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Aug. 23, 2023

Student view: On the field and in the classroom

Sam Edwards is a fourth-year student athlete completing his degree with honors in political theory and constitutional democracy, and international relations in James Madison College. Outside of the college, Sam plays football for Michigan State University as a linebacker. He earned his varsity letter in the 2022 season as well as his second consecutive academic All-Big Ten selection. Sam was awarded the MSU Football Scholar-Athlete Award at the annual Spartan Academic Excellence Gala in the spring of 2023 and was named one of the PNC Achievers Student-Athletes of the Month in February 2023. He is also a two-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee.

MSU football player Sam Edwards walks in a suit and tie

As the end of high school neared, I had trouble discerning my next best step. With varied interests and prospects, I was torn about where to pursue my academic and athletic careers. I wanted to be sure that I was getting the best development on the field while maintaining a rigorous and challenging academic regimen. That is when I discovered James Madison College, and the curriculum it had to offer. With a little further research and thought, I had my mind made up: I would play football at MSU and major in political theory and constitutional democracy at JMC, a rare combination.

After a bumpy, COVID-welcome to college football and a college course load, I quickly came to understand and appreciate that I was benefiting from the absolute best Michigan State has to offer on the field and in the classroom. A tough fall semester was followed by a much-improved spring, as I was able to enroll in one of the few in-person classes offered by the entire university. Professor Ben Lorch’s political leadership course felt like my first real look at the depth of discussion I could expect from the PTCD major.

Coming from an upbringing of faith, firm morals and twelve years of Catholic school, I had garnered an appreciation for the intellectual tradition of the ancients and their pre-modern counterparts. I was curious how exactly my inclinations would be met, and how material would be taught at a major state university. I couldn’t have been happier, however, with my experience in classes such as Professor Tobin Craig’s MC 270.

The rich classical tradition of Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Politics were taught for what they are, unaccompanied by some modern critical assessment — the way they were intended to be taught. This trend continued as my experiences with other professors such as Professor Guido Parietti in his Constitutionalism and Democracy class and now retired Professor Louis Hunt’s MC 370 class were also exceptional.

MSU football player Sam Edwards in a classroom, holding a piece of paper, about to raise his hand

On the international relations side, Professor Zierler gave me the full picture of international relations theory in MC 220, presenting all of the possible ways to understand political dynamics around the globe. The classroom environment has always been welcoming of all voices, and I am fortunate to have learned alongside my professors and classmates — my convictions strengthened on many issues while also appreciating various perspectives on a number of topics.

A great deal of this growth can be attributed to shared adversity with my teammates, and shared viewpoints by my classmates.

Throughout my time as a JMC student, I have appreciated how students are encouraged to take their education into their own hands. PTCD boasts a reading list that rivals any similar program, and I have been fortunate to work my way through the canon of political theory alongside truly brilliant faculty. The international relations curriculum has refined my research skills, as knowledgeable professors have helped demonstrate the different ways one can view the world, and the dynamics of international politics.

Regarding my further development as a young man and gaining a true appreciation for different perspectives and experiences, I need look no further than the locker room I walk through every day. The diversity that exists among my fellow teammates is vast. Whether I am on the field or in the weight room, I am part of a brotherhood comprised of people from all different parts of the country, who come from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds who represent different races and practice different religions. We come from a range of lived experiences and, still, we share a common goal.

A majority of my time at Michigan State has been spent on either side of Chestnut Rd. and, in such a small pocket of campus, I have been exposed to an entire world of ideas, perspectives, and voices — all of which have helped me grow as a person and I am beyond grateful.

This story originally appeared on the James Madison College website.

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