Senior discovers ‘what matters’ during undergraduate studies

Keegan Gibson with John Kasich, former governor of Ohio, during February's What Matters to U event. 
By Ashley A. Williams

Keegan Gibson with John Kasich, former governor of Ohio, during February's What Matters to U event. 

Senior discovers ‘what matters’ during undergraduate studies

By Ashley A. Williams
Keegan Gibson, the organizer of the University of Miami Student Government’s flagship interactive What Matters to U lecture series, discusses his academic journey.

When most students learned that the University of Miami’s Student Government was bringing Bill Nye the Science Guy to the Coral Gables campus, they may not have considered whose idea it was to have him be a guest speaker.

The What Matters to U series, which kicked off in February 2019, was the brainchild of recent College of Engineering graduate Keegan Gibson. From the moment the Columbus, Ohio, native stepped onto campus, he knew that he wanted to make a positive impression during his time at the University. 

After realizing the need for a signature campus event that would engage students and carry thought-provoking conversations beyond the Donna E. Shalala Student Center ballrooms, Gibson worked in partnership with Evan De Joya, past student government president; President Julio Frenk; and Bill Green, senior vice provost and dean of undergraduate education; to deliver an interactive discussion series. Since its launch, the series has brought notable cultural icons to spark discourse about relevant topics, including two-time World Cup champion Megan Rapinoe in October 2019. 

“I’m happy that I was able to provide a staple that students can look forward to,” said Gibson. “I hope what I did inspires others to make a positive change—no matter how big or small it is.”

While Gibson is hoping to inspire future ’Canes, today he’s back in his hometown receiving some inspiration from his mom—the founder of a nonprofit tennis program for children and adults with Down syndrome.

“With COVID-19, obviously there’s a lot of bad, but I’m also taking this time to do some self-improvement,” said Gibson, who recently became an American Red Cross disaster action team volunteer. “I’ve delivered Meals on Wheels, and I have been training for two Iron Man events,” he added, also pointing out that he hopes to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in December. 

Gibson said he credits his undergraduate successes to his close friends and faculty members who have elevated his ideas and celebrated change.

“Dr. [Bill] Green’s ability to be relentless in his pursuit of excellence really stuck out to me,” Gibson said. “He really inspired me to push myself in what I believe in, in all aspects of life.”

Gibson also offers gratitude to his professors for introducing him to new academic opportunities. During his junior year, he was encouraged to enroll in the dual-degree program that culminates with students receiving both Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in biomedical engineering degrees. Most recently, he accepted a part-time position with Skeletal Dynamics, an upper extremity medical device company.

“They’ve all given me a love to learn and be a student of life,” he said. “It’s been a turbulent semester, but my motivating factor has been reminding myself to not lose hope.” 

The What Matters to U series will be moving into its third year and Gibson is elated. His efforts permitted the student government to create a formal division called the Student Engagement Planning Agency—which is responsible for devising, planning, and executing interactive events for the entire student body.

Whether away or on campus, Gibson wants undergraduates to know what really matters is to make the little things important and work hard.

“Don’t take yourself too seriously,” he said. “It’s very easy to constantly look at the big picture and lose sight of the little things. But I think it’s important to take it a day at a time.”