Alumnus Shapes World With Law Degree

The law can be a powerful tool in the right hands.

Matthew Goodison-Orr has directly discovered this as an attorney who has helped both the socially disadvantaged and veteran communities. But those rewarding moments almost didn’t happen.

“I had a vague idea of wanting to help people by pursuing a legal career,” Goodison-Orr said. “But it wasn’t until I reached UCF that I saw the real possibilities.”

Goodison-Orr’s goal as a freshman was to study Aerospace Engineering, with the intention of going into patent law. An insurmountable Calculus 3 class changed those plans, and made Political Science a much more attractive option. That’s when Goodison-Orr began to see the full potential of a law degree.

“I began to discover the meaning of advocacy,” Goodison-Orr said.

His extracurricular activities played a big role, too. He learned financial accountability as a four-year senator in the Student Government Association, where he represented the colleges of Engineering and Sciences, and managed a budget measured in the millions of dollars. He served as president of the law fraternity Phi Alpha Delta, and as president of the Anime Spot Club, which, at the time, annually hosted the popular KnightroCon on campus.

“It was fun to be a part of making these really awesome student experiences become a reality,” Goodison-Orr said.

Goodison-Orr’s successes as an attorney began while he was still studying law at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. Early on, as a clerk at the Nassau County Department of Health, he wrote a brief that overturned an old law. That success grabbed the attention of a larger law firm, Port & Sava, LP, which promptly brought Goodison-Orr on the team for an externship and later as an associate to spearhead military and veteran cases.

One of the most memorable cases involved a former Marine who had received an “other than honorable” discharge, essentially barring him from benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Goodison-Orr took advantage of recent changes in military law that provide exceptions for misconduct based on “previously unrecognized” post-traumatic stress disorder and upgraded the discharge to honorable.

“It was a watershed case, because a lot of other disenfranchised Marines with PTSD were able to pursue changes in their discharge based on this result,” Goodison-Orr said.

Goodison-Orr built on his success to become an assistant vice president at SunTrust Bank. His current role requires in-depth understanding of international law and the ability to be nimble in negotiations. His experience in the Diplomacy Studies program proved to be an invaluable asset in this role.

“Every scenario is different, so you have to really use your brain to come up with unique solutions,” Goodison-Orr said. He believes that UCF’s emphasis on real-world application — whether in the classroom or extracurricular activities — has given him a professional edge.

“The university takes an experiential viewpoint, so I can apply my knowledge immediately,” Goodison-Orr said.



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