Student view:

Jack Kivi: What it means to be a Spartan and a Marine

Nov. 6, 2019

Jack Kivi is a sophomore majoring in neuroscience and a Marine. He has been awarded the Commandant's Trophy, awarded to the top graduate of each Officer Candidates School class. He earned the highest GPA in his class (an aggregate of his leadership, academic and physical fitness scores) of approximately 200 candidates from across the country. 

I had a somewhat different path getting to college than the average student at MSU. When I got to my junior year in high school, I felt that I wanted to be able to serve my country while I was going to college. I still knew that attending college was right for me, but I wanted a different path.

I ended up enlisting in the Marine Corps Reserve as a rifleman and completing basic training and the school of infantry to learn the job I would be doing. The experiences I have had in the Marine Corps have shed light on how I live my life and what it means to be a Spartan and a Marine.

The Marine Corps has taught me a lot about resilience, just as being a Spartan has taught me this trait in a different form. In the Marine Corps, I lived with a group of people and experienced hardships that brought us unbelievably close. Here at school, the hardships no longer come from physical discomfort or dealing with what feels like a 24-hour workday, but instead from studying countless hours for exams and finding purpose even in classes you don’t see a reason for yet.

The resilience from the Marine Corps has taught me to try to excel in any environment that I put myself in. Although it has shifted from infantry skills to learning neuroscience, the fundamentals of it all still relate. If you show up every day and work hard, you will see results.

The Marine Corps also gave me a new appreciation for the friendships that can be made during difficult times. I have been able to really apply that to forming good friendships here in East Lansing. Whenever I struggle, the Marine Corps taught me to rely on my unit and friends to give guidance and to teach me.

Realizing the importance of studying with others and not just trying to be a lone wolf has helped my grades and my general happiness here at school. There’s no reason to ever tackle a problem alone here at MSU. There are hundreds if not thousands of people here willing to help.

Along those same lines, be a difference-maker. Whether its tutoring a friend or just helping someone in need, the quality of our character as Spartans is determined by helping others when we can.

The next step in my career is earning a commission as an officer through the Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Class, which I applied for through the East Lansing Marine Officer Selection Team. I completed my first six-week session of Officer Candidates School last summer and will attend my second session before I graduate, before being eligible to commission as a Marine officer.

I am very grateful to be working every day towards that goal here as a Spartan. Michigan State has afforded me the opportunity to better myself and become more of an asset to the Marine Corps and my country. After I complete my time as an officer in the Marine Corps, I intend on going back to school to get a medical degree so that I can continue my career in the military by helping other service members.