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Feb. 28, 2018

Just keep swimming

Feb. 28, 2018

It has never been more challenging to be a Spartan than right now. I, like everyone else, am still reeling from the events of the last few months and the horrifying things we learned. And just when we got a bit back on our feet ready to fight like heck to make things better, we got hit with a flood – a literal flood like we haven’t seen on campus in decades. A quick melt of a big snowstorm coupled with two solid days of rain, and the Red Cedar simply could not be contained along its banks.

Sandbags were filled, barriers were created but hour by hour the water crept up along sidewalks, stairwells, parking lots, athletic fields and roads. I remember seeing photos of a flood from the 1970s and being amazed at how far the water spread. The scenes around campus last week certainly rivaled those images.

And yet, we Spartans didn’t slow down. Well, we had to slow down a bit while we navigated new routes that were dry, but we didn’t slow down our work. The flood was just one more challenge placed before us that we refused to give in to.

Like Dory says, “Just keep swimming.” So that’s what we did (well, not literally, the water was moving dangerously fast). We came to work, class and laboratories and just kept swimming. We took some photos for posterity (or Instagram) and simply got to work. There is too much to be done right now to let a little (or a lot) of water slow us down.

Frank Telewski is a professor of plant biology and director of the W. J. Beal Botanical Garden and Campus Arboretum. He gets a lot of questions about the plants in the garden when a flood takes it over. The good news is that because they’re still dormant from winter, they can survive being submerged for a bit and come out of it OK. I like to think those plants are pretty much like Spartans, don’t you think? Check out his FACULTY VOICE: The freshet of 2018, to learn more about it, see some more photos of the flooding and learn what a freshet actually is.

Spartan students take to heart, “Just keep swimming.” No matter how busy their studies keep them, they find other ways to get involved in the world. Last week I featured the beautiful photo essay by Osose Oboh, a first-year student in the College of Human Medicine. In honor of Black History Month, she created a two-part series highlighting future physicians. Check out her STUDENT VIEW: On the shoulders of our ancestors, Pt. 2, to see more of her stunning photographs and inspiring words.

William Yakah is a junior majoring in neuroscience who came to East Lansing from Accra, Ghana. That’s a really long way to swim to follow your dreams but that didn’t stop him. He credits his first day of class as one of his most memorable days saying, “It felt like the rising sun on a horizon; one that carried clouds of new opportunities to explore, semesters of self-discovery and a huge atmosphere where I could challenge myself, grow and learn.” Read his STUDENT VIEW: Connecting the dots, to learn more about this talented, aspiring physician.

When Terah Venzant Chambers was a college student, she found it difficult to fit in and felt “like a fraud.” After transferring schools and finding a mentor, she found her way to keep swimming toward her path of success. Now, as an associate professor of K-12 educational administration in the College of Education, she is dedicated to doing good in the world and researching K-12 urban educational leadership and policy that helps develop “strategies schools can employ to make academic success less costly for minoritized students.” Read her FACULTY VOICE: Rooted in reform, to learn more about her important work.

When you look at photos of the flooding, it looks pretty drastic, but students, staff and faculty pulled together to get through the week. Some classes had to be moved, buildings were closed, a lot of roads were rerouted and some of us hosted colleagues from buildings that were evacuated, but no one gave up. It is not in a Spartan’s DNA to give up. We knew that eventually the water would recede, which it finally did this week. But, we also know that there is always another challenge around the corner. (In fact, another snowstorm is headed our way tomorrow.) 

We are facing some of the biggest challenges we’ve ever faced and will be working toward solutions for quite some time. There is much work to be done and sometimes it feels like a flood of problems are rushing toward us faster than we can bail. But, as Spartans, we simply grab a bucket and get to work. Like the dormant seeds in the garden, being under water for a while is tough, but the blooms will come again. Spartans Will.

Lisa Mulcrone
Editor, MSUToday


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