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Feb. 9, 2024

Graduate voice: The bond of the Spartan community

Making the transition from student to staff to work for the place I love

Jack Harrison graduated from MSU in spring of 2023, majoring in political theory and constitutional democracy in James Madison College and journalism in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. He now works for MSU University Communications, serving on its public relations team.

This story refers to the violence the Michigan State University community experienced in February 2023. FAQs, important updates, messages from campus leaders as well as mental health and supportive resources are available.

The Spartan community is more than just an alumni network. The Spartan community is a family, a big family, of over 500,000 Spartans across the world, ready to support each other in any moment of need. I had not truly recognized the scope, compassion and strength of our alumni and local community until a year ago, when our campus – our home – endured the unimaginable.

As a recent alum, it’s true you do not think about our global network until you leave college, wanting to stay close to your alma mater and keep those cherished memories at the forefront of your mind.

But before I graduated in May of 2023, I, along with our students, staff and faculty, experienced the love and support of our alumni and local community – our family – in the toughest of moments.

When I think about “Spartans Will,” I think about the hundreds of Spartans that were bound by their connection to MSU, their love for Green and White, who came together to support each other and to heal campus.

Jack Harrison and Zeke the Wonderdog.
Zeke the Wonderdog came to a mental health awareness event organized by the undergraduate student government, ASMSU. Courtesy of Harrison.

Hundreds of Spartans created personalized “you are loved signs,” stationing them across campus. Every day I left my 1855 apartment, I would see the same “you got this” sign. I had no idea who made it, but they did because they were a fellow Spartan. They did it to give me the strength to complete my senior year and for the hundreds of other students and staff needing support.

I think about the Spartans who came to campus with boxes of free food, dorm items and care items for “Spartan Sunday.” I think about the Spartans who brought their dogs for comfort, and the dozens of appearances Zeke the Wonderdog made at student events. I think about the hundreds of student organizations that held supporting events and made donations to different funds. I think of the Spartans who came to volunteer at community events on campus.

But our Spartan community is not all just in East Lansing and on campus. In fact, most of everyone is not. We felt the support from the hundreds of Spartans posting messages of support online, including sharing fundraisers. I received Twitter/X DMs from people I had never met. I received emails and letters to our office, when I served as chief of staff for the undergraduate student government, ASMSU. One day, when I was really struggling, I came home to find I had mail. It was from an alum who used to live in my apartment. And now he lived in England – that was the reach and support of the community. I still have that note on my desk today.

But the Spartan community made sure what we went through and who those amazing Spartans were, would never be lost. It is important for us to not forget.

The community shared their names, their hopes and aspirations. They wrote them notes, left tributes, shared flowers, among other items. Each note and plant were preserved because of what it represented and I had the opportunity to help do that. Brian, Arielle and Alex, you will never be forgotten.

As I was graduating, I knew I was not ready to leave our campus, though I was ready to complete my education. I was proud of the advocacy and all the work we did in student government to support campus. Through it all, and the amazing students and staff I worked with, I felt more of a connection to this community than any community I ever associated with.

I could not leave. I wanted to work for this place after graduation. I wanted to play a part in sharing the important research and work happening here.

Jack Harrison and MSU Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff.
On one of my first days of work, it was fitting I ran into MSU Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff on campus, as she is someone I looked up to during my time in student government. Courtesy of Harrison.

In July of 2023, I was fortunate enough to be hired to work in University Communications. It was a new office, a new daily routine, but nothing felt different since I got to stay home.

Every Spartan had their own experience and feelings, and they were united in their support for one another. They were united in making sure our campus would not be claimed from us – that our home – would always be our home. Spartan alumni from across the country were affected because of their deep love for MSU. Whether they were a mile away or thousands of miles away, they came together to uplift one another.

Growing up in Ann Arbor, I always thought “go green, go white” was just for team spirit. Although it can be heard chanted loudly at games, I’ve now learned “go green, go white” is deeper. It is to show your appreciation for another Spartan family member. We care about each other.

This is our community and family, both here in East Lansing and across the world. I am forever proud to be a Spartan and support one another in times of need and healing.

I am a Spartan grad, a Spartan employee and a Spartan for life.

By: Jack Harrison


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