From the editor:

That’s the spirit

June 23, 2015

I am a meerkat whisperer. Well, at least according to my daughter. I kind of believe her because it is true that no matter the zoo, when I start talking to the meerkats, they’ll often abandon their digging, sentry duty or naps and scurry over to where I am and look at me. It never seems to matter how many other people are talking to them, I somehow have the meerkat shinin’. It’s probably because the meerkat is my spirit animal. What’s that? Doesn’t everyone have a spirit animal? You definitely have one, you might just not know it.

If you don’t know, a spirit animal is one that you feel a special connection with – one that represents you and your personality. Basically, it’s the animal you would be if you weren’t a human. The topic came up during lunch with my colleagues a while ago. The coworker who brought it up said his was a red fox for as long as he could remember and that his entire family had them. I think he even said his room was decorated to reflect this. (Or maybe I just dreamed that…) Quickly, most people could identify theirs – a house cat, a flamingo, a horse, honey badger and, of course, the meerkat. One coworker couldn’t decide on hers and relied on an online quiz – but that’s just wrong. No quiz can tell you, it just has to come to you.

I think it was even before the popularity of the adorable Timon in the Lion King that I felt a connection with meerkats, but that solidified it even more. While I don’t live underground or roll around bugs before I eat them, I think we do share some traits. According to the Internet (so you know it must be true) meerkats are “very social, matriarchal, nurturing, alert, vocal, altruistic, collaborative, gregarious, group-oriented and territorial.” The page I found also says, “The meerkat is the perfect example that good things can come in small packages. Wild and ferocious, loyal and brave, endlessly industrious, vigilant, but also curious and playful.” Certainly small, vocal and very social, but I like to think brave, industrious and nurturing can also be used to describe me. And, around the office, my job requires me to be on alert and looking around hear and see everything that’s happening. See? Spirit animal.

When I found out I was going to Africa, I couldn’t help but hope that I might run into meerkats in the wild. (I focused on the thought of seeing them, rather than the thought that I might run into snakes or other things that could kill me.) Unfortunately, though I traveled to four different countries in Africa, my spirit animals and I never crossed paths. I’m happy to report, neither did the snakes and I. I saw exotic birds, lots of donkeys and goats, giraffes from our plane, an elephant and a zebra (though my colleagues don’t believe it) but no meerkats. I guess I’ll just have to return sometime.

Speaking of giraffes, did you know last Sunday was not just Father’s Day but World Giraffe Day? Who knew there was such a thing? It was started by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation to celebrate the longest-necked animal on the longest day of the year and to bring awareness to the challenges they face in the wild.

Arthur Muneza is fully aware of one challenge they face. Muneza is a graduate student from Kenya studying wildlife ecology. He’s studying a skin disease that affects the limbs of giraffes and is spending the summer in Tanzania doing research. Read his STUDENT VIEW: Sticking My Neck Out, to learn more about his work.

Muneza says his father was happy to hear he would be doing research in Tanzania as he wanted him to practice speaking “proper Kiswahilli.” Muneza grew up speaking a variation of the language that borrows from English and other Kenyan dialects.

Christopher P. Long, the newly appointed dean of MSU’s College of Arts and Letters believes deeply in all students learning different languages and exposing themselves to other cultures. He says he wants students in his college to be curious and cultural studies open up an entirely new world. Additionally, he says an education in arts and humanities is the most practical education a student can have. Watch his FACULTY VOICE: Chart a Meaningful Path, to learn more about his educational philosophy. I have no idea what spirit animal the new dean is, but I bet it’s a cool one with some great qualities.

I like to think my spirit animal also reflects who I am as a Spartan. Spartans are absolutely loyal, brave, industrious, collaborative, alert, curious, altruistic and great protectors – all while being social and gregarious. Spartans work together like a well-oiled machine, or perhaps a colony of meerkats, for the greater good of the whole. Spartans Will.

Lisa Mulcrone
Editor, MSUToday
twitter bird@LMulcrone

Photo taken at the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, Michigan