Student view:

Lawrence Stallworth: From full-time auto worker to graduate

July 7, 2020

Lawrence Stallworth is a recent graduate from the Department of Advertising and Public Relations. This is repurposed content from the College of Undergraduate Education. Read the original piece by Greg Teachout here.

I used to hate the sound of my alarm clock every morning. I knew it ushered in a long day on the production line assembling Jeep Grand Cherokees or Dodge Durangos. My days used to be long, loud and, despite decent working conditions and good pay, unfulfilling.

I had been working on a Plan B for years — it just hadn’t taken shape yet.

I was already a few years older than the average university graduate. I wondered if, and how, I had missed the boat. Hemmed in by the pounding and hiss of giant machines, I spent my days operating heavy machinery and wondering how I could do something that actually played to my interests and talents.

At the time, I was attending community college. I always took classes here and there and I never stopped because I knew if I stopped, I might lose the motivation to do better in life. So I’ve always kept a class — even if it’s just one.

But one day, I realized I couldn’t keep my dreams on the back burner any longer. So, I began looking at universities.

Wayne State was close to home, but Michigan State had a special appeal to me. I think the Spartan family is what really spoke to me — the vast network that you have access to as a Spartan is what sold me. I thought of myself as eventually leaving Michigan, so, I asked myself, 'When I do, what’s going to have more clout?’

Overcoming Doubt at MSU

I was elated after I decided to come to MSU, but doubts set in afterward.  While many students were thrilled with their newfound freedom, I was already an adult working full-time and living on my own.

There were times I would sink in my seat a little bit when I heard people’s ages. I was like, '"I’m so late. I’m tardy for the party."

But this difference also gave me an increased sense of purpose. I was aware the stakes were a bit higher for me because of how much I gave up to pursue my education. And as I kept navigating the MSU experience, the necessary moments of reassurance and validation came.

Finding a Community

I came from a community college where there’s little-to-no campus life, so being thrown into life at MSU was difficult. There was a point where I didn’t even know what resources were available to me.

But there’s something for everybody here — you just kind of have to do some work looking for it.

I found my home within two programs — Multi-Racial Unity Living Experience and Intercultural Aide program, or MRULE-ICA, and MSU Dialogues. 

MRULE-ICA can build such vibrant communities within the residence halls — there’s nothing quite like it on campus. I worked as an Intercultural Aide in the residence hall, and as I honed my mediation and conversational skills, I also became heavily involved with MSU Dialogues. 

Both of these organizations help bridge differences by connecting people from different identity groups for sustained, facilitated conversations and, being a part of them, gave me the opportunity to enhance my skills as a leader.

I was even able to impress the director of MSU Dialouges enough through my participation that I was offered a job, which I accepted.

Inspiring Others

Leadership and inspiring others were not at the top of my list when I arrived at MSU. I came here feeling a bit out of place, but things turned around quickly. I finished my first semester with a host of social connections and a 4.0 GPA.

When I returned to my job at the plant over the summer, people couldn’t stop talking about how much I had changed. People told me they were inspired to pursue their dreams; some wanted to go to college.

When I set out to do this, I didn’t have anybody in mind but myself. But knowing that what I’m doing could motivate others — that’s a pretty good feeling for me.

Future Plans

I graduated this past spring, and I owe much of my success at MSU to the vibrant ComArts program and its faculty. I hope to use the techniques and strategies i've learned as an advertising management major to work for a nonprofit.

In my future, I would like to help people change some of their behaviors in regard to lifestyle. I would like to pursue health risk communications or anything within the realm of sustainability. I want to motivate people to live in a cleaner way.