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Jan. 13, 2021

Editor's note: The very definition

When I was in fourth grade, our class misbehaved for a substitute teacher. When our regular teacher returned and read the report, she was less than pleased. We were all assigned to spend a couple of recesses copying pages out of the dictionary by hand.


For most people, this was considered the meanest punishment ever. But not for me. I’m pretty sure I complained along with everyone else, but secretly, I wasn’t that bothered. Sure, it wasn’t nearly as fun as recess, but it was much better than sitting inside doing absolutely nothing.


I was a voracious reader and I actually liked learning new words, pronunciations and definitions. I often looked them up on my own. That assignment might even have been when I learned that I had been mispronouncing potpourri in my head for years. Definitions were easy — or so I thought.


Defining people isn’t easy at all. Nor should it be. When asked to describe myself, I always stumble. I’m made up of so many more things than my gender, ethnicity, job, age, etc. Not only that but who I am changes every day as I learn and experience new things, take on different roles and face new challenges. What might define me today might not be accurate tomorrow. That’s the beauty of people — no single definition can possibly cover us all.


There is also no single definition of a Spartan. Sure, if you look it up in the dictionary, you’ll find something about it relating to Sparta and ancient Greece. But the kinds of Spartans we are is much more complex. There are almost half a million of us living around the globe and while we share commonalities that go along with being Spartans — things like determination, smarts, openness, collaborative spirits and boldness — we are also more different than you can imagine. How wonderful is that?


A few years ago, we painted The Rock and asked passing students to write a word on it that defined them. As expected, almost no one chose the same word.


Our differences bring energy, perspective, backgrounds, skills, experience and more to the work we do every day to change the world for the better. Our uniqueness combined makes up an incredible force of Spartans Will. It allows us to collaborate with the tech giant Apple, target cardiovascular disease, protect the environment, reveal cosmic mysteries, combat drug trafficking and more.


That’s another thing that isn’t easily defined — Spartans Will. You could ask thousands of people what it means to them, and you’ll get thousands of different answers. We didn’t ask thousands, but we did ask some awesome Spartans recently what the phrase means to them. Again, no one definition was stated, but many. Watch the video, Spartans Will. Defined, to see what they said and feel inspired.


The students, faculty and alumni who are featured in the video were part of the Uncommon will for uncommon times story we did earlier this year. They also did individual pieces talking about how they are managing during the pandemic.


Joan Rose is a water microbiologist and the Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research. She spoke about how she and her team are sampling wastewater to detect possible spikes that could predict COVID-19 outbreaks in the campus community. Watch her video, Keeping the campus community safe, to learn about the project.


Brandon Crawford is a senior majoring in advertising management and a member of the 2020 Homecoming Court who is looking toward brighter days ahead. Watch his video, Staying connected while apart, to learn what he does every day to take care of other students.


As we look toward the annual MLK Day celebration this Monday, (which will be virtual but just as inspiring) I am reminded of what he said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”


I see Spartans living every day. Every day they put aside their personal concerns, bring their differences to the table and work together to make the world a better place for all. Spartans Will.


Lisa Mulcrone 
Editor, MSUToday


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