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Jan. 4, 2017

Hannah Piper: Learning to lead

Jan. 4, 2017

Hannah Piper is a senior from Midland who is majoring in animal sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and minoring in defense studies and leadership. She is a member of the Honors College and the MSU Spartan Battalion, a training program for Army Officers of the future. Piper also works as a laboratory technician in a comparative medical genetics laboratory, is a competitive water skier on the MSU Waterski Team and a puppy-raiser for Leader Dogs for the Blind.

If someone had told me four years ago I would be jumping out of airplanes for career development, raising a service dog on campus or studying hyenas in Kenya as part of my education at MSU, I would not have believed them. The truth is, my opportunities have been unpredictable and far-reaching.

Hannah Piper and giraffe

I originally entered Michigan State very single-minded and a little self-centered. As an Honors College student, my plan was to apply early and pursue a doctorate in veterinary medicine. I built my resume by working in a Comparative Medical Genetics Laboratory. It was simple and straightforward.

My course took a dramatic change, however, after a blind date to the Army ROTC Military Ball. It was my first introduction to the military and an entire community focused on serving others. In the U.S. Army Veterinary Corp I could explore public health, food safety and disease research around the world.

I signed my contract with MSU Army ROTC shortly thereafter. 

Through the military I have learned a great deal about leadership, and because of the size and scale of Michigan State I’ve had millions of opportunities to get involved. For instance, I had the privilege of traveling to Kenya to study animal behavior, leading a battalion of 150 students, teaching under-privileged children about leadership and STEM careers, researching the impacts of chemical exposure on minks and becoming a certified Army paratrooper.

This year, I am working with Leader Dogs for the Blind by raising a Labrador Retriever puppy who will hopefully be a seeing-eye dog one day.

Hannah Piper and her puppy, Blue

Thanks to Michigan State’s progressive view on service animals, my puppy Blue attends every class with me. Hundreds of students around campus recognize Blue and have cheered us on throughout the process. Like me, Blue is tested every day. For both of us, our MSU experience has been transformational. Together, we are learning to lead. And if all goes well, upon graduation, we will both dedicate our lives to serving and protecting those in need.