Matthew Lillehaugen '17 has found a way to be one step ahead and he’s done it by combining interests that seem to have nothing in common.
He knew this was going to be possible from the moment he started at Concordia, a liberal arts college that emphasizes developing well-rounded students of the world.
"Where else could I find a place that would allow me to pursue physics and political science at the same time?" he says. "Not only does Concordia allow the flexibility to study vastly different topics, but it encourages students to reach across departments and engage in learning that is interdisciplinary."
Not only does Concordia allow the flexibility to study vastly different topics, but it encourages students to reach across departments and engage in learning that is interdisciplinary. – Matthew Lillehaugen '17
It also allows him to keep running.
Lillehaugen, who majors in political science and global studies while minoring in physics and mathematics, still finds time for athletics and was recently named an Academic All-American in track and field.
“While running can be a pretty big time commitment, I have also found that the exercise can be an outlet for pent up energy and provides time to think and process things from my day,” he says.
This time to think could be how he manages to thrive in athletics while keeping a 4.0 with two majors and two minors. He brings interdisciplinary learning to its peak.
This summer, he developed his own research project by using math to forecast Turkish politics. He became interested in research after analyzing data coming back from the Mars Curiosity rover under physics professor Dr. Heidi Manning. He became interested in Turkey after his experience as a Peace Scholar in Norway.
Dr. Daniel Biebighauser, his math advisor for the project, is impressed at the connections Lillehaugen makes across disciplines.
“I think it’s very unusual for an undergraduate to be doing this research and even more unusual for an undergrad to come up with the idea,” he says.
Dr. Sonja Wentling, his history advisor, agrees the project is ambitious for any researcher and hopes Lillehaugen sets a precedent for interdisciplinary collaborations.
His running may be one thing that prepares him mentally for the rigor of all that he does academically.
"My experiences as a runner have helped me to develop mental toughness and a goal-oriented mindset," he says.
He plans to attend graduate school and pursue a career in international relations with a lot of time abroad.
“Beyond that, I hope that I will be able to pursue things that challenge me and push me to learn and grow even more,” he says.
Karis Baerenwald '17 studies English and art at Concordia.