Regent’s Aquaman Uses Foresight to Trust God in the Unknown
Doctor of Strategic Leadership (DSL), School of Business & Leadership
Water Utility Executive, Environmental Lawyer, Strategic Foresight Expert, and Podcast Host
As you read the professional undertakings of Matthew Klein, a doctoral student in Regent’s School of Business & Leadership, you just might classify him as an Aquaman of sorts. Much like the noble and powerful DC Comics’ superhero who commands both land and sea for the greater good, Matt’s life’s work has involved assessing the future of water.
Matt has been a water utility executive, an environmental lawyer, and a utility regulator, among other roles. Through his “Water Foresight Podcast,” he examines the future of water through the lens of strategic foresight—reviewing what issues society must consider and solve to achieve and maintain clean, accessible water and pursue environmental justice.
“Water is the foundation of society; without it, we would not experience adequate public health or economic development,” Matt stresses. “Think about it: For most of us, we turn on the faucet, and water comes out, but it takes work to achieve clean and abundant water all day, every day.” It’s work he has boldly embraced so that the future of water is increasingly evaluated from multiple perspectives, including law, technology, worldviews, and beyond.
How Toxic Waste Changed Everything
He began his undergraduate journey as a political science major. Then he added a second major in environmental science when the study of cleaning up toxic waste dumps lit a fire in him to “do something about it.” Matt’s passion manifested a vision to become an environmental lawyer.
Later, in graduate school, Matt recounts, “I happened upon an article on environmental racism (now called environmental justice), and realized that in real life, researchers were reporting on poor or minority populations living around environmental hazards,” he explains. “Environmental justice served as the focus of my graduate work. Many years later, my graduate research has become relevant again for my doctoral research.” After earning an M.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Management, Matt served as a hazardous waste regulator before finally pursuing and completing his law degree.
“Practicing environmental law was my sweet spot, and I expected to hang out in that arena indefinitely,” he says. “Then I was invited to help turn around the water system for the great city of Indianapolis, and I couldn’t say no to that opportunity and challenge.”
As Matt climbed the ladder in all things water, he began questioning his calling and praying for Divine next steps: “All I knew for sure was that I wanted to pursue a higher purpose that would allow me to give back. But you know what they say, ‘Be careful what you ask God for; He may just give it to you.’” His next steps included saying yes to his fledgling firm Aqualaurus Group and pursuing his Doctor of Strategic Leadership (DSL) from Regent University.
“I think the better way for all of us to advance the care for creation is to ask ourselves, ‘How do we best use our vocation to bring justice and peace to both our neighbors and God’s creation?’”
As he reflects on his journey from high school graduate to Aquaman status and the forthcoming tile of “Dr. Klein,” Matt is quick to acknowledge the intentionality he sees in the doors God opened and closed along the way.
“I chose Regent because of the integration of faith and academic excellence, but it’s become so much more than I could’ve imagined,” he shares. “My professors are experts in their field and also expertly in tune with helping students explore ethical solutions to big problems and where our calling fits into the bigger picture. I just had a three-hour phone conversation with a professor who brilliantly challenged my thinking and guided my work. He helped me hone my calling, and he made me better. You don’t get that just anywhere.”
Why a “Terminal” Degree Should be a “What’s Ahead” Degree
“It’s funny to me that they call the DSL a ‘terminal’ degree because it’s not terminal at all for me; it’s a significant milestone for what’s next, what’s ahead,” he says. Matt holds the mission of Christian Leadership to Change the World close to his heart and calls that the “ultimate calling and launching pad.”
He chose a DSL concentration in strategic foresight because he’s always had future-oriented skills. He emphasizes that foresight is not a “crystal ball,” but a discipline for identifying the possible or plausible opportunities and risks: “People who consider and analyze signals of change support the future trajectories of organizations. It’s about anticipating, framing, and shaping the future.”
Unfortunately, Matt has found the water world he’s been immersed in to be “conservative” regarding the need for more strategic and forward-thinking approaches. “‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is a very real mantra because the last thing utilities want is to make a mistake and accidentally pollute the water,” he says. “The irony is that by doing nothing, we run the risk of driving the very problems we’re trying to avoid.”
Running to the Challenges Ahead
Recently named a Senior Fellow with the Sagamore Institute, Matt calls on his expertise to help tackle tough issues with civility and thoughtfulness. The term Sagamore was coined by one of Indiana’s Native American tribes. It identifies one who “grapples with serious questions, helps build consensus, and offers wisdom and advice” (https://sagamoreinstitute.org/about/). Certainly, Matt is ready to roll up his sleeves with other leaders to help make the world a better place.
In doing so, he acknowledges the tension within Christian culture to care for and protect creation without unduly creating new problems through poor strategies. “I think the better way for all of us to advance the care for creation is to ask ourselves, ‘How do we best use our vocation to bring justice and peace to both our neighbors and God’s creation?’” he says.
He says one thing is sure as Regent’s Aquaman heads to the finish line of his studies and toward his potentially heroic “What’s Next”: “I’m not afraid of a good challenge—I run toward it.” And because Matt has weighed and values the crucible of leadership, he has the foresight “to trust God even in the unknown.”