Profile: Matt Phelan

Over his 30-year career at Emerson, Matt Phelan has helped thousands of students graduate from Emerson, after advocating years ago for the development of a center to provide a range of support for students to enhance their educational experience.

Phelan is the director of the Lacerte Family Writing and Academic Resource Center (WARC). He and his professional and graduate assistant staff handle more than 3,000 student visits per academic year. Students come to WARC for a variety of reasons, including to consult on their writing assignments and projects, to enhance their proficiency in written and spoken English, and to discuss transitioning to college and meeting the challenges of academic expectations.

When he is not busy developing new initiatives at the Center, Phelan works directly with more than 100 students per semester. He works with transfers, athletes, students with learning differences, and those experiencing academic difficulty. He believes that colleges have a commitment to provide their students with the resources they need to achieve academic success.

His colleagues oversee WARC’s programming for peer tutors, writing assistance, and international students. The Center employs 15 graduate students as writing consultants, 3 as academic success consultants, and 4 as English Language Learning consultants. This year, an affiliated faculty member from WLP was hired to help support international graduate students in their coursework.

Students can easily make appointments online for most services at Most appointments are one-on-one in person, but WARC does offer some group appointments and online consultations for students enrolled in Emerson online courses.

Phelan and his colleagues work closely with Student Accessibility Services, Academic Advising, and academic departments. WARC also offers a variety of specific workshops, including those targeted to Journalism and Marketing Communications students.

Phelan was initially hired to coordinate the College’s writing assistance and special programs. He formalized the Bridge Program, which was in operation for more than 15 years. The program helped first-year and transfer students transition to the College. As Emerson became increasingly more competitive and attracted higher-performing students, the Bridge Program was phased out.

A native of Western Massachusetts, Phelan graduated with two degrees from Salem State University: a BA in literature and an MFA in British literature. After graduation, he worked at Salem State as an academic skills coordinator for an alternative admissions program and also taught classes. He brought his love of literature to Emerson and also completed Emerson’s MFA program in Writing, Literature and Publishing.

Not surprisingly, he is a huge reader. He has also enjoyed flipping houses over the years. He and his partner, Alan, are currently renovating their home in Chelsea, Massachusetts. They just sold a home in Salem, Massachusetts, and bought a weekend home in Kennebunkport, Maine.

When asked what he enjoys most about his work, Phelan mentioned that seeing a new group of students every year keeps the job fresh. He told a story about a former student who experienced academic difficulties but who had persistence, an important quality. He graduated and later won an Academy Award for sound design, with Al Pacino handing him the award. “It’s inspiring and rewarding to facilitate students’ success,” he said.

Nancy Howell (Marketing)