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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Student awards in the School of Labor and Employment Relations (LER) are named in honor of past faculty and staff. The names are familiar to alumnus Lawrence J. Mattivi, not because of the awards but because of the people themselves.
“It’s funny because when I was looking at the website, I saw there was an Arlene Smith graduate scholarship as well as ones for Freida Rozen and Ron Filipelli – when I was in school, they were people that I interacted with on a daily basis,” he said.
Mattivi was the first School of LER student marshal in 1985. At that time, the labor and human resources major and the school were known as labor studies. Before 1985, Penn State held university-wide graduations without department marshals.
Looking back, Mattivi said that even decades after graduation, he still remembers the welcoming atmosphere of the school. “I liked to spend time in the office and hang out because everyone was so friendly and caring and fun. They would go all out with parties before football games or holiday parties. It was a great college experience.”
Mattivi served in the Nuclear Navy for six years before beginning his Penn State journey. He came to the University undecided about a major but knew he did not want to pursue further study in nuclear power.
At that time, the school was housed in the Oswald Tower, then known as the Liberal Arts Tower. Arlene Smith was a beloved figure in the department and served as an academic advisor for three decades starting in the 1970s.
“From the top floor of the tower, you had this expansive view of the whole campus,” he said. “I don’t even remember why I was up there one day, but I got to talking to Arlene Smith and I thought that labor studies sounded pretty cool. My family comes from a labor relations and union background.”
Mattivi said when he started taking the classes, he knew he was in the right major. “I found that I was really, really interested in labor studies and had several successful internships. I excelled in my classes and that’s how I became the student marshal.”
Together, Mattivi’s time in the Navy and his Penn State degree propelled him through the early part of his career. After graduating, he spent five years at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia as a labor relations supervisor.
“They were looking for someone to work in HR, and because I had the combination of a labor studies degree and a Navy background, they hired me,” he said.
A few years later, Mattivi was hired as a plant operator at Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Maryland, but within six months he had been promoted to a recruiter in the human resources department.
“They were looking for a recruiter and wanted someone with a human resources degree and a Naval background to hire guys out of the Nuclear Navy and into their power plant,” he said. “It was pretty much a perfect combination for me. I went from working shift work to being a salaried employee after just six months because of my Penn State degree.”
Mattivi is now back working for the Navy as a financial analyst, but he credits his labor studies degree for helping him build a strong foundation for his career.
June 16, 2021