Student view:

Sean Fitzpatrick: Live your learning

Dec. 3, 2014

Sean Fitzpatrick is in his senior year in MSU's Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, majoring in the arts and humanities. He is pursuing a second degree in interdisciplinary studies in social science with a focus on community, governance and advocacy. He spent the first half of this summer in New York City as an intern with city councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, an '82 MSU graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in political theory. He spent the second half of his summer on a study abroad program in Mali.

Live Your Learning.

It is the mantra at the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, and through exceptional student experiences, senior Sean Fitzpatrick is doing just that.

Sean Fitzpatrick in Mali

“Live your learning is the idea that those conversations don’t end in the classroom, goes beyond growing academically and intellectually, but growing as a person,” said Fitzpatrick.

While spending his summer break in New York City, interning for city councilwoman and MSU alumna Helen Rosenthal, Fitzpatrick worked on participatory budgeting, where residents voiced opinions on how city capital funding should be spent.

“Seeing folks who have traditionally been excluded being directly engaged and put in charge of the process was so exciting,” he said. “It was such a natural extension of where my ideas have been percolating toward here at Michigan State, in the classroom.”

After leaving New York, Fitzpatrick also traveled to Kati, Mali, where, in 2012, a military coup essentially tore the country apart.

“There is a lot of tension in Mali, and so we looked for ways to use dialogue and art for the purpose of reconciliation,” said Fitzpatrick. “It was in no way a ‘let’s look at art and forget our problems,’ it was using art to confront what was going on, to ask what needs to be done to move forward and at the end we put on a dialogue.”

Fitzpatrick, along with Stephen Esquith, RCHA dean, and nine other students, stayed for six weeks in the Bamana community. The group used bogolan—a traditional Malian art form of textile painting—to begin community conversations. They also used poetry, writing and photography to build a foundation for the people there, many still suffering from military violence.

“We created this pilot project in Mali, not simply by coming in with a script and saying ‘here’s how we run dialogue,’ but rather we used the strengths of the college to build a sense of common purpose with our community partners,” Esquith said.

Esquith has plans to continue this work well beyond 2014.

And as for Fitzpatrick?

“The experiences in New York City, in Mali—places very far-removed from where I grew up—having the opportunity to go, and experience, and to actually make something happen there? It wouldn’t have been possible without the support that I was given,” Fitzpatrick said.

“And that’s something I couldn’t be more grateful for,” he said.


Reprinted from MSU Advancement. Learn more about how you can support student experience and research at the Empower Extraordinary website.