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March 15, 2017

Take it from the top

March 15, 2017

I was the smallest person in that first-grade class, not especially athletic and really afraid of heights. Yet there we were, in the gym, staring up at a rope that went all the way up to the ceiling — and we were expected to climb it. Classmate after classmate grabbed hold of the scratchy rope, got partially up and slid down, causing quite a few red palms.

When it was my turn, I just didn’t want to embarrass myself. I grabbed hold and started up, reminding myself to not look down. The thing about being small was I didn’t weigh a lot either and so, against all odds, I actually made it to the top, becoming the first first-grade girl to do so. I touched the overhead beam, and then kept my eye focused on the rope, never looked down and slowly returned to the gym floor.

Apparently, I’m not the only one with a rope-climbing gym story. (Do they still make kids do this?) I’ve been lucky enough to spend a week getting inspired at a fantastic conference. I’ve been to many, many sessions that are educational for my field, and are also just dang inspiring. In one session, the speaker talked about a super similar experience. He got halfway up the rope, and when the teacher asked why he stopped and if he wanted to fall, he climbed up to the top because the answer was, “no.” The whole way he was sure he would fall and make a fool out of himself on top of getting hurt.

So we’re pretty much the same. Even with self-doubt and anxiety, somehow we made it to the top. When he pointed out that life is really like that, I knew he was absolutely right. I think we’re all striving to get to the top of that dang rope, thinking we might not make it, hoping we don’t fall and willing ourselves to succeed. No matter what they tell you, everyone has fear and self-doubt. It’s the ability to charge through it and own that stupid rope that makes the difference.

Spartans charge through and own that rope every single day. There’s something about us that makes us not look down and keep climbing. Some of us might be brave enough to take a look around when we get there, but others are just focused on the task at hand. But hand over hand, using strength and determination, we just keep climbing. Even when we reach the top, we might take a minute of high-fiving and celebrating, and then simply get back to work on the next challenge.

This week, U.S. News & World Report released its grad program rankings, and two more MSU programs – African history and supply chain – claimed top spots giving MSU seven No. 1 programs across a broad range of disciplines. We already had the lock on elementary and secondary education, rehabilitation counseling, industrial and organizational psychology and nuclear physics (yeah…that’s right, nuclear physics!) but that didn’t stop the Spartans from climbing to the top again. We don’t rest on our laurels; we’re always looking for the next challenge.

Walter Hawthorne, a professor of African history and chairperson of the Department of History, has been a key part of the climb toward the top for his program. Check out his FACULTY VOICE: African history at MSU, for his perspective on what it took to get there.

Bethany Dickerson, a linguistics major and Honors College senior, is at the start of her climb but is already a strong contender to soar to new heights. She has taken advantage of numerous opportunities at MSU including countless undergraduate research experiences and leadership roles in multiple student organizations. According to her, she has found herself and her passion. Watch a short video and learn more about her in the STUDENT VIEW: Charting new paths.

Amol Pavangadkar, senior teaching specialist, director of Media Sandbox engagement and a senior producer with the Department of Media and Information, is the kind of person who looks around when he gets to the top to see what else he could do that might be very different from his original goal.

After partnering with an Indian media company during a study abroad course he offered on Bollywood filmmaking, he’s now part of a project with that same company to help farmers better produce food for India. That’s another thing about Spartans — we’re always looking to collaborate creatively to reach the top together. The project involves MSU’s communication and agriculture experts and the Ramoji Media Group, a multimedia giant that reaches some 620 million Indians with television stations, films, newspapers and online media. Read his faculty voice, FACULTY VOICE: Expanding reach, to learn more about his work.

No matter what Spartans do, we are focused on the top. Hand over hand, challenge after challenge, even when we’re unsure of the outcome, we keep climbing. The spirit and grit of Spartans not only take us to the top, but will bring the rest of the world along with us. Spartans Will.

Lisa Mulcrone
Editor, MSUToday
twitter bird@LMulcrone

Photo by Kurt Stepnitz


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