The University of Bridgeport named School of Professional Studies Professor AJ Di Mattia its Instructor of the Year on April 27. He is the first professor to have received the honor twice.
“Last time, in 2011, they surprised me with it at the awards dinner,” said Di Mattia, a 26-year Ridgefield resident, “but this time they called to let me know several days beforehand. Maybe they thought because I’m seven years older now, making it a big surprise again this time wasn’t such a good idea.”
Di Mattia teaches in the university’s accelerated degree program in which traditional 16 weeklong daytime courses, meeting two or three times per week are condensed to eight weeks, meeting just one night per week for three hours, from 6 to 9 p.m.
“It’s not for the unserious or weak of heart” he said. “My typical student, in addition to doing the assigned readings, preparing for class and studying for tests, likely is also holding down a day job, after which they’re dashing from Waterbury, Hartford, New Haven, Stamford and Manhattan to get to my 6 o’clock class for another three hours of me. They’re remarkably motivated, focused and disciplined people who deserve my best.”
A decade of teaching
Di Mattia began teaching at the university in 2008 when asked to fill in for a suddenly unavailable instructor.
“I had met the dean some six months earlier” he said, “and I imagine he remembered me. They unexpectedly found themselves with a scheduled class, 20 students, but no instructor.”
He continued, “Back then, the accelerated program was even more intense, with classes meeting just one night a week, for five weeks, for four hours, from 6 to 10 p.m. I had no clue about what I was getting into. When I asked the dean about a syllabus for the course and a textbook, he said, ‘You decide.’ That was some 50 courses and about a thousand students ago.”
Presented the award for an unprecedented second time, Di Mattia told his audience, “For the past 10 years I have been entrusted with the minds of my students, to ignite in them curiosity, surprise and wonder and instill an ability to think analytically, question critically and understand. Perhaps an even greater reward than this honor tonight is knowing I have given my students perhaps something of value which will serve them the rest of their lives, long after they have forgotten my name.”
Known for his classroom ardor and wit, Prof. Di Mattia teaches the U.S. Legal System, the U.S. Presidency, U.S. Government & Politics,Business Law, Criminal Justice, White Collar Crime and Human Security, Law & Terrorism. He holds a B.A., M.B.A., LL.M., J.D. and A.P.C from SUNY-Buffalo and the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Business, as well as from the law schools of Western Reserve University, New York University and Cornell University.
A local lawyer and member of the Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and federal bars, he is a resident making his home on Old Branchville Road in a converted antique sheep barn.