prior to the start of classes. It had been six years since I had written a paper, and I didn't know how well I was going to do. Dr. Munsell made me believe I can do this stuff."

Munsell says, "One of the reasons we built our online programs in Communication and Emerging Media was to attract students like Matthew. He is a fantastic student, and I'm glad he

found an academic home with us at USCA and our Communication and Emerging Media Department. He has excelled in our program."

That confidence from his professors led Ellenburg to set his sights on even higher education. "Dr. Munsell encouraged me to apply to graduate school," he says. "I can see myself even becoming a professor because I could become someone like him, helping other students."

Ellenburg's original goal of helping people has come full circle. He will take the GRE in August and is applying to graduate programs for the fall of 2024. "I like to help and teach people, and I think that's what professors do," he says. "That is something I would absolutely enjoy and look forward to pursuing."

For more information, contact Christen Engel, (803) 641-2825,