State News Graduation Edition, April 16, 2024

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As the tassels turn and Michigan State University’s Breslin Center is flooded with emerald green gowns, the commencement ceremony marks the end of college’s four memorable years. For many graduating seniors, however, this experience is wrapped up only in three.

Nutritional sciences senior Mithra Aroul is one student who graduated early. Aroul made this decision to save money, spend time with her family and dog, travel the world and focus on applying to Physician Assistant school during a gap year.

“We’ve been in school for our whole lives,” Aroul said. “A good 15 to 16 years, and I just wanted to take some time off just to do some things that I’m passionate about because burnout is really real, especially in the healthcare field.”

Aroul said she knew she wanted to “capitalize” on the college credits she earned during high school when her journey at MSU started. However, she still had a heavy

workload throughout her three years, including summers packed with classes.

“I felt like I was doing school all the time,” Aroul said. “I haven’t really gotten a proper break. I didn’t realize how much time had passed, and it’s just been super, ‘go, go, go.’”

Biology senior Josh Berman, who applied to MSU’s Osteopathic Medical Scholars 3+4, a program that exposes students to clinical skills early in their college career, during the first semester of his second year, said graduating early was the “right transition” and what he “needed” for his life.

Berman wanted to go to medical school as soon as he could, and having direct admission offered him a myriad of resources, mentorship and opportunities.

“It just feels very fast, very quick,” Berman said. “”When I was 16 (during) COVID, I wasn’t doing much in school. Freshman year, when I was 18, I just felt like I was getting right back into the swing of things, and then one year later, I’m all of a sudden graduating next year.”

When Berman came to MSU, it was difficult for him to adjust to a new environment because he “wasn’t doing much” through the pandemic and school. While he did consider a gap year before medical school, he said he felt the extra time was something he didn’t need.

“Everyone’s needs are a little bit different,” Berman said. “For me, I realized that the grass is

greener on the other side. Time is always going to move on.” Aroul said the experience of graduating early varies for everyone and that she gained valuable insights from the conversations that she had with several upperclassmen as a freshman and her parents about graduating early.


Trustee Denno asked for favors from administrators

For months, a trustee requested personal favors from MSU’s top administrators. The new president says that stops under him.

Double Spartans decide MSU for both degrees

There are over 7,200 students enrolled in master’s and doctoral programs, some of these students having the opportunity of attending MSU for both their undergraduate and graduate degrees, becoming “double Spartans.”

Department of Natural Resources stocks Red Cedar River with over 3,000 trout

A handful of students and curious onlookers gathered on the Beal Street bridge Friday afternoon to watch as a crew from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, or DNR, stocked the Red Cedar River with 3,300 steelhead trout on April 12.

Unloading from a specialized fish stocking vehicle, DNR employees used slides and buckets to drop the trout over the side of the bridge and into the river.

Friday’s drop is only one small part of the DNR’s spring-long process of stocking rivers and lakes across the state of Michigan with various species of fish. From mid-March to early June, around 20 million fish are stocked using a fleet of specialized fish stocking vehicles that travel around the state.

Alexa Curtis, one of the DNR employees who was dumping trout into the Red Cedar, said the yearold fish would spend a short period

of time in the river before swimming downstream to Lake Michigan. She added that the fish released today were raised at the Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery in Mattawan.

“They will return to this area when they’re adults, they’ll try to spawn up here, and then it’s for people to catch them from here,” Curtis said.

People interested in keeping tabs on where and when fish are being stocked can visit this link on the Michigan DNR’s website.

PAGE 4 Michigan State’s Independent Voice
Illustration by Zachary Balcoff. DNR releases fish from the Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery into the Red Cedar River on April 12, 2024. Photos by Jonah Brown.

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MSU trustee Denno asked administrators for array of favors

Changing students’ roommate assignments. Joining campus cops at the gun range. Increased oversight of advancement employees allegedly undermining him. Information on every cold case homicide on campus.

These are among the favors

Michigan State University trustee Dennis Denno asked of senior administrators in the first months after he was elected to the position.

The behavior was cited in a recent outside investigation into board misconduct as an example of how the now-embattled board member overstepped his authority.

The report, conducted by law firm Miller & Chevalier and released publicly in February, revealed dramatic examples of Denno and trustee Rema Vassar’s misconduct, from encouraging students to embarrass the interim president to interfering in the university’s legal affairs.

But investigators admitted the probe only covered their most flagrant behavior, and only hinted at the trustees’ day-to-day misconduct.

“The most significant examples (of trustee misconduct) are discussed in this report, but document review raised additional examples beyond those raised by the specific allegations, signaling a potentially larger issue than reported to Miller & Chevalier,” the report said.

A glimmer of that “larger issue” is revealed by emails between Denno and senior MSU administrators, obtained by The State News through public records requests.

The emails show an administration quick to run the trustee’s errands, often with no questions asked.

This State News review covers only a small portion of Denno’s allegedly daily interference. MSU’s public records office asked for $1,244 to see all of his emails with the university’s vice presidents during his first 10 months on the board.

President Kevin Guskiewicz — who was appointed in December and began work last month — said he believes the behavior won’t continue under his administration.

“My expectation is that requests and questions board members may have will be coordinated directly through me and my chief of staff,” Guskiewicz said in a statement.

Discussions of interference were central to MSU’s courting of Guskiewicz, a former chancellor of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

Guskiewicz said he would only take the job at MSU if the board promised to stop interfering in the administration. The board members did that upon his appointment, signing pledges saying they would no longer engage in the behavior.

In his statement, Guskiewicz appeared to admonish Denno’s requests.

“It’s my expectation that we work together in appropriate ways to strengthen MSU,” he wrote. “It’s also my expectation that everyone at the university is treated with respect — administrators, staff, faculty, students, trustees, alumni and community


Denno, through a spokesperson, declined to answer a list of detailed questions for this story.

Following the outside report, Denno and Vassar were censured and stripped of official duties by the rest of the board.

They were also referred to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for removal from the board altogether, a power only she has. She’s yet to say what she will do.


In May 2023, Denno requested the university’s housing services department put two students in a room together last summer, on behalf of a concerned personal friend.

He did so in an email, subject line “room assignment--important,” sent to Vice President for Student Life & Engagement Vennie Gore and board secretary Stefan Fletcher.

“MSU students (redacted) and (redacted) are attempting to room together and it would be a priority for them and me to be housed together,” Denno wrote. “I look forward to your positive response.”

Gore responded eight minutes later, promising he’d look into it.

The next morning, Gore assured Denno: “I talked with the staff this am and it has been taken care off (sic).”

It didn’t end there.

A week and a half later, Denno received a follow-up request from his friend, asking for further confirmation that the students were indeed placed together due to troubles logging into MSU’s online housing portal, according to the emails.

Denno forwarded it to Gore, who quickly assured him that Christopher Stone-Sewalish, the associate director for administration at Residence Education and Housing Services, would talk to the family directly.

Stone-Sewalish responded a day later, telling Denno his staff confirmed with the students, writing “they’re all


A month later, in July, Denno again wrote again to Gore, Stone-Sewalish and Fletcher about the roommate issue.

“My understanding is that (redacted) did not get the roommate assignment that he requested, this is after everyone said this was taken care of,” Denno wrote. “I find this frustrating and it kinda makes me look bad. Could someone please take care of this ASAP?”

Two hours later, Stone-Sewalish once again assured Denno the students were set to room together.

“I have personally verified he’s with (redacted)” Stone-Sewalish wrote. “I would be more than happy to provide any assurances to the student on behalf of housing.”

“Thank u!” Denno replied.


In a Feb. 6, 2023 email, Denno asked MSU’s then-chief of police Marlon Lynch for two things: a chance to join his officers at a gun range and a list of all cold case homicides on campus.

Denno said he first made the request at a meeting in late November 2022. That’s after he was elected but before he was sworn in to the board.

His email — sent months later — appears to be a reminder.

“When we met on Monday, Nov. 28 I requested a list of the cold case homicides on campus and I also requested to go to the range,” Denno wrote. “Please let me know when those issues can be taken care of, thanks.”

Lynch replied to Denno’s request, saying that there are no cold case homicides.

It’s unclear why Denno was seeking that information. He and the MSU Police declined to answer questions about it.

Denno is a part-time civilian investigator for Lansing Police Department’s cold case homicide unit, according to his professional bio.

It’s also unclear if Denno ever actually went to the gun range with MSU police.


Emails also show Denno clashed with MSU’s advancement employees, who oversee donor relations.

In a March 2023 exchange, Denno chided vice president for advancement Kim Tobin over a rumor about the then-ongoing search for MSU’s next president.

Denno — who chaired the presidential search committee — said he met a couple at an event in New York who asked him how the search was coming along.

“They stated that they heard that due to issues on campus with the trustees and having so many presidents there were concerns that MSU would not have a very qualified pool of applicants,” Denno wrote.

At the time, MSU had been through five presidents in as many years, each facing various scandals relating to the university’s handling of sexual violence or alleged misconduct by the board.

Denno reportedly assuaged their concerns by boasting the school’s achievements. But the question jarred him.

They scheduled a session for March 7, 2023, according to the emails. Denno and MSU Police declined to answer questions about if that outing ultimately occurred, weeks after a campus shooting.

In another email, with the subject line “MSU parking situation,” Denno brings Lynch’s attention to a university parking attendant.

“Thank you for the call today,” Denno wrote in the email to Lynch. “Attached is the photo of the person I mentioned.”

The attachment is a photo taken from the driver’s seat of a vehicle. An MSU parking attendant stands against the hood of the car. MSU’s FOIA office redacted the person’s face.

MSU Police and Denno declined to answer questions about what exactly the “parking situation” was, and what Denno hoped Lynch would do about it.

Denno would later give Lynch tickets to a Detroit Tigers baseball game, which he was attending with fellow trustees Dan Kelly, Brianna Scott and Kelly Tebay, according to emails between them.

Denno said he received the tickets from Wayne County executive Warren Evans.

“Evans’ peeps gave me tix to the county suite,” Denno wrote. “ The tix are free but unfortunately there will be no food in the suite.”

Lynch responded, saying he planned to attend and would be bringing a guest.

“I asked where they heard this from and they said that SOMEONE IN ADVANCEMENT told them that,” Denno wrote to Tobin. “I cannot begin to tell you how alarming this is, that someone in MSU Advancement has negative comments about the future of MSU and could be undermining the search process. I assume that I will never hear of this again.”

Tobin responded the next morning, thanking him “for attending so many functions since becoming a Trustee,” according to the emails.

“I know our team of 300+ in Advancement are proud of the same things you mentioned,” Tobin replied. “We are committed to the success of the institution and work hard to advance it facilitating millions of dollars a year to the institution.”

Tobin said it’s “impossible to manage every conversation or interaction” within the large department, but promised to “remind our team how impactful they are as connectors to the external world.”

Denno responded an hour later, reiterating his demand.

“Kim, it needs to be made clear to MSU’S 300+ Advancement employees that their actions and comments cannot undermine the Board of Trustees nor the presidential search process,” he wrote. “Please let me know fi (sic) you cannot impart and enforce that message.”

In another email to Tobin from a month before, Denno described a supposedly confrontational exchange with a fellow guest in the advancement department’s hockey suite at Munn Ice Arena.

“I had the misfortune of meeting your guest,” Denno wrote in the email. “I introduced myself as an alum and trustee and he told me and said he’s known you from Colorado State for at least 20 years.”

There is then a large redacted portion, followed by “I look forward to your response.”

Tobin’s reply is similarly heavily redacted, making it unclear what she said in response. It ends with, “Again, my apologies.”

Candidate for the MSU Board of Trustees Dennis Denno speaks at the Michigan Democratic Party Spring Endorsement Convention in Detroit on April 9, 2022. State News file photo.

‘Double Spartans’: Deciding

to attend MSU for both undergraduate, graduate degrees

There are over 7,200 students enrolled in master’s and doctoral programs at Michigan State University. Some of these students have the unique opportunity of attending MSU for both their undergraduate and graduate degrees, becoming “double Spartans.”

One way that students can put themselves on this track is through the Osteopathic Medical Scholars Program. Through this, students can attend MSU for undergrad via the College of Osteopathic Medicine and, if they maintain a high enough GPA, they can waive the MCAT requirement for grad school admission.

Breanna Williams is one Spartan who took this path. Alongside the pathway program itself, the community she was able to cultivate during her undergrad influenced her decision to stay.

“One of the reasons why I wanted to go to the D.O. program here, I was involved in a lot of activities … so overall, my experience at MSU, socially and academically was very good,” Williams said.

Williams was extremely involved on campus during her undergrad years as a member of the Honors College, the Charles Drew Science Scholars program and Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority, Inc.

“I feel like knowing that I had a community and I still have a sense of family here also helped me say, ‘I really want to

go here,’” Williams said.

Alec Said is getting his master’s in computer science at MSU, having studied electrical and computer engineering during his undergrad. Like Williams, he said having a sense of community was a great product of attending MSU for both degrees.

“I don’t have the time to hold an officer position for the club, but there are ways to participate intermittently through the year or the semester, so I can still participate in all those clubs I really liked to do in undergrad,” Said said.

Professional connections can also be strengthened when students remain on campus for a long period of time.

Marissa Ogea studied humanities as an undergraduate at MSU and is now completing her master’s degree in nonprofit leadership, global cultures and social enterprises. Within her master’s program, Ogea has been able to reconnect with professors from her time as an undergraduate and maintain a sense of familiarity within her college.

“Being able to take everyone that I knew previously from undergrad, and still maintain that relationship with now, like, one year after graduation, ... (has) been really nice and just very easy with trying to transition into a postgraduate degree,” Ogea said.

For Williams, going straight into medical school marked a tough transition. When comparing her experience to that of her medical school peers,

she noted that being familiar with the campus and having ties to old groups and leaders made the change much smoother.

“I just want to enjoy the last bit of actually being able to call this campus home.”

“Just being able to be familiar with my surroundings and know different places that I can access resources to help me if I’m struggling with something, I think that was very beneficial for my transition,” Williams said. This access made it that much easier for Williams to overcome those obstacles and continue to strive for excellence in her program.

“I feel like the school has provided me with enough resources, between advisors and community support (from) my classmates, that I feel much more confident,” she said.

Said added there is also a greater connection between professors and students in graduate programs.

“Professors are almost really excited to be teaching grad classes, like, you can tell,” he said. “They’re almost showing the class their specific, special, parts of the field that they’re working on and they’re excited about.”

Compared to undergraduate courses, Said said there is a larger sense of commitment and excitement in graduate school.

“Students in every class are working toward their Ph.D. or working toward their thesis,” he said. “And they’re excited to be there, so the professor’s excited to have them.”

Ogea, who is a firstgeneration student, said attending graduate school was a large achievement for her. Looking back at her undergrad, she said, she approaches her graduate degree differently.

“I think for me, being able to continue my education and … not having that same sense

of almost intentional defeat that I did in undergrad where I kind of just set myself up for anticipating failure … I think that has really changed,” Ogea said.

Ogea said she found strength in her sense of identity and community by completing grad school at the same institution.

“Being able to continue being a Spartan has been really great,” she said. “... just being able to have that sense of achievement and belonging.”

Now, with one year left in her program, Ogea is navigating what she wants to do with the rest of her time at MSU.

“It is a really big, personal

task to take on,” Ogea said. “But it’s also something that, given the resources that I have from Michigan State, ... I don’t take on by myself.”

For Williams, this coming year will likely be her last in East Lansing. The following year of her program will be spent doing clinical rotations, which she hopes to complete closer to her hometown. Williams said she wants to make the most of her remaining time at MSU by trying new restaurants and attending one final football game.

“I just want to enjoy the last bit of actually being able to call this campus my home,” she said.

Master’s student and Assistant Community Director Marissa Ogea poses in her office in Phillips Hall on April 11, 2024. Ogea is pursuing an MA in Nonprofit Leadership, Global Cultures, and Social Enterprise. Photo by Brianna Schmidt.

From cover: Seniors graduating early reflect on ‘missing out’

While Aroul is excited to graduate, she said the most difficult part is leaving the friendships and relationships she has established during her time at MSU. As the school year wrapped up, the feelings of missing out on the traditional senior year have “sunk in” and are now a “bit more bittersweet.”

“Not say we would lose touch altogether, but it’s just different because college is a unique time in your life that is unlike any other part of your lifetime,” Aroul said. “I know that I’m close enough to come and visit

campus, so I don’t necessarily feel too sad, but I definitely feel some twitches of pain sometimes.”

Many of Aroul’s friends are not graduating this semester, and while she doesn’t feel lonely, Aroul said it feels a bit odd to be on a different timeline and path than those around her.

“When you think of graduation and moving on to the next chapter, you know you’re doing (it) all together, with your friends and people your age,” she said. “But, I know they would come to support and watch, which is a

nice feeling.”

Human biology senior Ellen Kim said she felt behind this year because college went by so quickly. However, graduating with her friends makes her feel less isolated and alone.

“This semester has been a really nice semester, where I could focus on not just classes, but also just having fun and being with friends,” Kim said. “That kind of fulfilled the part of missing out on the college experience.”

Kim plans to go back to her hometown in Troy, Michigan, where

she will take a gap year to build her resume with clinical experience before applying to medical school.

Berman said he doesn’t feel like he is missing anything, but has to work on maturing and developing as a person. At the same time, he said he was excited to learn as much as he could and begin a new chapter in his life.

“There’s no rush,” Berman said. “Everyone has different reasons for graduating early. It’s good to figure out what you want. If it’s just like a race of checking the boxes, then that’s

not going to benefit you in the long run. You’’e going to (be) potentially cornering yourself into something that you didn’t know ... in the first place.” Aroul said college is one of the best times in anyone’s life and where a lot of valuable growth happens as people are exploring independence for the first time.

“I’m not the person that I am coming out of college that I was coming into college,” Aroul said. “You make a lot of mistakes, but you also learn a lot of lessons.”

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Eli Broad College of Business graduation on May 6, 2023. State News file photo.
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Activists continue protests following MSU’s decision not to divest

The months-long call for Michigan State University to divest from Israel and weapons manufacturers reached a turning point in February when the Board of Trustees promised to conduct a review of the university’s financial holdings. But at this morning’s board meeting,

trustee and board finance committee chair Sandy Pierce announced a new twist: the committee will review its financial investments but will not consider “divestment of any kind.”

The update did not surprise or stop the dozens of student and faculty protesters from continuing their activism during and after the meeting.

Dozens of students throughout the meeting held signs reading “DIVEST

NOW,” at one point erupting in a chant. Over a dozen students, faculty and alumni addressed the board during public comment to call for divestment.

After the meeting ended, roughly 30 students marched to the Cowles House to continue their protest.

Waseem El-Rayes, an associate professor in James Madison College, told the trustees that 28 of his family members in Gaza were killed by Israel’s bombardment and several others he had lost contact with.

“Some likely remain under the rubble of their homes, like the thousands of missing Gazans who are not counted among the dead,” El-Rayes said.

He admonished MSU for the money it has invested in Israeli bonds.

“Astonishingly, our own university also profits from the slaughter of tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Gaza,” El-Rayes said.

As of June 30, 2023, MSU has $218.1 million invested in three BlackRock funds: BlackRock Emerging Companies, BlackRock Strategic and BlackRock Systematic China Absolute Return, according to the MSU list of investments. Advocates for divestment argue that those investments, alongside an additional $363.8 million invested in BNY Mellon, are funding weapons manufacturers involved in the IsraelHamas war.

Additionally, MSU has $236,114

invested in Israeli aid as well as $479,006 invested in weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

MSU spokesperson Mark Bullion said that while MSU does own U.S. treasury bonds that were issued to fund Israeli aid, “the university purchased these bonds in March 2023, well before the current conflict.”

But even if MSU did decide to pull out of the Israeli bond, doing so would be “chaotic,” Assistant Vice President of Financial Management Jeff Rayis told The State News in February.

Financial experts say the complex web of outside asset managers and contractually-bound investments put the university in a bind — without much control over its own endowment.

President Kevin Guskiewicz told reporters after the meeting that the university is “doing everything to protect the endowment and our financial investments from any political influence.”

Jesse Estrada White, a comparative culture and politics junior and organizer with Sunrise MSU, said that not divesting is a political choice of its own.

“All money has a political nature to it,” Estrada White told The State News. “There is funding genocide, and there is not funding genocide. And they’re making the active choice to keep funding genocide.”

“But when you decided not to divest, I felt a lot of emotions: shame, frustration, hopelessness,” Warner said. “But I realized I wasn’t surprised that you let us down again.”

Hadeel Rass, environmental engineering senior, told the board it was profiting off of deaths in Gaza.

“Every dead body in Gaza is a return on your investment,” Rass said. “So when we say divest, now we are not asking you, we are warning you. Because as quickly as those stocks rose, they will fall even quicker.”

Salah Hassan, director of Global Studies in the arts and humanities, called on the board and provest to “consider creating educational initiatives that focus specifically on Palestine, that are based on Palestinian perspectives and experience and come from the students in the faculty who have expertise and knowledge in these areas.”

He said there’s a belief that MSU’s Arab and Muslim community poses a threat to faculty and students.

“In fact, we live under a constant threat that we will be attacked and may lose our jobs if we speak out on this issue,” Hassan said, referring to Gaza. “We’re seeing people get killed and then we’re being accused of being the threat.”

Rylee Warner, a chemistry junior, said the board’s initial decision to review its investments gave “fleeting hope.”

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Three students carry a large flag urging the MSU Board of Trustees to divest funds from Israel during a protest at the Hannah Administration Building on April 12, 2024. Photo by Matthew Williams.

‘Out of the Darkness’ 5K raises over $10,000, gathers 250 attendees for suicide prevention

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, or AFSP, partnered with Michigan State University Counseling And Psychiatric Services counselors to hold the “Out of the Darkness” 5k Walk held at the Wells Hall courtyard for suicide prevention on Sunday, April 14.

The walkout began at noon and had 250 people in attendance. Over $10,000 was raised for AFSP, and will be used for suicide prevention education, supporting survivors of suicide loss and suicide prevention research, according to the ASFP Michigan board of Directors President Reid Depowski-Knowles. Depowski-Knowles lost her mother and cousin to suicide. While the conversation around mental health and suicide has been consistent for the past couple of decades, she said, it’s gaining more momentum now. DepowskiKnowles, a licensed social worker and mental health therapist, said that 20 to 25 percent of the population have thought about suicide in their life.

“It’s through efforts like this that more people are aware of this conversation is happening,” DepowskiKnowles said. “We’ve always had mental health, and people have always

died by suicide. But the more that we talk about it, the more of momentum the more of a conversation we have to change that.”

Depowski-Knowles said if her mother and cousin were here, she would tell them how the world would be a better place with them, as well as how much she loves and misses them.

“But I (would also say), ‘thank you for giving me the courage and the place to be a part of this conversation to help other people,’” Depowski-Knowles said. “Hopefully, more people don’t have to lose their family and friends.”

For science education freshman Mackenzie Koehn, it was her sixth time walking in the 5k event. Koehn was 13 when she lost her dad to suicide. It was a very difficult healing process and Koehn struggled with grief, regret, depression and anxiety.

“When you lose someone to suicide, a lot of people point fingers and a lot of people blame themselves and wonder if there was something that they could have done differently,” Koehn said. “That was something that I have felt.”

Koehn worked through her trauma when she became involved with Suicide Prevention and advocacy in high school; now, at MSU, she helps organize the “Out of the Darkness” walk alongside CAPS counselors Courtney Brown and

“When you lose someone to suicide, a lot of people point fingers and a lot of people blame themselves and wonder if there was something that they could have done differently... that was something that I have felt.”


Science education freshman

Sarah Fay-Koutz.

“Suicide impacts all of us, whether it be our community (or) us personally,” Brown said. “And it was just important to bring it to the campus community, as many of our students have also been

impacted by suicide as well. So why not give them a safe space to heal together collectively?”

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States and the number of deaths increased by 2.6 percent between 2021 and 2022, according to the CDC.

“I wish that (my dad) knew that I cared,” Koehn said. “And that there were people who did care. And leaving this world, I know he felt like he had no other option ... and (that) he was making everyone’s life better. I don’t have a dad. There’s been so many things that he has missed out on and he will continue to miss out on. I wish I could just tell him I love him.”

Fay-Koutz said suicide rates are increasing amongst all age groups, and it’s hard to pinpoint a single reason as to why. She noted that there seems to be a “ripple effect” when students pass away by suicide at MSU.

“I think our lives are stressful,” FayKoutz said. “I think they’re complicated. I think more and more folks are struggling with depression and anxiety. It’s really complicated. I think there’s a lot of trauma. I think everyone’s story is really individual, but I think there are definitely some connectivity between reasons.”

Human development and family

science sophomore Emily Stephenson and her sister, kinesiology freshman Haley Stephenson, said they were walking for their mother’s coworker’s son who passed away from suicide. His name was Felix.

“It’s really important that everyone should be there for each other,” Stephenson said. “Just being kind to each other can really make a difference in someone’s day. If it’s just a smile or a wave when you walk past someone walking to class or walking back to your dorm room, that can make a real difference in someone’s life.”

Lansing community member and Durand Middle School secretary Jackie Mavis said this was her third walk in honor of her friend’s son.

“They need to do this in every community, in every weekend,” Mavis said. “They need to be able to talk about (mental health) and be able to bring it into schools and help people and not be so judgemental. We’re not doing enough to help.”

Attendees like Fay-Koutz expressed their devastation and heartbreak from the increase in suicide rates, as well as those affected by mental health issues.

“We see you,” Fay-Koutz said. “We care about you. We want you to be here.”

The Out of the Darkness 5k walk begins at People’s Park on April 14, 2024. Photo by Daniel Schoenherr. Out of the Darkness 5k walk co-chairs and Michigan State Counseling & Psychiatric Services counselors Courtney Brown, left, and Sarah Fay-koutz, right, at People’s Park on April 14, 2024. Photo by Daniel Schoenherr. An Out of the Darkness 5k participant creates a button in memory of her friend, Tim, at People’s Park on April 14, 2024. Photo by Daniel Schoenherr.
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