March 18, 2020
I don’t even know where to begin. Honestly, does anyone? I’ve been through my fair share of challenges, but this one feels completely surreal. Even months ago when I was hearing of this new virus across the ocean, I never in a million years dreamed we’d all be in such uncertain times, hunkered down with everything canceled and an actual worldwide pandemic on our hands.
Yet, here we are. We’re muddling through working from home, loss of employment, stocking supplies, homeschooling and, most of all, keeping safe and healthy. This is all very real and very scary. We quickly went from planning vacations, parties, graduations, weddings and other gatherings, to living solitary lives connected by our phones and computers.
Here on campus, we went from planning an investiture and commencement to figuring out how to keep students, staff and faculty safe while making sure online instruction and the business of the university are maintained. I am proud of President Stanley's leadership — how he acted quickly — and of our faculty members who are finding alternate teaching methods with very little time to prepare. All MSU employees have shown themselves to be incredibly dedicated people who are finding ways to keep things running with creative solutions.
Brandon Van Der Heide, an associate professor of communications, is just one example of the outstanding faculty we have here at MSU. Understanding the gravity of it all, he penned a heartfelt, encouraging and eloquent letter to his students to share on social media. I urge you to read this beautiful piece of writing in the FACULTY VOICE: Who Spartans become.
Like Brandon, I can’t help but feel deeply for the students, especially the seniors. Who would have ever thought they would have their commencement postponed and their college experiences cut short? When they left last week, none of them knew they wouldn’t be coming back. I know that in the grand scheme of public safety, missing out on your college goodbyes and “lasts” isn’t a priority, but I feel their disappointment and heartache.
One of those students is Jocelyn Tucker, a senior majoring in advertising management whom I have had the pleasure to work with while she interned in our office. When she left last week, we laughed and I said, “See you on the other side.” I had no idea that would be her last time working in Olds Hall. She wrote a wonderful STUDENT VIEW: An unprecedented goodbye, that I imagine sums up the feelings of a lot of our graduating seniors.
To all of the seniors, know that I, and Spartans around the globe, are standing up and applauding you with immense pride. Your four years have been filled with challenging circumstances that you didn’t deserve. You went through some of the university’s darkest days yet emerged with the brightest optimism and a desire to make the world a better place. And you will because you are Spartans.
I have no idea what the immediate future holds for any of us. What I do know is that while we are isolating ourselves, we’ve never needed each other more. We need to muster up all that makes us Spartans — smarts, spirit, determination, compassion and resolve — to do our part in weathering this unpredictable storm together.
Take care of yourselves, Spartans. Take “Go Green” to heart and get outside. If you’re in town, the campus is a really big place to explore and maintain social distancing. Find ways to help others. Laugh at your colleagues’ dogs and kids when you video chat. Find free concerts online. Read interesting books and articles. Cook new recipes. Keep connected to others in whatever way you safely can.
As Spartans, we recently faced a horrible situation that left us broken, but eventually full of healing, understanding and hope for better tomorrows. During that time, it often felt pretty lonely to be a Spartan, so we relied on each other. This time, the entire world is in crisis. As Spartans, we know what it takes to come out OK on the other side. We’ve got this. You’ve got this. We’ve got this together. #SpartansWill.
Photo by Kurt Stepnitz