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March 22, 2024

Collaborating to connect more young Michiganders to postsecondary education

The Michigan State University Office of Admissions and MSU Extension’s 4-H Youth Development Program are partnering to further expand MSU’s reach into rural communities across the state and create a pipeline of future Spartans.

Michigan 4-H is one of the largest program areas in MSU Extension. This outreach arm of the university has a presence in all 83 Michigan counties and has worked for more than a century to help improve lives by bringing MSU’s expansive knowledge and resources to people, communities, schools and businesses. 4-H, the largest youth development organization in Michigan, provides thousands of young people ages 5 to 19 with experiential learning opportunities — from science and technology to clothing and textiles.

The partnership between 4-H and the Office of Admissions is part of a concerted effort to reach more students from Michigan’s rural communities and build a pipeline to help children and their families navigate a future that could include postsecondary education at MSU.

“As a university with land-grant roots, we continue to prioritize recruitment activities in rural areas,” said Tania Kurzawa, senior admissions counselor and manager of recruitment in the Upper Peninsula and northeast lower Michigan. “MSU offers numerous resources that can help students enroll and succeed, one of which is the Spartan Tuition Advantage program which offers free tuition for qualifying in-state students.”

Quentin Tyler, director of MSU Extension, believes that this partnership will help Admissions, 4-H and rural families meet their goals.

“MSU was founded with the intent to educate students from all walks of life. Over time, we have noticed that students in rural areas don’t have the same opportunities to learn about higher education,” Tyler said. “This fulfills MSU’s goal of reaching rural youth while helping reach 4-H’s goal of promoting postsecondary education.”

Debra Barrett, MSU Extension senior educator for career exploration and workforce development and MSU partnerships, has worked with MSU Extension’s 4-H program for more than 28 years. Historically, the Office of Admissions and 4-H have worked closely together, she said, to ensure information about becoming an MSU student was easily accessible in county MSU Extension offices. But as technology evolved and times have changed, so has that relationship. Now is the time to grow that collaboration, Barrett said.

In 2022-23, Tyler and Dave Weatherspoon, vice provost of Enrollment and Academic Strategic Planning, discussed bringing admissions counselors and MSU Extension staff together to work on new programming to encourage young people and families to think about postsecondary education and even consider becoming a Spartan, Barrett said.

4-H staff work with young people to develop life skills that will help them excel as adults. They commonly participate in local career fairs and promote postsecondary education to 4-H participants. MSU Admissions counselors will join the 4-H staff in this work.

“Part of Admissions staff’s strategy is encouraging rural youth to consider continuing their education at Michigan State,” Barrett said. “In 4-H, our goal is to help young people prepare for their future by considering ongoing education, whether that’s a four-year institution or another type of postsecondary education. Our 4-H professionals work with oodles of young people and their families who perhaps need to be encouraged to think about their future. Sometimes, MSU fits into that plan.”

Placing MSU materials in Extension offices is just a small piece of the collaborative efforts MSU Admissions and 4-H have planned. Admissions staff worked alongside 4-H staff at the Michigan State Fair in Novi and the Upper Peninsula State Fair in Escanaba in 2023. And throughout 2024, MSU Extension plans to have a presence at events like Admitted Student Day, which includes a rural student component, and Green and White Days when prospective high school juniors and seniors visit MSU.

Admissions also aims to have a presence during 4-H events. Most recently, Admissions hosted a table at 4-H Day at the Breslin Student Events Center and was side by side with 4-H at the Michigan FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) State Convention. Both teams continue to generate ideas, events and engagement opportunities to further establish the partnership.

More MSU enrollment applications from prospective students are welcomed, but the bigger goal of the partnership for 4-H and Admissions is to help prospective students understand that a postsecondary education at MSU or other institutions is possible and that MSU will be there to support students at every step of their journey — before, during and after.

“These are your opportunities, you too can apply to MSU, find funding and attend our four-year school,” Kurzawa said.

Learn more about MSU Extension initiatives and how the MSU Office of Admissions brings future Spartans to campus.

By: Mark Johnson

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