Lansing Recycled Art and Fashion Show

Lansing Recycled Art and Fashion Show

Launched on March 25, the Lansing Recycled Art Exhibit and Fashion Show reemerged for its second year to prove that one man’s trash really can be another man’s treasure. Or his shirt.

Ashlae Belisle models a white dress made of recycled plastic carrying bags.

Organized by the Arts Council of Greater Lansing, the Go Green Initiative and Linking Lansing & U, the exhibit and fashion show are part of a collaborative effort to raise awareness about environmental issues through the creation of reused, reclaimed or recycled materials.

Through inspirational works of recyclable art, Lansing hopes to encourage citizens to take advantage of their local recycling programs.

Opening day was marked with a recyclable fabric fashion show and an award ceremony for the eight featured artists. One fashion show participant, apparel and textile design (ATD) senior Sarah Bach, submitted her work for the second year.

“For one of my classes, we did a sustainable design, and in another we did a recycled neck design,” Bach said. “One of our teachers suggested we enter the fashion show and keep them on display.”

While Bach’s designs are not currently in the exhibit, three other ATD students have their pieces on display. The garments incorporate anything from used T-shirts and sweaters, to plastic bags and shower curtains.

Soon to graduate, this is Bach’s last year in East Lansing. However, she anticipates the exhibit to come back.

“It seems like the program will probably be back next year. With the increasing awareness of environmental issues, this kind of thing is really popular,” Bach said.

Prizes were awarded to the top three artists and honorable mentions were also given. In first place, Russell Bauer was awarded a $300 prize for “Fodder,” a 12-foot peacock made from trash and wheat grass.

Katie Woods models a red and black recycled wool sweater dress.

Originally constructed for the Grand Rapids Art Prize festival, the arts council requested that Bauer’s bird be submitted to the spring exhibit.

“I use recycled goods a lot,” said Bauer. “They’re more affordable and I like free materials.”

Despite the bird’s great detail and size, Bauer said he and his partner, Janel Shultz – an honorable mention winner – were able to put it together in about three days.

“They were long days, but once we had our materials, we were able to get it done in a few days,” Bauer said.

To see Bauer’s piece as well as other participants’, visit the main lobby in Lansing City Hall. The exhibit continues through April 15 and is open to the public Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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Another one Bites the Dust

Another one Bites the Dust

Tightening budgets and questions of program sustainability have several Michigan State University academic programs under review and up for elimination. In an effort to strengthen the future of MSU’s academic success, the university is making decisions on a number of educational proposals, which will affect students and professors alike. The potential discontinuation of some of MSU’s most popular undergraduate programs however, may be impacting students more than we know.

As part of Michigan State’s responsibility to university commitments and strong programs, the University Committee on Academic Policy (UCAP) reviewed nine moratorium requests last month. Linda Stanford, the associate provost for academic services at MSU, serves as a liaison to the community on curriculum. Her role in the discontinuation process is to make sure that moratorium requests sent to UCAP are complete and easily understood. “Moratorium requests are submitted by a college,” Stanford said. “If a department and college are thinking about discontinuing a program, they first have to send in a request for a moratorium, or a suspension on student admission for the new semester.”

Moratoriums allow those who are accepted into a program to finish out their degree, so once a student is in, they are safe from the threat of exclusion. Many times, programs will honor rising juniors, allowing current sophomores to continue with a program. But for freshman and students who are simply too far behind in requirements and unable to meet admission deadlines, they must seek a different route.

While switching majors is no easy task, especially when a student had no intentions of switching to begin with, there is a greater overlap in programs and courses then students might expect. “Sometimes programs are related that students are not aware of,” Stanford said. “Because a program is discontinued, it doesn’t mean all the courses are going away. You can still take courses in a certain field while in a different program.” Although some program titles may sound unrelated to a desired field of study, many classes required in one program may be required or available in a separate but similar field. Associate provost for undergraduate education and dean of undergraduate studies, Doug Estry, agrees that in most cases there are alternatives. “Freshmen are advised into alternative areas that may allow them to still achieve their goal,” Estry said.

But while some students succeed in finding a new career path, the change is a highly sensitive and difficult one for others. The same difficulty applies to the university’s decision on whether or not to discontinue or disband a program. “Clearly, budgetary constraints are a primary force behind accelerating decisions. If we look at it another way, Michigan State has to maintain quality educational programs for its students. We have to decide where we are going to invest. You have to look at the total picture,” Estry said.

According to Estry, there are a series of underlying reasons for a program’s discontinuation. These could include low enrollment, the number of faculty and faculty productivity, retirements and degree awards. While some academic specializations may look like they have high enrollment, actual student awards may be low, indicating students have an interest in the specialization, but are not completing it. Yet, even while some programs affect a relatively small number of students, the impact they have is big. “Students’ sense is to resist any change in their major,” Estry said.  “Emotion plays a big part in all of this, there’s that emotional attachment to their program.”

As the December cuts continue, the nine requests will be considered, as issues from colleges, faculty and students are heard by UCAP. Findings will be reported to the provost, where they will consult with others to reach a decision. Undergraduate students pursuing majors in American studies, music therapy, deaf education, communicative sciences and disorders and veterinary technology, along with many more, wait to learn their program’s fate.

While it’s impossible to predict which programs will stay and which will not, their uncertain futures require that some students switch sooner rather than later. Sophomore and former veterinary technician major Lauren Wisnieski realized she needed a backup when she learned her program had suspended admission. “I heard about it through the vet clinic I was shadowing,” Wisnieski said. “I had been shadowing and taking certain classes, but have now had to pick a new major.”

Like many other students, Wisnieski was caught in the middle. She had been gearing her classes and time toward the major, but as a transfer student, would not be able to meet admission requirements by the deadline. The risk of continuing in a program that might be eliminated was one Wisnieski was not willing to take. “It was a frustrating change. There were no other four year vet tech programs I could transfer to that were as good as MSU’s,” she said.

While the veterinary technician program is a popular one, it must be reviewed to see whether or not it is central to MSU’s veterinary medicine. “The College of Veterinary Medicine looks at its primary responsibility, to prepare doctors of primary medicine. The vet tech program is not central to that, although a popular one. We can’t cut our commitment to our doctors. We have to make some serious decisions,” Estry said.

Wisnieski, who had not known about her program’s tentative status, was thankful she had gotten the message from someone. “If I hadn’t heard it from the vet tech clinic, I doubt MSU would have informed me,” Wisnieski said. Though not highly publicized, MSU seeks to keep students and faculty informed of academic changes at its new Web site. Here, students can find the latest changes in programs and discontinuations.

While Wisnieski was pleased with her change of major to animal science, other students continue to fight for their programs. Recent campus demonstrations and petitions have sparked a growing student voice, proving that although some programs may not be central to MSU’s criterion, they are in fact central to students’ futures. These actions along with involvement in the academic governance process, said Estry, are ways which students can be sure that their voices are heard.

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A Spartan Identity

A Spartan Identity

Rallying Spartan crowds since 1989, Sparty’s identity prevails as one of Michigan State’s greatest mysteries. The lovable and spirited Sparty has become a super star figure, but the students behind the green giant remain hidden. Named the National Mascot Champion three times in just four years, Sparty has reached celebrity status, yet his true identity remains one of MSU’s best-kept secrets.

“Some Spartys aren’t as trustworthy as others,” Sparty Mascot Program director Ben Hatala said. “If too many people find out, we remove them from the program.” The Sparty Mascot Program is coordinated by the MSU Student Alumni Foundation (SAF). The student-run program organizes events and Sparty escorts while working to preserve the Sparty identity. Sparty – not the student – is known for his school spirit at university games and events, as well as his special guest appearances at weddings and charity events. Yet, it takes a special person to be the fiery front-runner. Not only do physical requirements apply, mandating that individuals be between 5’10 and 6’2 and light enough to fit in the costume, but students must also showcase an energetic character.

Hatala is in charge of selecting mascots among the Sparty hopefuls. “We look for unique, charismatic, energetic people – people who are excited even when we’re losing. They have to have a level head on their shoulders,” Hatala said. But more than that, a Sparty must be trustworthy. According to Hatala, Sparty’s student identity is kept secret in order to maintain Sparty’s character as his own. “We strive to make Sparty his own person. We want Sparty to be Sparty, not someone else,” he said. He also said there is only one Sparty at any one time in the effort to uphold the single character of Sparty. With all Sparty’s publicity and involvement however, it seems impossible that the person beneath it all might remain concealed. It takes careful planning and trustworthy friends to maintain such a well-kept secret. And assuring secrecy isn’t an easy task when the person keeping it is always disappearing.

For an MSU student and former Sparty who has chosen to remain anonymous, leading the double life had its hardships. After three challenging rounds of auditions, the student earned the mascot spot. Try-outs he said, were physically demanding. He filled Hatala’s criteria and made a very lively and convincing Sparty. “I just had a lot of fun with it and tried to be as over the top as possible. And being a super dancer helped,” the former Sparty said. To rid himself of any suspicion, he often told others he was doing uninteresting things. Trips to the library, meetings and home visits were the extent of his weekly activities – or so he led others to believe. After just two weeks however, the job became too demanding. “I quit because it was more than I was ready to handle,” he said. “It was a lot more work than I thought it would be.”

That’s not to say though the Sparty veteran didn’t have any fun. “My favorite thing was getting to interact with people you knew but they didn’t know it was you,” he said. In reward of sporting the 40-pound costume, students like him are awarded a varsity letter. In order to protect their identities though, the letter must remain unattributed to Sparty.

State-goers have long speculated the duties and perks of playing Sparty, but most remain rumors. Gossip of scholarships, pay and free admittance to events have characterized the common but false perception of the Sparty position. Although Sparty is unpaid, the director sees it as a good thing. “It keeps kids in the program who want to be in it for the right reasons,” said Hatala. It is also a common misconception that only males can be Sparty. While the size requirements do typically attract more males than females, there was a female Sparty.

Contrary to Hatala’s assertion, the former Sparty says there is not just one Sparty, but several. According to the student, high profile events, like football games, are saved for the more “experienced Spartys.” These differences of account are yet another mystery surrounding the famous mascot.

Sparty tryouts are also largely undisclosed. For those uninvolved in the SAF, information regarding Sparty tryouts is hard to come by. Only a handful of connected students know about the auditions. Held in the auxiliary gym at the Breslin Student Events Center, Sparty hopefuls undertake a variety of challenges including push-ups, dances, improvisation and crowd rallying. These situations prepare them for what will eventually be interactions with cheerleaders and dancers, as well as on-the-spot crowd entertainment.

Students must make it through three rounds of tryouts before permanently donning the Spartan wear. Like all auditioners, the anonymous Sparty had to prove he could handle the costume. Running and performing push-ups with four-fingered hands and massive shoes are only two of the mascot’s demanding duties. For most Sparty candidates, improvisation is the breaking point of their performance. Auditions crowd member Kelley Smith, found the auditions highly entertaining. “There seem to be some really interesting people under the costume,” Smith said. “It’s funny to see how different people interpret how Sparty should be.”

Auditions begin with the mascot’s introduction to a modestly sized crowd, who cheer on the mascot as if it were a real event. The fight song commences and Sparty must run in, pump up the crowd and get them singing along. Next, Sparty is challenged with some scenario situations. Because there are limits to what Sparty can do, he is tested in tough situations like interacting with a shy child. Sparty must attempt to win the child’s trust without scaring or invading the child’s personal space. In addition, he must show that he can handle bad talk from a MSU bully. For one bold candidate who tackled his harasser, the crowd’s reaction suggested this Sparty would not move on to round two. For the seven other contestants, their physically friendly responses to the teasing were much more accepted. Following the test situations is improvisation. Sparty is directed to a table of props consisting of items like a body bag, a pillow chicken drumstick, a sled and hockey sticks. From these objects, he must use one in three different, unconventional ways. After all that, Sparty ends the routine by convincing the crowd he knows how to shake it. Participants must immediately switch up their dance moves to a CD of changing songs. The tracks include hip-hop, rap, pop rock and the classics, during all of which Sparty has to keep his feet, hands and body moving.

Having watched the animated performances of the eight Sparty contestants, Smith realized the work put in behind the mask. Like many others, it shocked him to find Sparty received nothing in reward of his work. “I know other schools’ mascots get scholarships, and it seems like a lot of work. I think he deserves one,” Smith said. He too wished he could don the mascot costume. Just a few inches taller, and it might have been. For those fit and lively enough to rally their fellow Spartans, there is no saying who may be the Sparty identity. Even if the strong Spartan face may not appear at all familiar, the person beneath could be your closest friend.

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