Dear Lou Anna,
As another year comes to an end, I find myself looking back on what the year has brought. Coming from out of state and finishing up my third year at MSU, it’s easy to reflect on what I’ve given to the campus. Tuition, parking permits, long days of classes and forging through icy weather seem to give the experience a negative taste. However, it also is important to realize what the university has given to me. L.A., the university has made a valiant effort this year to provide a variety of activities and breakthroughs that have made me proud to be a Spartan. From recognizing the importance of arts and culture to setting up universities abroad, MSU’s various initiatives this year have really put the college experience into perspective.
Year of Arts and Culture
As you know, L.A., each year is filled with performances, exhibitions and special events that demonstrate the artistic ability of the students. This year, however, the university went a step further. The MSU Cultural Engagement Council (CEC) named the 2007-2008 school year the “Year of Arts and Culture,” to get the entire campus involved in celebrating the arts.
The celebration included activities throughout the school year that featured various exhibits and performances on campus. It kicked off on Aug. 1 with a free tour of the MSU Museum. The landmark museum highlights Michigan’s natural history and culture, and has the state’s first Smithsonian Institution. According to Communications Coordinator Lisa Mulcrone, the Year of Arts and Culture (YAC) events conclude on Aug. 10 with the museum’s Great Lakes Folk Festival in downtown East Lansing.
Several of the year’s highlights included the 25th Anniversary of the Wharton Center, the anniversary of the MSU Museum and the anniversary of the Department of Theater. The year also signifies the opening of the new Residential College of Arts and Humanities and the newly designated College of Music.
But L.A., what I am especially impressed with was the CEC’s ability to involve the entire campus and make the celebration known across campus. A Web site was created to view all of the upcoming events, prices, dates and times. Each event was given a small summary, and had a link for more information. The Web site also invited the community to partake, as most events were open and free to the public. “I would say the year has been a very rich and rewarding one,” said Lora Helou, communications director for the MSU Museum. “We all know MSU is a big place, and helping package and promote our arts and cultural scene – especially through the Web site – has shown just how much MSU has to offer and given our audience a more centralized way to access information, learn more, find connections and enjoy the many events and activities.” [lora]
MSU has a wide variety of artistic resources on their campus, L.A., and it was about time they were celebrated. Through the YAC, students learned how arts and culture play a role in preparing them for life after college, something that a lot of Spartans don’t realize. Political science junior Andria Signore didn’t attend any events, but still realizes the significance. “My roommate had to go to a lot of the events for one of her classes. She went to a couple plays and performances, things I didn’t even know were offered here.”
Signore said once her roommate described the events, she had an interest in attending. “I’m really glad it’s not over yet because it sounds like something I would enjoy,” she said. “Our campus is really great about always providing new opportunities to experience things outside your major.”
Helou sees YAC as a start to something more. “In many ways, the ‘year of’ is just the beginning. We’re talking now about ways to continue promoting arts and culture at MSU, where there’s still much work to be done, with student groups, tapping emerging technologies, working with the community and more.”
L.A., creating the YAC was a great idea to unite the campus and pull together students from all of the different fields of studies to celebrate the achievements of MSU’s arts and culture.
Be Spartan Green
The Be Spartan Green program has been a year in the making, L.A., since you stressed the importance of MSU’s recycling program last year at Boldness by Design plan, created to recognize the university as the leading land-grant research university in the United States. And when the Board of Trustees approved the ‘Be Spartan Green’ recycling program earlier this semester, your plan was put into action. [year1]
The program will be the next step for supporting environmental stewardship on campus, and encourage all students and faculty to join the effort to make deep changes in ways the campus handles matters of the environment, from recycling office paper to turning off lights. The program has designed a list of 26 recommendations to improve MSU’s environmental position, and will begin with encouraging Spartans to make recycling a habit.
Economics junior Steven Romkema began participating in the program last semester when it was aimed strictly at cleaning up after football games. “Through [my volleyball club], during and after games we went around and collected cans from tailgaters,” he said. “There was a bunch of green containers scattered around symbolizing recycling centers.”
Small steps have been taken to encourage a campus-wide effort. Soon, a recycling facility will be located west of Farm Lane in the service district. As you know, L.A., the project will triple the amount of materials that are currently being recycled. What’s even better is the facility, although it costs a whopping $13.3 million, will pay for itself in 12 years, not affecting the tuition of students.
According to recycling program education manager Ruth Daoust, the recyclable materials will not be viewed as trash, but materials that will generate greater return. The recycling center will reduce labor costs and change the process that is used to collect materials. Instead of shipping the materials in boxes that are processed, the center will allow them to be sorted and shipped in bulk to be sold at a higher price to recycling facilities.
Romkema is optimistic about what the program will do for the campus. “Recycling after tailgating kept the area a lot cleaner and there weren’t as many bottles and cans after the football games,” she said. “This program will get the entire school in the habit of cleaning up after itself and keep the entire campus greener.”
Signore agrees the program will be extremely beneficial to students at MSU. “Everyone should get in the habit of recycling because it’s a small price to pay for a huge end result.”
L.A., by taking small steps such as reducing the energy use in the 579 buildings on campus, and scheduling classes efficiently to reduce the heat and energy costs, you will train our university to get in the habit of recycling not only physical materials, but energy as well.
It’s no secret, L.A., the Dubai Agreement was an enormous breakthrough for our university. By signing the agreement in September to open a branch of the university in Dubai International Academic City, you have moved MSU closer to becoming the first North American university in the Middle East.
You have said teaching and research throughout the world are important educational components for the future. By supporting this agreement, MSU will show the world the extensive knowledge and innovation our university is full of. Not only will we bring our culture to the academic city, but we will be recognized globally for our efforts. [year2]
L.A., this was an extremely positive step forward. MSU will still have full academic authority and quality control over the courses and programs offered, and students will receive standard diplomas. John Hudzik, the president of global engagement and strategic projects, explained new developments have the project moving forward at a fast pace.
According to the Dubai Web site, the university will encourage the same values you have instilled in us. While the college will be a mix of MSU and Dubai faculty, the majority of the student body will be made up of mostly Dubai citizens. This will give another country the opportunity to have the same great educational experience that we Spartans already have.
And the project has resonated well with most students. Romkema, for one, looks forward to new developments. “If they want to go international, that’s a really good location,” he said. “In that region, there are no major universities so it would be great to bring a taste of MSU over there. It’s an area that’s growing really quickly.” [jessica]
Signore agrees. “The Middle East can experience what a wonderful university that we have. I think it’s great that we are bringing education to the other parts of the world.”
This was an excellent choice, L.A. It gives Spartans something to be proud of, and feel they are influencing other parts of the world. We are unified as a school as we provide greater opportunities to other countries.
MSU scientists have been hard at work over the past year, L.A. Two specific research breakthroughs occurred during the past year and have had a positive impact on the world at large. Researchers have discovered how to turn corn into biofuel, and additional researchers conducted a study on breast cancer treatment. [year3]
First off, researchers have found that an enzyme from a microbe living inside the stomach of a cow is the necessary ingredient to turning corn plants into fuel. By breaking down the corn into simple sugars, they can be used to produce ethanol to power cars and trucks. This is known as Spartan Corn III. According to Mariam Sticklen, professor of crop and soil sciences, this is a huge step for biofuel production. By being able to use the entire corn plant, more fuel can be produced with less cost.
L.A., this will do huge things for MSU, and it is a giant step forward for science and technology. “This does great things not only for our college but for the environment,” Romkema said. “Hopefully it helps lower gas prices.”
Signore was less optimistic, fearing we shouldn’t be too hopeful yet. “It’s great to explore other options, but I hope they aren’t putting all their eggs in one basket. Let’s look for options besides ethanol.”
Not only have scientist experimented and found new developments, they have also challenged previous research by conducting a study that looks at the current research done on breast cancer. They have found current treatment options could actually be risky for the patients. “What we’re concerned about is people will think, ‘Well, the scientists are going to come up with a cure, so we don’t need to worry about prevention,'” said Charles Atkin, university distinguished professor of communication.
Researchers have found even though many characteristics such as family history and age can lead to breast cancer, there are many steps people can take to reduce the risk. Activities such as exercise, a good diet and avoidance of harmful substances and behaviors can limit one’s chances of getting the cancer.
Romkema thinks it’s great students are pushed to find alternative measures to previous research. “Anything we could do to get closer to a cure for cancer is awesome. Finding ways to prevent it is even better.”
Signore agrees new research is always beneficial, regardless what has already been discovered. “Especially for me as a woman, this new information is really helpful and creates the mindset that we can’t just wait for a cure, we need to take action in prevention.”
For the most part, L.A., students seem to be pleased with the various university initiatives that have been implemented this year. From showcasing artistic performances to creating a campus abroad, MSU took major steps in 2007 and 2008 to advance the university’s place around the world.