Mathew St Martin

Mathew St Martin

Disaster Program Manager for Tennessee, Red Cross, United States
Master of Disaster Risk Management and Development
Bachelor of Sport and Recreation in Outdoor Education

Studying disaster risk management and development has opened up more opportunities than he ever could have expected, says Mathew St Martin who came to AUT from the US and researched how homeless people are impacted by emergencies and disasters.

“I’ve always been passionate about those experiencing homelessness, and prior to living in Auckland managed the day shift at a homeless shelter in the US. My research focused on homeless people in the face of emergencies and disasters, using Auckland as a case study. By talking to those battling homelessness, I was able to gain a much better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, and identify any mistreatment or gaps in services they were receiving.

“When people in the sector found out I was researching homelessness post COVID-19, all of a sudden I was in working groups with academics around the globe, and working on real solutions to homeless people’s vulnerabilities to emergencies and disasters. This was all due to my supervisor Dr Loïc Le Dé and his connections within the profession. I can’t speak enough about how this degree has not only exposed me to the industry but has given me so many more opportunities than I ever expected.”

After completing his studies, Mathew has now returned to the US where has been hired by the Red Cross to be the next disaster program manager for Tennessee.

“This role is responsible for local preparation, response and recovery management as well as the management of government partnerships with assigned territory. Tennessee is prone to all matter of disaster, but particularly tornadoes and flooding.”

Passionate about making a difference
Mathew’s interest in the international community and global health started at a very young age, and he has since lived, worked and volunteered in over a dozen countries pursuing community-based initiatives in education, youth mentorship and resilience building in the homeless community.

“I spent six years in the US Army as a combat lifesaver and non-commissioned officer, fulfilling two tours of Iraq and learning first-hand the detrimental effects of misguided military aggression. Following my time in the Army, I was accepted into the US Peace Corps and served in Senegal where I worked on community health development. I’ve also been a Red Cross Disaster Services volunteer and have been deployed in response to hurricanes and wildfires throughout the US.

“All of these experiences further drove my interest in working with international aid organisations and emergency and disaster response, however, it’s a very competitive world out there, and you need a postgraduate qualification, even with an extensive background such as mine.”

Deciding to come to AUT to study disaster risk management and development was an easy decision for Mathew.

“One of the absolute best experiences of my life was attending AUT for my Bachelor of Sport and Recreation in Outdoor Education in 2011. So, naturally when I wanted to switch careers and pursue an advanced degree I wanted to come back here. I wanted to have a better understanding of disaster risk management from those who had experienced it themselves, while building on my networking and complete relevant research in the field; all opportunities I have been able to fulfill while here.”

Inspiring and supportive
Mathew was impressed by his lecturers’ expertise and breadth of knowledge.

“The knowledgebase of Dr Ailsa Holloway and Dr Loïc Le Dé is simply astounding. They both have such an in-depth understanding and international experience of disaster and risk management and development, and can speak from both hands-on experience and academic prowess.”

The support available to postgraduate students like himself was also extremely helpful, Mathew says.

“Academic writing has always been a bit of a challenge for me, so the leadership I received from both my supervisor and the postgraduate office has been invaluable. The additional – and free – support for postgraduate students was such a commodity, from the free writing courses they offer to the private, 24-hour access postgraduate study rooms at each campus.”

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