ECU adult learner Matt Rice finds home in BSIT program

Rice speaks during a College of Engineering and Technology Student Leadership Council meeting.

Matt Rice started his journey with ECU’s BSIT program in 2021 with online classes and is now taking courses on campus. With a concentration in industrial engineering, he expects to graduate in December.

“I’d like to find a local manufacturing facility and get into production management or middle management,” he said.

After graduating from high school in Minnesota, Rice started college in 1998. He worked a variety of jobs before joining the Marine Corps and serving until 2009. He completed his associate degree in Minnesota. When his wife Amanda found a job she liked at Vidant Medical Center, the couple moved to Greenville in 2016. He credits her for the support he needs to continue his education.

“If I’m doing a quiz online, she doesn’t interrupt, and when I turn in assignments, she’s always asking how I did. She’s just very supportive in that way,” he said. “I can do the school stuff, but it’s paying the bills, getting dinner, going to the dentist or doctor, taking care of the dog, it’s all that extra stuff that can distract you from school, but my wife really helps me with all of that — even though she works full time, too.”

As a 43-year-old, Rice takes classes with students half his age, but he said all have been very accepting of him.

“They don’t say much, but if I’m in a group project or in class, they don’t treat me any differently because I’m older,” he said. “It really doesn’t matter your age or the age of the person sitting next to you. We’re all adults. We’re just at different stages in our lives.”

Rice said he is trying to get more involved in campus. He has joined two student organizations — the Association of Technology Management and Applied Engineering, and the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers — and he’s also part of the new Student Leadership Council, where he brings the perspective of adult learners to an organization that is designed to give students a voice in academic and other matters within the College of Engineering and Technology.

“The first time I went to college, I think I talked to two people,” Rice said. “Now here at ECU in my program, I probably talk to about 10 people I know every day.”

Rice said he is pleased with his experiences and education at ECU and has advice for adults who are thinking about coming back to college.

“Go for it,” he said. “It’s kind of cool coming back to school.”