State News, April 25, 2023

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It’s BeenReal. Graduation edition 2023


Spring 2023: Semester in review

Spring 2023 was defined by loss, but it also held many other notable events and changes at MSU. The State News breaks down the biggest headlines from this semester.


Despite tragedy, MSU still remains home

Four seniors discuss living through a historical four years at MSU and how they remain optimistic despite tragedy marking their time in East Lansing.


Transfer students reflect on unique experience

Even though coming to MSU later than most presented challenges, transfer students feel like Spartans when they walk across the stage in May.

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All hands on deck: Behind the scenes of MSU commencement

Before Michigan State University graduates can cross the stage and collect their diplomas, offices across the university spend a year preparing and organizing spring commencements. From printing programs to securing speakers to live streaming internationally, it’s all hands on deck for graduation.

During commencement weekend, Senior University Academic Events Planner Heather Fink is the first to arrive at 6 a.m. and the last to leave around 7:30 p.m., making sure everything she has organized over the past year runs smoothly.

Throughout the year, Fink is in charge of contract negotiations and planning commencements at the university level, as well as coordinating the master’s and doctoral convocations.

With only Fink and her colleague, Ashley Day, running the commencement office and 21 total ceremonies, colleges coordinate their own ceremonies, Fink said.

“For example, say the College of Business is at the Breslin Center,”

Fink said. “The College of Business is responsible for communicating with the Breslin Center saying, ‘This is how we’re going to do our name cards.’”

This extends down to even how many chairs on stage, Fink said.

Fink’s office also handles fall commencement entirely on its own. She said the really hard work starts around January, when she takes on planning several large events at the same time.

“The two months prior to spring, we’re really in the trenches,” Fink said. Not only is the office in charge of the commencement, but many other events as well, like the university student recognition event where various scholarship and fellowship winners are recognized.

On the day of graduation, Fink is on the ground ensuring that seats and signage are correctly set up and speakers are in the right place at the right time, communicating with the MSU Department of Police and Public Safety, or MSU DPPS and providing scripts to teleprompter captioners.

With many moving parts, Fink said she relies on several university partners to get everything done. WKAR, MSU’s public radio station, is an essential

player in making graduation accessible for every student’s family, she said.

WKAR live streams all graduation ceremonies, making them available internationally. The recordings are also saved and posted to the WKAR website for later viewing.

“It may seem just like a nice add on, but, for some of our students whose families can’t make it back to the U.S. to watch their student graduate or just simply can’t make the travel within the country, this is an essential way for them to be part of that celebration in a way that’s engaging and meaningful,” MSU deputy spokesperson Dan Olsen said. In order to livestream internationally, the station has to use a specific platform called Kaltura, WKAR senior director of television and digital operations Brant Wells said. Kaltura, unlike platforms like YouTube or Vimeo which may be blocked by Virtual Private Networks, is accessible anywhere in the world, he said.

While the Breslin Center handles its own filming and production, livestreaming in the Wharton Center is done almost exclusively by MSU students who work as production interns at WKAR, Wells said.

“They’re working cameras, making sure that actually we’re connected into the audio, working with the Wharton,” Wells said. “They’re working with the WKAR production staff as well, but most of the time, I mean in terms of the recording of the commencement, it’s all actually student labor.”

Another essential partner is the MSU DPPS, Fink said. MSU DPPS communications manager Dana Whyte said the department’s special events division works directly with the Breslin and Wharton centers to determine a safety and security plan throughout commencements.

Because of the influx of people on campus during graduation, Whyte said MSU DPPS is diligently looking for anything that looks out of place.

“There are a number of prohibited items that aren’t allowed inside of the

Breslin and the Wharton Center,” Whyte said. “So being on the lookout for those as people come in and making sure that they do not bring them into those buildings, and just being that visual presence and available if anyone were to need us.”

While the ceremonies themselves are stressful to navigate as it’s impossible to plan for everything, Fink said she is satisfied by the joy she is able to provide to graduates and their families.

“It’s a happy day, it’s the culmination of all the hard work everybody’s put in,” Fink said. “From the bachelor’s degree all the way up to people receiving their Ph.D.s. These people have put in a lot of time and a lot of money, so we want to make sure their day goes off well and that everybody’s happy, even the families.”

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Seniors struggle with expectation to have a job upon graduation

Fifty-nine percent of Michigan State University seniors had a graduation outcome of “employed” in 2020; according to the University of Washington, an estimated 53% of all college graduates are unemployed or underemployed — when they have a job, but their position does not utilize their skills or abilities.

In a cultural climate that heavily associates prestige and success with employment, navigating changing career plans can be hard. For students like international relations and German senior Cassidy Johnston, not having a job lined up immediately after graduation feels strange.

“As an (international relations) major … the jobs don’t seem to be released on the same timeline that an engineering (job) would be released on,” Johnston said. “It’s kind of awkward to graduate in May. It seems

that there are less jobs related to what I specifically want to do.”

Johnston, who enrolled in MSU planning to pursue law, said she needs a break from school now. While currently in the process of looking for a job, she said, the stigma surrounding unemployment weighs on her.

“I’m someone who is a perfectionist, so for me to seem like I’m not where I’m supposed to be is kind of hard,” Johnston said. “I know a lot of people go through this, so it’s something I have to deal with.”

International relations and Spanish senior Joy Cullen said the job market for social science degrees is always “a little bit hairy.”

With fears over recession and the plight of the economy, Cullen said she feels it is getting increasingly difficult to find jobs.

Cullen added that the pressure to go directly into the workforce is immense.

“I mean, we’ve definitely all heard of the stereotype

of the (political science) graduate that moves back in with their parents after graduation,” Cullen said.

“There’s also a tendency to do the humble bragging thing, where … people talk about all these amazing things that they’re (doing) after graduation. That puts a lot of pressure on everyone

else who isn’t quite as vocal about their plans.”

Human biology senior Sanjana Sahoo said her original plan of becoming a doctor evolved when she considered taking a couple gap years. She wanted more time to not only get in touch with the medical field and patient care, but also

use that space to work on herself.

“I’ve applied to a research position that I plan on working for in the next couple years,” Sahoo said. “Other than that, I kind of want to do hobbies that I really didn’t get a chance to do during the school year, like reading, spending more time with family, and travel, if I get the chance.”

Sahoo, who is South Asian, noted the mindset of going directly from an undergraduate program to medical school is especially common in her community. Parents apply pressure to “grow up, be successful and start a family,” she said, but this norm is changing.

Slowly, people are beginning to realize that there are various paths to the same goal, Sahoo said.

Cullen said both the pandemic and campus mass shooting had an impact on her college experience and career outlook. In addition to the effect COVID-19 had on the job market, she

said, it was harder to join extracurriculars and make connections.

“We shouldn’t have to be worried about shootings or potentially losing our lives or having to grieve the loss of fellow students,” Cullen said. “That is not part of the college experience. I think, in a sad way, it definitely had a big impact.”

Johnston said COVID-19 made it harder to meet with advisors and acclimate to campus. For younger students, she recommends beginning career planning earlier.

Sahoo said having tough conversations about your future, especially with parents, helps in the long run.

“I want to emphasize that things do work out even if they don’t seem like it,” Sahoo said. “I had a whole plan … I wanted to do research, schedule (perfectly) and none of that happened … I learned so much more through not getting what I wanted.”

Illustration by Erica Bui



Trustee Rema Vassar became the first Black woman to serve as chair in a 5-3 vote on Jan. 11. Board bylaws mandate the vice chair must come from a party other than that of the chair. Dan Kelly, the lone Republican, was reappointed by unanimous vote.


Members of the now-dissolved women’s swim and dive team settled their lawsuit against MSU, agreeing to end the case in exchange for further review and revision of Title IX policies by the university’s athletic department.


The internet began to question the ethics of ‘nepotism babies’ — a term used to describe the children of already successful parents — and whether or not they deserve their success. Students weighed in on how this influences the entertainment industry and some actors took to social media to express their distaste for the term.


Jan. 22 marked the 50th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. This year was the first since Americans lost federal abortion protections. Despite Michigan passing

Proposal 3, some students said they wouldn’t be celebrating this year because many states do not have a protected right to a safe abortion.


East Lansing Mayor Ron Bacon hosted a listening session in which he addressed questions and concerns about safety in EL public schools on Jan. 28. Emphasis was placed on students feeling uncomfortable in the bathrooms due to the presence of illegal substances and fights breaking out.


Meridian Township Police said multiple area police and fire agencies responded to reports of shots fired at Okemos High School on Feb. 7. Similar calls were made to high schools in Portage, Huron High School and Saginaw. All police departments confirmed there were no shots fired.


Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin announced the morning of Feb. 27 she would be running for the open U.S. Senate seat in 2024 following Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s retirement.

First-year head coach Adam Nightingale and MSU beat Notre Dame to advance to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament, the first time in history MSU had won a game and series in the tournament. It was an important series win for the program where fans and players felt great pride within.


After spending 16 years as head coach of the MSU women’s basketball team, Suzy Merchant announced she would be stepping down on March 13. In a statement, Merchant said the decision was made due to health reasons. Merchant got into a car accident on Jan. 28 due to an undisclosed medical incident.


While many students rush to bars in the early hours of St. Patty’s Day to get a head start on celebrations, employees of these establishments are on the other side of the bar. Workers shared their thoughts on working during the holiday and the fun — and sometimes gross — parts of their jobs.


After a season that was given low expectations ahead of their first appearance on the court, the Spartans defied skepticism by making it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Although Kansas State ultimately won, the Spartans were still proud of the season they had.


St. John Church and Student Center works with a national program titled “Walking with Moms in Need” to increase the church’s outreach to pregnant and parenting women facing trouble. Members of the church were against Proposal 3 and are using this program to further their mission despite its passing.



Robyn Fralick was hired to take the place of long-time leader Suzy Merchant as the new head coach of the women’s basketball team. The Okemos-born coach leaves her position as head coach at Bowling Green University after finishing last season 31-7.


A $1.6 million outside investigation by the MSU Board of Trustees found that the debated removal of former business school dean Sanjay Gupta a disproportionate punishment was out of line with university policies. This comes after his failure to report sexual misconduct at an April 2022 business college event.

The investigation concluded the action taken against him appears “disproportionate” with his conduct as the recommended punishment for mandatory reporting failure at MSU is additional training. Woodruff said, however, there is a “higher bar” for deans than what’s in university policy.



In the annual spring concert organized by the UAB, ImpactFM and ASMSU, Hippo Campus performed at the Breslin Center on March 28.

After a historic season, the MSU gymnastics team did not advance to the NCAA National Championship. Similar to last year, MSU finished the regional final in third place, just

Former Broad College dean Sanjay Gupta sits in the audience during an MSU Board of Trustees meeting, held at the Hannah Administration Building on Feb. 10, 2023. Photo by Jack Patton Senior guard Tyson Walker drives at Nationwide Arena on March 19, 2023, during the second round of the NCAA tournament. Michigan State defeated Marquette 69-60 to advance to the Sweet 16. Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez MSU Board Chair Rema Vassar presents her comments and report during a Board of Trustees meeting, held at the Hannah Administration Building on Feb. 10, 2023. Photo by Jack Patton Senior forward Jagger Joshua fights off Penn State University player during a game at Munn Ice Arena on Jan. 13, 2023. The Spartans defeated the Nittany Lions with a score of 3-2. Photo by Audrey Richardson Hippo Campus performs a memorable spring concert to a crowd of students at the Breslin on March 28, 2023. Photo by Jonah Brown

behind two of the top teams in the country.


Two months after the tragic events of Feb. 13, the MSU Union reopened on April 3. Staff members said it was nice to have more people back in the building, while students said the building is different than it was before.

Several changes have been made such as the addition of a reflection room on the third floor for people to visit where thousands of messages from schools and communities across the country show their support and love for MSU.


Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a series of bills April 5 repealing Michigan’s 1931 ban on abortions, crossing off another key promise by Michigan Democrats from the 2022 campaign trail.


The National Weather Service issued a thunderstorm warning and tornado watch that closed several lots and campus infrastructure.

rose to right beneath the banks, flooding the surrounding nature and dampening campus in its wake.


Chandra Bhatnagar and Laura Rugless were announced as the two finalists for MSU VP of the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Coordinator. Both candidates currently serve in similar roles at UCLA and Cornell University, respectively.



Whitmer was joined by members of the MSU community and gun violence prevention advocates to sign two of the three bills that make up the initial gun violence prevention efforts by the Michigan legislature. The two bills pertain to universal background checks for gun purchases and safe storage regulations for firearm owners.


On the night of Monday, Feb. 13, shots were reported in the MSU Union and Berkey Hall while police ordered students and East Lansing residents on and off-campus to shelter-in-place. The State News provided coverage of these events and the weeks following, giving students, staff and community members accurate updates and sharing the stories of this tragedy.


Alexandria Verner, a Clawson native, was a junior studying biology. Known as a leader, Verner is loved by her parents, sister, brother and the entire Clawson Public Schools community. She is remembered for her athleticism, leadership and academic drive.

Verner received praise from Clawson Public Schools Superintendent Billy Shellenbarger. In an email written to the district, Shellenbarger wrote, “If you knew her, you loved her, and we will forever remember the lasting impact she has had on all of us.”

Arielle Anderson, a junior at MSU, was from Grosse Pointe. She was voted “most likely to succeed” in eighth grade and aspired to tend to the health and welfare of others as a surgeon, her family said in a statement.

“Arielle Diamond Anderson was a rare pure diamond, the most caring and influential young woman I have ever come in contact with,” AnJesica Wilson, Anderson’s aunt, said in a statement. “Arielle is now my beautiful rare pure Diamond in the sky, and we are all blessed to have Arielle in our family. We love and miss her dramatically.”

Brian Fraser, from Grosse Pointe, was a sophomore studying business. Fraser was the Chapter President of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity at MSU. More than 50 members of MSU’s chapter of Phi Delta Theta shared their tributes to Fraser. “True brotherhood,” “welcoming,” “respect” and “kindness,” are only a few of the adjectives used to describe him.

“Brian was our leader, and we loved him,” a Phi Delta Theta social media post read. “He cared deeply about his Phi Delta brothers, his family, Michigan State University and Phi Delta Theta.”


Five students were hospitalized as a result of the shooting. Those who have been identified are Guadalupe Huapilla-Perez, John Hao, Nate Statly and Troy Forbush. As of March 22, four students have been discharged, with one, who was recently transferred from Sparrow Hospital to a different facility, still in critical condition.

Many of the injured survivors have organized GoFundMe fundraisers to help cover costs, while MSU announced it would be covering their hospital bills.


Sheltering-in-place was, for many students, a life-altering experience. Many were going about their daily lives when they received instruction to “Run. Hide. Fight.”

“We had just gotten our food and I remember all of our phones started blowing up and so we checked them,” elementary education freshman

Lauren Ford said. “The girl right next to me started sobbing and my jaw just dropped, and I remember my mind was racing and I couldn’t

process — I didn’t think it was real at first.”

After hours of waiting for updates, listening to police radars and barricading doorways, many students left campus to go back to their hometowns. Some shared that it felt “eerie” or that they didn’t feel safe on campus anymore. Searching for a new scene of “normalcy” became the mission for many students and employees. While some did not want to return to campus or classes one week following the events, others said they needed to be back with their peers and not let the “strange environment,” on campus “linger.”

In the days and weeks following, many students participated in several rallies protesting gun violence and advocating for legislation that would regulate firearms. One of these occurred the afternoon of Feb. 20 outside of the Michigan Capitol Building.

Thousands of students gathered for the rally, called “Skip Class, Stand Up.” During the protest, attendees sat in a commonly taught formation used during lock-down drills in schools.

As they left the capitol that day, embracing one another in hugs of “I’ll see you soon,” they signified the spirit of the Spartans: standing with one another in a time of grief.


The numerous ways that the Spartan community, and many others, came together happened in an instant. Immediately, local businesses, religious organizations, alumni and so many others found ways to support students and each other.

At sporting events such as the MSU-Michigan

men’s basketball game just five days after the shooting, fans and coaches — regardless of their affiliation — wore “Spartan Strong” shirts and held a moment of silence for those lost.

On Feb. 19, thousands of volunteers lined the sidewalks of MSU’s campus to give out snacks, “free mom hugs” and plenty of opportunities to pet dogs in an effort to welcome students back to campus and let them know that they are loved.

The Red Cedar River Junior all-around Delanie Harkness after finishing her dismount at the MSU vs. Penn State University meet at Jenison Field House on Feb. 4, 2023. The Spartans beat the Nittany Lions 197.450 to 195.475. Photo by Denille Reid MSU students carry lilies on their walkout protest against violence from Berkey Hall to the Spartan Statue on April 12, 2023. Photo by Sonya Barlow
A bear and flowers were placed at The Rock on Farm Lane for the three students who died in the Feb. 13 mass shooting on campus. Taken on Feb. 17 2023. Photo by Chloe Trofatter

MSU student services break down barriers, support students in overcoming graduation obstacles

The journey toward graduation can be daunting, particularly for students who face significant financial, academic and social obstacles.

However, at Michigan State University, a transformative network of student services aims to give every student the necessary tools to succeed. From individualized support and advising to financial aid assistance, MSU’s pathway programs are breaking down barriers and propelling students toward graduation and beyond.

Many of MSU’s support services administer aid to students from diverse backgrounds, ranging from those who are first-generation college students and income-challenged to those with a disability or who grew up in foster care.


The Spartan First-Generation Leadership and Innovation Program, or Spartan FLI, is a pathway program designed to assist firstgeneration and income-challenged college students with personalized coaching, whether academic or financial.

First-Generation Student Success Coordinator Marlene Villa said the program focuses on its students being able to participate in high-impact practices, such as study abroad, undergraduate research, internships and other opportunities that enrich their on-campus experience by providing personal funding.

“We are able to talk with the student and see what kind of funding they need to access those opportunities,” Villa said.

Although FLI is in its first year of establishment, Villa said the program is already collaborating with several entities across the university to inform its students about such opportunities. So far, FLI has worked with education abroad, career services, undergraduate research and the Honors College.

“We are collaborating with different departments and offices around the campus so students can learn about those resources and the opportunities that they can take advantage of while here,” Villa said.

For first-generation students needing help navigating the landscape of a state university with over 50,000 students, Villa said the whirlwind of academic advisors, professors and departments at MSU can be intimidating. The lack of a central support system is one of the biggest challenges first-generation students face, she said and FLI aims to provide that support.


Like FLI, TRIO Student Support Services is an opportunity program that motivates and supports first-generation and incomechallenged students. According to its website, TRIO provides academic tutoring, mentoring, financial guidance and other support necessary for success.

For a student to qualify for TRIO, neither parent can have graduated from a fouryear university or college. Students are also eligible if they meet the income requirement or have a documented disability.

Senior TRIO Academic Advisor Felicia McAllister told The State News in February

that TRIO services help students with their Free Application for Federal Student Aid and build relationships with financial aid advisors to secure a “warm handoff” in collaboration.

“We help students (with) knowing what questions to ask because oftentimes, they just don’t know what to ask,” McAllister said.

For graduation, McAllister said persistence and time management are essential. She said TRIO students occasionally need assistance in regard to applying for graduation and checking credit requirements.

“We’ll meet with them, explain to them the process, take them to the (commencement) website if they’re not sure how to find or where to find those things,” McAllister said. “We also refer students back to their major advisors to ensure everything is complete.”

McAllister said financial barriers and under-preparedness for some students are the primary complexities that exist with firstgeneration students, along with self-doubt despite achievements or credentials.

“Once they’ve made it (t0) college, oftentimes, they can hardly believe that they actually did it,” McAllister said of firstgeneration students. “There’s getting over that whole imposter syndrome as well and feeling like they actually belong.”


Fostering Academics, Mentoring Excellence, or FAME, is a resource center for students that have spent time in foster care, experienced homelessness or identify as independent.

Run through MSU’s School of Social Work, FAME offers coaching, mentorship and additional services such as “finals week survival kits” and “monthly life skills training.”

FAME Program Coordinator Chiquita Whittington said FAME connects students with what it calls “campus champions,” which are partners in various offices around campus. For example, Whittington said she often turns students over to FAME’s campus champion in the financial aid office. Whittington said she prioritizes helping students navigate the college lifestyle so they don’t “fall through the cracks.”

“Our goal is to help the students throughout their semesters to reduce any barriers that might be slowing them down from graduation,” Whittington said.


The Dow STEM Scholars Program, another pathway program at MSU, provides academic and social support services to students pursuing a science, technology, engineering or mathematics major. To qualify, students must be placed into Intermediate College Algebra & Trigonometry, or MTH 103A, on the MSU Math Placement Exam.

Dow STEM Assistant Director Jonglim Han said students usually stay with the program until they graduate, with a majority of them focused on strengthening their STEM skills. The program offers students tutoring services and special summer classes, but Han said the main objective is to create a tight-knit STEM community and “make this university just a little bit smaller.”

“Many times, regardless of your identities and where you are, (MSU) could be where you can get lost,” Han said. “In the Dow program, we say we’re a family.”

The Michigan State Spartan logo on a building, photographed on Aug. 31, 2020. State News File Photo

An alternative academic path: Graduating transfer students reflect on their time at Michigan State

With graduation just a few weeks away, most seniors will tell you the same thing: Those four years went by a little too quick. Now, shave a year or two off those four and imagine how fast that would fly by.

That’s the reality a group of students are facing this spring. Michigan State University’s graduating transfer students didn’t start off their journey in East Lansing, but they’ll be wrapping it up just the same as everyone else. That segment of the student populace arrived at MSU from a variety of destinations: community colleges, other in-state universities and academic institutions across the nation. While their alternate path doesn’t necessarily reflect the majority of this year’s graduating seniors, MSU’s transfer students are more than content with their journey to graduation.

“There’s a certain degree of life experience you get from community college, because everything doesn’t revolve around school,” communications senior Hailey Schulte, a transfer student from Oakland Community College, said. “You get to talk to a lot of different people.”


Political science and advertising management senior Will Hansen transferred to MSU after completing three semesters at Northwestern Michigan College, a community college in Traverse City.

“It was a couple of different things, but mostly it came down to cost,” Hansen said. “I’m funding college currently by myself.”

MSU’s in-state yearly tuition is currently an estimated $15,436 — not including room and board. Meanwhile, the average annual tuition for a community college in Michigan comes in at just under $6,000, according to CollegeCalc. That’s not to mention the multitude of local programs across the state that support high school graduates looking to take a more affordable approach to education.

Locally, Lansing Promise provides tuition assistance for up to 65 credit hours, plus book costs, for high school graduates within the Lansing School District.

“That helped make my decision, obviously,” advertising management senior Lucas Sambaer said.

In short, for many, an altered academic route is well worth the significantly more affordable costs.

It’s not all about the money, though. There’s a handful of reasons that students are making their way to East Lansing using a slightly different path. There could be a desire for a more palatable transition into college or simply not knowing what major to choose.

Plus, while a good chunk of transfer students leapt to MSU from their local community colleges, a portion also came from other universities across the country.

“We have a student who came from Louisiana State University, there’s a couple that came from California,” student affairs administration graduate student Lia DeGroot, who works with the Transfer Student Advisory Board as part of her practicum, said. “I can’t remember some of the other states, but we do have a decent mix of four-year universities and two-year universities.”

Food science senior Winter Graham transferred to MSU as a junior last year, traveling an hour down US-127 from Central

Michigan University.

After finding that CMU’s dietetics program didn’t quite fit her needs, Graham decided it was time to find a better academic fit within the state.

“I loved my time at Central, it just really didn’t work out with the program,” Graham said. “I just decided to prioritize what I knew I was interested in doing.”


Again, not all transfer students are jumping from an identical starting point. But the landing spot is the same: a Big Ten university with nearly 40,000 undergraduate students, spanning 5,200 acres.

That’s a big leap for anyone and transfer students don’t have that initial dorm experience to build up a network of friends right away.

“I did think that, not living in the dorms, you definitely don’t have the same experience,” Hansen said. “I have friends that came here right out of college, their friend groups are people that they met at the dorms, whereas mine are people that I’ve either known through different organizations or have met at work events.”

That puts many in a strange spot: the academic experience of a sophomore or junior, with the campus knowledge of a freshman.

Luckily, some of MSU’s transfer students said they don’t feel all too different as a result of their altered track to East Lansing. In fact, they said the occasional stigma that accompanies the label of “transfer student” doesn’t appear to be too prevalent in East


“I think it’s more of a stigma in high school,” Sambaer said. “In college, I don’t think people look at community college like that, just because they know how college is. They know how expensive it is.”

The Transfer Student Advisory Board is a group on campus trying to create a community specifically for Michigan State’s transfer students, helping newcomers ease into the campus culture.

Sambaer, a member of the group, said. “We want people to be proud that they’re a transfer student, that it’s okay to be a transfer student.”

However, many transfer students elect to forge their own path once arriving on campus. Without that initial dorm experience, they have to be more proactive about their networking. That often involves signing up for a host of new clubs and groups.

Upon arriving on campus, Graham joined a club directly related to her major — the Food Science Club. Becoming a member of that group quickly helped her make new connections in both a professional and personal sense.

“Joining clubs has been so essential for me; I’ve made so many lifelong connections with faculty and students,” Graham said. “As a transfer student, you’ve got to put yourself out there more. It never hurts to try.”

Hansen and Schulte both forged similar paths, meeting other students through clubs related and unrelated to their majors.

MSU’s transfer students arrive at campus from so many different places and regions, it’s impossible to lump such a diverse populace into one singular group. But nearly every single one will pass on the same piece of advice to students taking a similar path: ignore that transfer student label and go put yourself out there.

The board is growing, with plans for a mentorship program and other studentoriented initiatives in the works.

“We’re really just trying to build a community around transfer students,”

Get involved on campus, meet new people. Arriving slightly late to campus doesn’t mean one can’t build up and find that network of friends that most four-year students depart MSU with.

“Don’t be afraid to get involved in things — don’t wait just because you’re a transfer student,” Schulte said. “Go out and look at the posters, get involved and make friends — even if they’re freshmen.”

Political science senior Will Hansen in front of the Spartan Statue on April 19, 2023. Photo by Gabriel Martinez
“We’re really just trying to build a community around transfer students. We want people to be proud that they’re a transfer student, that it’s okay to be a transfer student.”

Graduating seniors reflect on growth during college

When zoology senior Alaina Maniscalco arrived at Michigan State University as a freshman, she was shy and reserved. But, just as she started adapting to the new environment, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the university to switch to online classes.

Maniscalco said returning home was like a “big push into a whole other world.” However, being home allowed Maniscalco to reflect on herself and the college she had experienced so far. When she returned to campus, Maniscalco felt she had grown and was able to be less of a “shut-in.”

One of the catalysts for her growth was joining Zeta Theta Omega, a professional zoology fraternity. Maniscalco said being in the group allowed her to develop her interests.

“Meeting a group of like-minded people that really encouraged me to put myself out there (was useful),” Maniscalco said. “I think it impacted me a lot because it opened up opportunities to meet people in my career path, and allowed me to nerd out about things that they were also nerding out about.”

English senior Rebecca Hallman said meeting people in her field played a crucial role in her professional growth. She said the teaching cohorts she joined taught her to be a better teacher.

“I feel like I can enter the classroom and not only know who I am as a person and the kind of educator I want to be, but also the kind of person that I am and the

to be with when I interact with my students,” Hallman said.

Hallman said much of this development came from being academically challenged.

She said it also allowed her to become more independent and strong.

However, like Maniscalco and all other seniors graduating this spring, Hallman had her college experience marked by the pandemic.

Hallman was enrolled in the Disney College

Program when the pandemic hit, so she was sent home. Missing out on that, as well as not being able to spend the end of sophomore year with her friends, was heartbreaking for her. Going into junior year, Hallman experienced a “really rough” semester spent learning virtually.

Kinesiology senior Natalie Aziz also struggled during the pandemic because isolation took a toll on her mental health. Though she attended class virtually and FaceTimed with friends,

it wasn’t the same to her. But that time also allowed her to put in more work on mental wellness. Since then, she has continued to center mental health in her life.

Aziz said she used to be very closed off and quiet, so coming to campus allowed her to branch out and meet new people. She joined the MSU Leader Dog Club, an organization aimed at educating people about guide dogs for people who are visually impaired or blind. This community allowed her to meet a new group of diverse people.

“I think MSU itself just being such a welcoming community has helped me to be able to communicate with more people and experience all different types of cultures and it’s very diverse,” Aziz said. “I think that’s been good, doing social skills that way through the community.”

Maniscalco, Hallman and Aziz will graduate this May. After graduation, Maniscalco will work in the MSU Horticulture Gardens before applying for jobs in rehabilitation and conservation. She said her time at MSU gave her the confidence to pursue these goals.

Aziz plans on taking a gap year while applying to physical therapy schools. She believes the hard work she put in while at MSU has helped her in many facets of her life.

“I would (tell my freshman self) I’m proud of them for what they’ve overcome,” Aziz said.

“I’m proud that I figured out who I am, who I want to be and proud that I am so passionate about physical therapy and helping other people. I’m just very proud of myself and how much I’ve grown.”

kind of person I want
State News file photo