Of all the success secrets MSU alumna Megan Gebhart discovered while writing her blog, “52 Cups of Coffee,” perhaps the most important came from her conversation with President Lou Anna K. Simon: “Keep learning.”
President Simon’s father taught her early on that, “the only person who can define your success is you,” Megan writes. And a continual focus on improving your mind is the foundation.
Lifelong learning has been imprinted on our DNA since MSU was founded. Our world class Kellogg Center was one of the first all encompassing venues where adults could come to expand their knowledge. Every MSU college has a lifelong learning component. And the university offers a dizzying array of courses across dozens of disciplines. I did a web search recently at MSU Lifelong Learning portal, yielding 13 different offerings in “African American and African Studies” alone.
Hiram Fitzgerald, associate provost for University Outreach and Engagement, is one of the leaders of MSU’s Lifelong Learning culture. True to our world-grant mission, Fitzgerald’s efforts ensure that the university interacts with our worldwide community across a lifetime, opening the door of wisdom to empower Spartans to “solve the world’s biggest problems.”
Research at our award winning MSU College of Education has opened new vistas of pedagogy, that magical combination of art and science that contributes to intellectual growth. Leigh Graves Wolf presses the edge of that envelope every day. MSU is one of the few schools to offer a master’s degree in Educational Technology. Leigh helped craft that program, breaking the geographical barriers that once slowed the spread of important ideas. Her students are equipped to teach in a variety of physical and technological environments, immersing themselves in the mixture to experience its magic first hand.
My first-ever commencement speech addressed Leigh’s students. It happened via the Skype voice-over-Internet-protocol that many of us routinely use like a video telephone when we travel. Interacting with a graduating class in Rouen, France, from my office in the Spartan Stadium tower truly was, as the old AT&T ads used to say, “the next best thing to being there.”
We leverage technology daily at the MSUAA to help alumni add to their life skill tool boxes. Lisa Parker, director of Alumni Career Services, hosts a series of webinars that connect Spartans to fresh ideas, expressed by some of our most distinguished faculty and graduates. On any given day, you might take part in a conversation on “tapping the hidden job market” or discuss the latest trends with a world renowned Spartan expert.
And the good old fashioned kinesthetic process of face-to-face learning is alive and well at the MSUAA. Our legacy Evening College program is undergoing a metamorphosis to more deeply connect with resources in our colleges, putting community members in the classroom with some of our best and brightest faculty. We are also expanding our immersion learning experiences like the popular Odyssey to Oxford. Imagine studying the history of the World War II code breakers at the famous Bletchley Park or viewing some of the treasures of Tutankhamun at the real-life castle where WKAR’s popular Downton Abbey is filmed. These are just two of the extraordinary adventures our Oxford students had last fall.
At its core, continual learning is essential to a successful Spartan life. Our world is in a constant state of change. New ideas supplant conventional wisdom, even as research may polish the luster of a classic paradigm. Enlightenment and understanding go hand in hand. Education directly influences everything from health and safety to performance on the athletic field. This is why we do what we do at Michigan State. We are committed to the belief that a more educated world won’t just survive—it will thrive.
The best educational experiences are defined by mixing the old with the new, providing the context and environment where ground breaking ideas are born. The MSUAA lives at the center of this amazing world. We are committed to expanding the breadth of the university’s lifelong learning opportunities, while preserving the best loved dimensions of a community education program that inspires Spartans, near and far, to keep learning.
W. Scott Westerman, III, ’78
Executive Director, MSU Alumni Association