Matt Benson ’22 of Park Rapids, Minn., has never shied away from a challenge.
Competing for the Norse men’s track-and-field team last spring, he opted to train for not one but technically 10 events as he took on the decathlon despite the fact that he had never even tried five of the individual events that compose it. “I had always wanted to try the decathlon,” Benson says with a grin. “I ended up having a great time and even won one of the events.”
That same competitive spirit manifested itself in the pool last winter when Benson, a two-year captain of the Luther men’s swimming and diving team, contributed to two relay victories at the American Rivers Conference championships and claimed individual conference titles in the 400-yard medley and a very memorable 500-yard freestyle event that found him trailing by more than an entire lap halfway into the race. Whereas others might panic, Benson kept his cool. “I just stuck to my strategy and my pace and found my stride at the end,” he says. “I guess the moral of the story is ‘stay the course.’”
And that’s exactly what Benson, a biology major and chemistry minor, did during his four years at Luther, focusing on the sciences from the start.
“That was one driving force for coming here—being able to swim competitively was the other—because I knew that Luther had a strong biology program, and I knew that I would be well prepared if I did decide to apply to medical school,” he says.
Most college students would likely consider taking a pre-med slate of classes and participating on not one but two varsity teams more than enough, but Benson made room for plenty more on his proverbial plate while at Luther. He served on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), participated in the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) co-ed service fraternity, and took part in the PALS youth mentorship program, all while maintaining grades that earned him induction into the Phi Beta Kappa national honor society. How did he manage it all? “Believe it or not, I didn’t pull a single all-nighter,” Benson says. “Being so involved on campus really helped me manage my time.”
His well-honed time-management skills will undoubtedly come in handy at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, where Benson began classes this August. Building on healthcare experience gained working as a CNA for the last three summers, he envisions a future as either a general surgeon or a family practice physician—he has job-shadowed doctors in both specialties—and hopes eventually to set up practice in a small rural community.
“The paramount thing for me is to form one-on-one connections in my profession,” he says. “My time at Luther—forging such tight connections with my teammates, my classmates, and my professors—drove home how important that is to me."