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Alumni spotlight: Matt Bertone

Alumni spotlight: Matt Bertone

by Public Relations | May 23, 2024

LATROBE, PA – When Matt Bertone stepped off a plane at Dublin International Airport a few weeks ago, it had been about 10 years since he’d seen his extended family in Ireland. That previous visit lasted only a few weeks, but this time Bertone plans to stick around much longer.Matt Bertone (right) and his mother, Siobhán Bertone, in Dublin, Ireland

Bertone, C’23, of Shepherdstown, WV, graduated last December from Saint Vincent College with a degree in psychology and a minor in public health. He recently was accepted at University College Cork (UCC), a public university in Cork, Ireland, and in September will begin pursuing a Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in epidemiology.

Moving to Ireland five months before classes begin allows Bertone time to get settled and reconnect with his relatives. “In many ways, it’s like meeting them for the first time,” he said. “[In others], it’s like picking it back up with an old friend.”

Bertone is living in a “granny flat”—a small, secondary dwelling that in America is called a carriage house—in Wilton, a suburb about a 15-minute walk from Cork City. Bertone’s 93-year-old great aunt lives in the larger, adjacent house.

“The first night here in my little apartment, it all kind of hit me like a truck,” Bertone said. “I was like, ‘Wait a second, this isn’t vacation. I’ve moved here to live.’ It was an odd realization. But I feel comfortable here. There's a lot of excitement, and maybe that's mixed with some anxiety, but I think it's a good anxiety. I feel happy. I feel welcomed. I feel excited for the future.”

Bertone’s maternal grandmother emigrated to the United States decades ago and several members of his extended family still live in Ireland. “I probably have as much family here as I do in America,” he said. When Bertone was in grade school, he was granted dual American-Irish citizenship.

Set on a wooded, 42-acre campus in southwestern Ireland, UCC has more than 24,000 students, including 3,900 international students from 138 countries, and is ranked as one of the world’s top research institutions. The master’s program in which Bertone is enrolled should take one year to complete.

“I enjoy the data work part of public health,” Bertone said. “I like that it is [similar to] psychology in that you help people in personal ways and on global levels as well.”

Bertone credited Dr. Devin Fava, associate professor of psychological science and department chair at Saint Vincent, with igniting his passion for psychology. “He was a real encouraging factor when it came to statistics,” Bertone said. “At first, it was really daunting. But his positivity and willingness to help really make you feel like you can tackle any problem. And I’m also grateful to Dr. Elaine Bennett [dean of the School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences] because without her I would never have discovered public health. She was a true catalyst for me.”Matt Bertone (right) with (from left) his mother, Siobhán Bertone (left); great aunt, Maureen Cooper (center, bottom), and cousin, John Cronin (center, top), in Wilton, Ireland

During his freshman year at Saint Vincent, Bertone began working for the Admissions Office as a tour guide for prospective students. “I joined Admissions because I had a very positive experience with my host and my [campus] tours,” he said. “I did it as a way of giving back. I enjoyed giving tours, talking with the families and meeting new students. It was a cool experience to give [high school seniors] a tour, and then you see them again the next year.”

Bertone played rugby until his junior year when he left the team due to medical reasons. “A few too many head injuries,” he said. “I realized I shouldn’t be getting so many concussions if I wanted to go to grad school.” He also was a founding member of the Rock Band Club.

Taking dual-enrollment courses in high school and enrolling in discounted-cost summer-session courses at Saint Vincent put him on track to graduate last December. “It kind of came about by accident,” he said. “When my advisor told me, ‘It looks like you can graduate a semester early,” I was surprised, but it was good. Taking those classes saved me some money as well, which made going to grad school more feasible.”



PHOTO 1: Matt Bertone (right) and his mother, Siobhán Bertone, in Dublin, Ireland

PHOTO 2: Matt Bertone (right) with (from left) his mother, Siobhán Bertone (left); great aunt, Maureen Cooper (center, bottom), and cousin, John Cronin (center, top), in Wilton, Ireland