June 28, 2017
There we were – five coworkers, luggage, laptops, a cooler of water, a container of cookie bars and a bag of M&Ms loaded into a van ready for a road trip to Iowa. Yep, I said Iowa. Who knew the University of Iowa was only six and a half hours from East Lansing? Apparently, Google maps knew that even if I didn’t. However, Google maps didn’t account for a fair amount of bathroom breaks, slow sandwich makers, desperate stops at Starbucks and a burning desire to find an elusive Taco Bell. Oh, and Chicago-area traffic. So, it took us more like eight hours each way, but who’s counting?
We hit the road to Iowa City to attend the yearly Big Ten Plus media and marketing conference, this year hosted by our Hawkeye colleagues. It’s a chance each year for those of us in similar jobs to get together and learn from each other and other speakers. We spend a couple of days attending sessions and a couple of evenings talking about shared challenges and successes. We might be rivals on the field, but we’re all partners in our pursuits in research, discovery and education.
The University of Iowa
It’s pretty cool to hear from other schools what they’re doing and, of course, get a chance to brag about how Spartans are doing their part to change the world. (Side note: It seems like everyone knew “Spartans Will” but I’m pretty sure that’s the only university tagline anyone could actually recall.)
While we are all very similar in our missions, every school has its own secret sauce that makes it different. And guess what? The world needs all of them. Every single university that was there is responsible for some life-changing solution. I’m betting each one has done something that has saved a life.
Of course, everyone knows Spartans are all about life saving. Not a day goes by that some Spartan somewhere isn’t ferociously working toward that important breakthrough that will make a difference.
Spartans like Venkatesh Kodur, an engineer who is fighting fire with research. He and his team are determined to make buildings able to withstand fire longer before collapsing, giving people more chances to get out. With the tragic news out of London recently, his work becomes especially significant. Watch the short video MSUTODAY FEATURE: Fighting fire and saving lives,to learn more about this crucial research.
Bruno Basso is another Spartan who helps make up our own secret sauce. Though his work is broadly defined in the area of sustainable agriculture, his ultimate goal is to feed people and make our planet a better place to live. Check out his FACULTY VOICE: Digital agriculture, to learn about his research and how he uses drones to improve farming.
We passed a lot of farms on our road trip, as you might imagine. It started to feel like a family trip – I was officially “Mom” since I was sharing the driving, brought the snacks and was the oldest. “Dad” did the rest of the driving and tuned out discussions of fashion. The youngest didn’t feel that well, the oldest was practical and the middle kid in the back lost an errant M&M that somehow ended up crushed under our luggage. As she said, “Who knew one M&M could cause so much trouble?” (Don’t worry – Mom cleaned it up.)
I’m guessing Zack Woloszyk, a Lyman Briggs College senior, might have formed some sort of family on his recent study abroad trip to Kenya with a group of other Spartans. As a zoology major, the opportunity to see African animals in their habitats gave him a new perspective and a fantastic learning experience. Check out his STUDENT VIEW: New perspectives, to learn about his trip and see some stunning photos he took while there.
Though I know he had an incredible time in Kenya, I’m also sure he was glad to finally return home. I know our van of Spartans were very happy to exit the freeway and drive past the familiar stone sign welcoming us back to campus. The University of Iowa was lovely and our hosts were gracious, but there’s just something special about coming home. Seeing the Spartan helmet lit up on the stadium, driving across the rushing Red Cedar, rounding the circle by the Spartan Statue – it really is home sweet home. No matter where they travel, Spartans always have a home in East Lansing. Spartans Will.
Photo by Derrick L. Turner