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Broad Spartan bikes to give back

By Matt Swiontek, Executive MBA Class of 2023
Friday, August 19, 2022

Summer never used to be my favorite time of year. Summertime in Chicago is always hot and muggy, and you never can go anywhere without breaking a sweat. That all changed for me in 2020.

Matt Swiontek in cycling gear and helmet.

Matt Swiontek, second-year Executive MBA student

Before the pandemic, I was extremely overweight. There were a lot of health issues associated with this, so I knew something had to change. The global pandemic that shut down all the gyms in the city of Chicago meant that I had to find something outside to do. Given that I hated running, I bought a bike from my undergrad college roommate for $200 and began biking. It changed my life forever.

Starting that day, I became obsessed. I biked more than 2,000 miles during that summer alone. Biking was an outlet and a stress reliever during one of the darkest periods in modern history, and without it, I’m not sure where my life would be today. I dropped approximately 60 pounds over the course of 6 months, I was healthier physically and mentally and I developed a new hobby that would allow me to meet tons of new people.

The following summer, in 2021, I was itching to get out and ride more. My mom, who works as a pediatric dietitian for Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, tipped me off that her hospital was sponsoring a new event that I would be interested in. “Pedalpalooza” is a virtual, asynchronous biking challenge that Lurie Children’s holds every summer, challenging cyclists to bike 100 miles over the course of a month while raising money for lifesaving care.

My mother has been working for Lurie Children’s for over 35 years. That hospital and the entire Lurie organization has meant so much to not only her but our entire family. No matter where you come from, what you look like or your ability to pay, Lurie’s will always find a way to provide kids the health care they need. It was an easy sell for me to use my new biking abilities in raising money for a place that has been so near and dear to our hearts.

That summer, I set out to not only do the 100 miles but go further and do 500. I ended up smashing my fundraising goal as well and raised nearly $1,000 for the kids.

“Whenever I wear MSU gear out on a bike ride, I always hear ‘Go Green!’”

That same summer, I started the Broad Executive MBA program at Michigan State University. Cycling was a critical tool for destressing and keeping a level head during the first few months of getting back into the school rhythm. It remains an integral part of my study routine. It breaks up the monotony of working full-time during the day and the school grind during the evenings. Getting on the bike allows me to clear my mind and refresh myself to get back to studying. I don’t know that I would have been as successful in the EMBA program if I hadn’t found this new hobby.

I look forward to summers every year now because of cycling, and I get excited to have the opportunity to experience the outdoors during some of the best months of the year. This past July, during the short period of time that the EMBA program was on summer break, I once again participated in Pedalpalooza. This time around, I was able to embrace one of MSU’s most time-honored mantras while biking yet another 500 miles: “Spartans Will.”

There is a large contingency of Executive MBA alumni and Spartans in the Chicagoland community, and whenever I wear MSU gear out on a bike ride, I always hear “Go Green!” while flying by people on the Lakeshore Trail. There’s an immense amount of pride that I have in being part of the Spartan community that has the strength and leadership to take any challenges head on. I am extremely proud to carry on that tradition and show the world what Spartans can do, both in and out of the classroom.

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