From the editor:

The tough stuff

Sept. 17, 2014

Movies and television make college look so fun—and easy. If you believed them, going to college is all about parties, making friends, wearing cool clothes, having lots of money and dating. They rarely show the tough stuff.

Where is the scene of students sitting in the financial aid office? We never see the star struggling to understand math homework or getting strep throat and wondering what to do. They rarely show realistic classroom scenes or just how stressful exams can be. They seem to make the college experience pretty standard in the movies when, in reality, it can be wildly different for every student.

Everyone can struggle in the classroom, but what about all those other factors that come into play? My college experience was more challenging than some because I worked fulltime and spent a lot of time in the financial aid office trying to figure out how I was going to pay for classes. For others, the mere fact of being in a place that is very different from home with people who are very different from you becomes a huge factor. Or what if your parents didn’t go to college? Who do you turn to for advice?

It’s not just about getting into college; it’s about succeeding while you’re there. So what’s a university to do to make sure students succeed and graduate?

This week, MSU joined 10 other research institutions as part of the University Innovation Alliance. Their mission is to work together to increase the rate at which low-income, minority and first-generation students graduate from college.

MSU was asked to be part of the group because of it’s nationally recognized Neighborhoods initiative that puts help for all students where they need it most—right where they live. Students can get tutoring, writing help, advising, fitness classes, leadership development, health care and more right in the neighborhood their residence hall is part of. It’s a really cool concept I wish was around when I went here. I know I would have benefited from a math tutor in my hall.

Read the MSUToday feature, Welcome to the Neighborhood, to learn more about this innovative program that is seeing results. Check out the short video too.

Karl Gude, an instructor in the School of Journalism, is passionate about student success. He considers it a privilege to teach groups of unique thinkers. Read his FACULTY VOICE: It’s About the Students, to learn more about his philosophy on teaching college students.

Robert Parsons, a senior from Redford, knows a thing or two about success. This summer he earned a prestigious internship with the Committee on Ways and Means at the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., focusing on the issue of foster care. He also knows a thing or two about the foster care system. He was born to a drug addict and placed in a loving foster family that eventually adopted him. Read his moving STUDENT VIEW: Fostering Change, to learn more about this incredible young man.

I love the quote he uses from Nido Quebien, “Your current circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.”

At Michigan State, instructors like Gude and programs like the Neighborhoods initiative help make sure that no matter those circumstances, if you start at MSU, you’ll get what you need to make sure you leave with a degree.

Spartans Will.

Lisa Mulcrone
Editor, MSUToday


Photo by Derrick L. Turner