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Feature: The Road Less Traveled

  • Author:
    Meredith Mescher
  • Published:
    Summer 2014

Taking students to a “T”

           What sets Michigan State University Spartans apart isn’t just what they do but how they do it – beginning with powerful, customized undergraduate experiences.

           “The MSU experience is a journey that prepares our students to compete against the best anywhere in the world,” says President Lou Anna K. Simon. “But it also is an education of the whole person, a journey that broadens horizons, develops confidence and kindles the desire to make a difference.”

           Michigan State’s undergraduate experience is the focus of the latest MSU President’s Report. Titled Inside Out, the multimedia report takes an in-depth look at nine Spartan undergraduates, demonstrating how each taps into the university’s vast and varied opportunities to create their own paths of extreme personalization.

           To capture their experiences, an MSU film crew – including a team of student producers – documented the featured undergraduates throughout the fall 2013 semester.

           The report provides a window on the tremendously rich student experience at MSU, says Heather Swain, vice president for Communications and Brand Strategy.

            “As a world-class research university, MSU provides such a depth and breadth of high-caliber experiences that the possibilities for shaping an extraordinary, unique undergraduate experience are virtually limitless,” Swain says.

           As students craft distinctive paths for themselves, they are developing what are known as “T-shaped” attributes.

           Information technology experts were among the first to use the term to describe the skills necessary to thrive in today’s workplaces. The vertical bar represents deep specialized knowledge and the horizontal bar represents the kinds of skills that pave the way for effectively applying expertise – from the ability to collaborate and think critically to developing global awareness and an appreciation for diversity.

           To help develop T-shaped Spartans, Michigan State provides them with exceptional academic programs and a vast array of high-impact learning experiences. From the beginning of their college careers, undergraduates may study abroad, conduct research alongside faculty members, develop entrepreneurial ventures and intern with global companies.

           “Opportunities for students to create customized, individualized pathways set Michigan State apart from other universities and also set our students apart,” says Simon.

           “Each path leads to not just one transformational experience, but to many –yielding a powerful and highly personal undergraduate journey,” she says.

           The three students featured here are part of the online report, which includes individual student videos, photos and the Inside Out documentary:

           BRAIN STORM

           Craig Pearson

           Hometown: Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

           Class year: Senior

           Major and college: Biochemistry and molecular biology, neuroscience, and English, College of Natural Science, College of Arts and Letters, and Honors College

           A triple major in neuroscience, biochemistry and molecular biology, and English, Craig Pearson crafted a one-of-a-kind academic program to accommodate the depth and breadth of his scientific and literary interests. In the process, he changed the way he sees the world. The triple-threat senior, who founded a literary journal for students with visual disabilities, has played key roles in research investigating treatments for blindness and examining brain activity in people as they read literature. As a Marshall Scholar, Pearson will pursue doctoral studies at Cambridge University and continue to blaze a trail into the workings of the human mind and body.

           “The environment at Michigan State has very much formed the way that I approach academics, the way that I approach research,” says Pearson. “It’s changed the way that I see the world in a creative lens, and it’s been the community that I’ve lived in for the past four years. I’m wrapping up my narrative as a student, but I’m just beginning my life as a lifelong Spartan, and that’s exciting.”

           Isaac Anguiano

           Hometown:Tyler, Texas

           Class year:Freshman

           Major and college:Finance, College of Business

           Long before he decided to major in finance at MSU, Isaac Anguiano understood the relationship between risk and reward. The freshman from Texas grew up in a family of migrant workers whose livelihood depended on a willingness to move to a new place to make a better life. Anguiano moved across the country to attend MSU, but first he traveled across the world as part of an MSU Freshman Seminar Abroad experience in Japan. As the first-generation college student gains momentum in his new college home, he knows that stepping out of his comfort zone was a smart move.

           “The studies I’m pursuing are to better myself and the society that we live in to one day build a corporation that helps migrant workers start their own businesses, which can help really poor communities in any part of the world,” Anguiano says.

           SOCIAL LIFE

           Claire Babala

           Hometown:Plymouth, Michigan

           Class year:Sophomore

           Major and college:Professional writing, College of Arts and Letters, arts and humanities, Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, and Honors College

           Claire Babala is tapping into the extensive network she’s created for herself at MSU. On any given day, the Honors College sophomore, who’s studying professional writing and arts and humanities, may be producing content for MSU’s official social media accounts as part of an internship, mentoring young people in Detroit through a volunteer program or flying by the seat of her pants with fellow members of her improv group. While leveraging an array of activities and experiences to inform decisions about her career path, Babala is having the time of her life while making a difference in the lives of others.

           “Over the past semester, I have changed and grown so much thanks to the opportunities I’ve found here at Michigan State,” says Babala. “To have the chance to have at least a small part of my progression documented, well, it was once in a lifetime.”