This past weekend, I thought I might melt. I volunteered for a midday four-hour shift on Saturday to help students move in on campus. It was 90 degrees and I worked outside. When I saw the forecast that morning, for a split second I considered not going. But I felt like after everything these students have been through during the pandemic and all the experiences they’ve missed, I couldn’t let them down. So, like all Spartans, I showed up.
I greeted cars as they drove into West Circle, packed to the roof, fans on top, transporting excited and nervous Spartans. It was a long time ago that I moved into West Circle, but it’s a feeling you don’t forget. As they each stopped for me to give them direction and assistance, I was reminded again why I do what I do. The energy I gained from meeting students and their proud families made all the sweating and swatting of mosquitoes worth every second.
This year, especially, it felt incredible to see students back on campus getting ready for a more traditional experience. We’re welcoming more first-year students than ever, from every state in the union, with different backgrounds and experiences. We’ll be kicking off football this week at an away game, but it’s the perfect time to check out some historical Spartan Stadium photos to start the season.
Speaking of athletics, we have a newly appointed vice president and athletics director. Alan Haller, current MSU assistant vice president and deputy athletic director, was approved for the position today by the Board of Trustees.
This week we also celebrated something I’m excited about — the MSU Dairy Store has reopened to the public! I can’t wait for grilled cheese Mondays and a scoop for dessert.
I’m sure students, staff and faculty will talk about what they did this summer. I’m not sure what you did, but most of us probably didn’t spend our time doing surgery on sea lampreys. But that’s exactly what doctoral student Kandace Griffin did. She’s featured in a great story, My Spartan Summer, that outlines how some MSU researchers and students spent the last few months.
Today is the first day of class. I hope all those students I met have a fantastic first day and an even better rest of the year. And, because I’m always happy to say it one more time for the people in the back, I’ve pulled out some basic advice I offered years ago to incoming students. It all still stands.
- Be grateful. This isn't just college. This is one of the most incredible opportunities ever presented to you. Many young people around the world would give anything to go to school and will never be able to. Never, ever forget how fortunate you are and remember to thank those who helped you get here. Don't ever take being a Spartan for granted.
- Make the most of it. This is a very special place. You could simply go to class, do your work and earn your degree — but you would be missing out on so much more that is offered here. Join one of the hundreds of clubs. Look into undergraduate research offerings. Volunteer in the community. Go to museums. Take in a show. The options are endless. If you are bored, you aren't trying hard enough.
- Give back. You are now part of the Spartan family — more than half a million strong around the world. This family believes that giving back is just part of who we are. You don't have to cure cancer to make a difference (though some of you might do that too). Fill the bus. Tutor a classmate. Pick up trash. Run a food drive. Shovel snow for someone who can't. You have talents and time that can help someone else and trust me; you'll never feel bad about helping someone else.
- Be bold. Don't sit back and let life happen to you — this is the only one you get so make it great. Try something new. Stand up for what's right. Stand up for others. Explore everything. Look at the world of possibilities before you and attack them. You never want to have regrets.
- Be genuine. Don't ever try to be someone you aren't — everyone can see right through that. With more than 50,000 students on this campus, I guarantee that there is someone else who will like you just as you are.
- Be open to new things. College is about learning — so learn something! For goodness sake, find a way to do a study abroad course. Expand your worldview to one outside of our borders. Become a global citizen who understands other cultures. Talk to people everywhere who are very different from you. Expose yourself to diverse opinions, ideas and people and you will be amazed at how much you can learn.
- Never give up. Spartans don't give up; they just don't. College isn't easy — if it were, everyone would do it. You will have challenges but fight them head-on. Find solutions to the toughest problems. Give everything your all and simply find a way. You might not be perfect, but never throw in the towel completely. You don't have to go it alone — ask for help when you need it.
- Be collaborative. This one kind of goes with being open to new things. Project an openness that lets others know you're approachable, and approach others with a spirit of partnership. Every single Spartan has something special to offer the world, but our collective power is simply astounding. Find the best in others and work together to make a difference.
- Be passionate. College is a place where you can discover what you love. You might start thinking you'll follow one career path and find another that makes your heart sing. Follow what you love — you will spend a huge portion of your life working, so make sure it's what you truly want to do.
- Seek out mentors. Life is hard and everyone can use some help. Talk to your professors or graduate assistants. Do an internship and find someone in the field to guide you. Never think you have all the answers and know that, most likely, someone else has faced whatever you're facing. We old folks love nothing better than giving advice so use us.
- Be proud. Being a Spartan is something special and a privilege. Spartans will change the world and solve the most challenging problems. Amid all the schoolwork and fun, never ever forget that Spartans Will.
Photo by Derrick L. Turner