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Aug. 26, 2020

Editor's note: New surroundings

Back in March when I left my office on campus and set up at home, I thought I might be working remotely for a few weeks at most. Clearly, 2020 had different plans for all of us. After working for months in what felt like a temporary desk in a cluttered extra room, I finally decided I'd had enough and needed some new surroundings to feel more settled.


Last weekend I pulled everything out of the room, painted a fresh new color, bought some plants and a new piece of furniture, made a curtain and hung up some art. I based the whole vibe of the room on a vintage real estate ad we found at my parent’s house for their brand-new subdivision when they moved in in 1959. In the same way they must have felt back then, my new surroundings gave me a renewed outlook and energy.


I know that students all over, whether in college or K-12, were looking forward to getting out of their homes and into the new surroundings of a fall semester on campus. Again, 2020 had a completely different idea, and it’s just not possible for many students, including those at MSU. While safety has to be our top priority, the disappointment is real.


But just because your surroundings might not be what you were expecting, doesn’t mean you can’t give them a new look to raise your spirits. My daughter just rearranged some shelving behind her to give her Zoom meetings a fresh look. A friend created an adorable little study space for her second-grader. Even the smallest change can provide a brighter outlook.


Debra Furr-Holden, MSU’s C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health and associate dean for Public Health Integration in the College of Human Medicine, recently wrote a column about her daughter’s experience with new surroundings as a college freshman at another university. Read her FACULTY VOICE: Honoring the protocols, to learn why she says, “It is never too late to change your mind, even on the biggest decisions of your life.”


Kassem Makki, a fourth-year medical student in the College of Osteopathic Medicine, put himself in new surroundings this summer when he volunteered at the John Dingell VA Medical Center for six weeks and assisted in the fight against COVID-19 during the height of the pandemic. Read his STUDENT VIEW: Volunteering at the VA, to learn more about his experience.


In this time of a pandemic, finding new surroundings isn’t always easy. But surroundings are more than just physical space. Sometimes, it’s a new group of new people in an online course. Or maybe it’s simply moving your computer to a new room or taking a walk during a phone meeting. Our psyches are all a little damaged from what we’ve endured this year. It’s important to try even little things that might give them a break. 


So, while most of our students won’t be living in residence halls or sitting in classrooms this fall, they will still be “surrounded” by other Spartans, just in a different way. They’ll have to get a little creative and have an open mind, but there are still incredible opportunities to learn, engage, make friends and look at things from a different angle. Surround yourself with new ideas and open minds and you never know what greatness you’ll achieve. #SpartansWill.


Lisa Mulcrone
Editor, MSUToday


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