An MSU SAA Grad’s Reflection on Nassar & MSU

Content Warning: Sexual assault; Larry Nassar

On January 24th, 2018, Larry Nassar, a former doctor at Michigan State University and for USA Gymnastics was sentenced 40 to 175 years on 10 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

On January 24th, 2018, Michigan State University President, Dr. Lou Anna K. Simon, resigned.

On January 26th, 2018, Michigan State University Athletic Director Mark Hollis resigned.

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I complete the introductory statements acknowledging that in the coming days between my submission of this blog post and its publishing that more advancements, unfoldings, and resignations may transpire. I hope that between its upload and reaching to you, my reflection stands incomplete because work is being done to create a Michigan State University that listens to, believes, and acts in response to its students.

I do not wish to—and nor will I— speak on behalf of my program or my cohort, but rather offer a transcription of my own reflections. I encourage the sharing of various reflections and perspectives and acknowledge that what I may say may not be representative of the reflections of others. In the selling of Michigan State University to prospective students of not just Student Affairs and Spartan Preview Days, but across various disciplines, I do not wish to ignore the current events as that would be a perpetuation of both the silencing of survivors’ voices and the hiding of Nassar’s violence.

A quote that guides my practice is Audre Lorde’s “we do not live single-issue lives.” Our existence is beautifully complicated by intersecting identities, experiences, and processes. In the intersectionalities of our lives also exists the ability to possess more than one emotional reaction to a single stimulus. We are allowed to feel more than one emotion at a time. I see validity in loving, but also being frustrated with MSU, as well as being embarrassed and ashamed of the administration’s failure to protect students against sexual violence. When you love something, you do not need to defend it. In fact, my love for MSU forces me to be critical of it.

Because I love the field of student affairs I MUST be critical of it and see its flaws and see where it fails to be student-centered. While I must do that large-scale, I must also see the flaws in my own institutions and campuses I have come to love. I pursued MSU and student affairs for reasons I still stand by, but my love for MSU and the overall field means I will also call in and call out its problems.

While I am angry with higher education and Michigan State University, what has solidified for me is that I do not plan to leave the field or MSU. In conjunction with experiencing seemingly negating reactions at once, the previous statement is not to invalidate those who felt the desire to leave—the feeling of wanting to leave is valid. I believe that higher education has well-meaning people and people who want to do good. I have faith in members of both cohorts and in the faculty of my program to be those good people. I do not find myself a hero by any means; I am not a perfect person nor a perfect paraprofessional. However, I believe my vision of what student affairs and higher education can be for students is a vision that failed higher education administrators do not get to take away from me or future or current students. I am thankful and proud of the students who used and continue to use their voices, and those who have used their privilege, to call in and call out MSU’s failures on public and private platforms.

MSU and higher education: you are far from perfect—in fact, you failed— but I have come to love you in my time here; my love for you and the students you hold will always be part of my motivation for pursuing you and contributing towards your bettering. Alongside that love, my current frustrations and anger for you is a form of love I will unapologetically utilize to contribute towards the dismantling of the areas in which you failed. While the wrongdoings of MSU and its administrators continue to come to light, the MSU SAA program has provided me the tools, language, and education to call in and call out those wrongdoings. MSU SAA has provided me space to critically analyze the local and macro implications of areas in which higher education fails to be student-centered, and specifically fails to be proactive, reactive, and restorative in the fight against sexual assault.

In my reflection, I hope that the necessary allocations of resources be not just reactive, but proactive initiatives directed towards MSU’s dismantling of the systemic issue of sexual violence. I propose for all of us to increase our competency surrounding sexual assault prevention and supporting survivors of sexual assault as we continue our education of student affairs. Lastly, I propose the continued vacancies and interim positions be filled with individuals possessing the aforementioned competencies and be filled with a representation of racial, gender, and sexual orientations not currently present in the standing—and falling—administration.

To all the students and survivors- I thank you for your courage and I hope for you peace and closure. Furthermore, I hope for them and others policy and leadership change.

–          An MSU SAA Grad

 

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Navigating Graduate School With A Disability: By Rachael Vettese (2nd-Year)

Dear future SAA Spartans!

I know this is an exciting time as you make your graduate school decision.  There are probably many factors you are considering at the moment, but I want to speak to those who identify as students with a disability.  First, I want to state I would never presume to speak for all individual’s experiences.  I can only offer my perspective and a couple of suggestions.  I have lived my entire life with two very salient disabilities.  One is a neurological disorder, and the other is a learning disability which directly effects my academics.  Essentially, it takes me longer to process and learn new information and concepts.  Over the years I have developed study strategies which work for me.  However, I was nervous about succeeding academically in graduate school.

My anxiety was largely centered around being able to keep up with the reading and writing.  Since it does take me longer to learn, I was also worried about balancing assistantship responsibilities with school work.  I am not going to pretend like graduate school is easy, because it is not.  But, it was a much easier transition than I expected! One thing which helped me was getting connected with Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities.  This office is extremely helpful! They look over your documentation and provide you with a VISA (letter) to give to faculty, which outlines your accommodations.  Another was a buying a paper planner and utilizing my outlook calendar.  Both of these resources kept me organized and on top of school and assistantship work.  Although there were a couple of weeks during each semester that were busier than the rest, the work was manageable.  Just try not to wait until the last minute to complete it! J

I hope this brief blog gave you some insight into my experiences in the SAA program.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like to speak in more detail.

Go Green!

Rachael Vettese

Taking Care of Yourself In Graduate School

Hello Incoming Students,

It is my sincere hope that you are getting really excited about beginning your journey in the Student Affairs Administration program at Michigan State University. I know I speak on behalf of the entire 2nd year cohort when I say that we eagerly anticipate your arrival in East Lansing and look forward to a great year of building community with one another.

giphy

As your time at Michigan State rapidly approaches, I wanted to take a moment to remind you about something that can be easily forgotten about in the transition into graduate school: self-care.

I believe you’ll find that Michigan State University has quite a few opportunities to get involved, even for graduate students. Whether it is serving as a hearing officer on a student conduct board; running for a position in the Student Affairs Graduate Association; working at one of the writing centers on campus; reading to children at the East Lansing Public Library on Saturdays; co-teaching a course through the College of Education; serving on a university committee; or participating in one of the research opportunities offered by our outstanding faculty, you will be presented with options to get involved far beyond the classroom and your assistantship. Trying to balance all of these opportunities with schoolwork, an assistantship, and a social life can really take a toll.

Transitioning into graduate school immediately after finishing my undergraduate studies meant that I felt a strong desire to continue my pattern of saying “yes” to nearly every opportunity that came my way. I regret having continued this tradition as I made the move into life as a graduate student. In explaining how those who work in student affairs often struggle to find balance within their lives, Howard-Hamilton, Palmer, and Kicklighter (1998, p.81) as cited in Guthrie, Woods, Cusker, and Gregory (2005, p. 111) describe how practitioners have a tendency to work towards, “becoming a mentor for all students and colleagues in need, not using the word ‘no’ as often as they should, or feeling that sense of accomplishment is synonymous with exhaustion and fatigue,”. This summation resonates with me deeply, as it is an accurate description of how I approached my initial months in the program. Especially during the first semester, my focus was on the quantity of experiences that I could use to build my resume rather than on what I was putting into and getting out of each experience. Having had time to reflect on my first year as an SAA student in subsequent months, I realize that I was deep in the throes of burn out towards the end of Fall semester. This stemmed largely from over-extending myself and failing to make self-care a priority. As you prepare to make your transition please realize that you can still engage in activities that will help you socialize into the institution, grow as a student, and build skills as a professional while thinking critically about what value every potential opportunity will contribute to your graduate school experience.

mefalling

Fortunately, I have grown signficiantly as a result of being in the Student Affairs Administration graduate program. At the conclusion of the Fall Semester I spent a great deal of time thinking about how I could better prioritize self-care moving forward. I made tremendous strides towards taking better care of myself in my second semester in the program (and I am continuing to grow in this area). For me, self-care takes many forms. To be successful in my studies, for example, I know that I need to complete as much of my schoolwork as possible in the morning, because that is when I am able to best engage with the material and produce my best work. Sometimes taking care of myself means setting boundaries; being intentional about what opportunities I want to spend my energy engaging with (placing particular thought towards my future career goals within student affairs); or spending time in my apartment catching up on my favorite shows. Other times it looks like grabbing starbucks with a friend before class; going for walks around campus; going out to eat with classmates, (especially if Sushi is involved); and planning ahead to take time away from Michigan State.

treatyoself

Because finding balance in a way that meets your individual needs looks different from person to person, I encourage you to take a moment and think seriously about what it means for you to take good care of yourself. Doing so will help you make the most out of your time at Michigan State.

yasqueen

I’m looking forward to seeing all of you!

Go Green,

Elijah Balogh

IMG_5499

 

Cohort Year: 2018

Undergrad

uate Institution: Kent State University

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio

Assistantship: Assistant Community Director, Akers Hall

 

Sources:

Guthrie, V. L., Woods, E., Cusker, C., & Gregory, M. (2005). Portrait of balance: Personal and professional balance among student a airs educators. College Student Affairs Journal, 24(2), 110-128.

 

Top Ten Questions: Living in Lansing

Welcome to the Lansing area, and more specifically, welcome to Michigan State University. Whether you’re moving across the country or across the state, into a residence hall or into an apartment off-campus, there’s a lot to be thinking about. Below is a list of the top ten questions we had about living in Lansing before and after getting to MSU. We hope our thoughts help your transition, and if we’ve missed something you want covered, post a comment in our Facebook group and we would be happy to respond! So let’s get started…

1. Where can I get things to furnish and stock my new home?

For getting settled into your apartment, the large department stores are your best bet for household goods like cleaning supplies, toiletries, paper products, etc. There are many scattered throughout the area:

  • Meijer on Lake Lansing Road and Walmart at Eastwood Towne Center
    Probably only accessible with a vehicle, but also the shortest drive from campus.
  • Meijer in Okemos
    Grab the CATA Bus Route 1 going eastbound. It will drop off and pick up right at Meijer. This is easiest option for those without a vehicle.
  • Target in Okemos and Walmart in Okemos
    Accessible by CATA Routes 22 & 23 (pick up here during summer and here during school year), but there will be a 5-10 minute walk from the stop – so not great for large trips.
  • Target in South Lansing and Meijer in South Lansing
    Living off-campus and south of the capitol? These will probably be your closest options. If you’re relying on the bus, routes 5, 8, 9, and 46 will take you directly to Meijer.

If you’re looking to furnish an apartment, you can certainly find some great stuff at any of the locations listed above, but on that #gradschoolbudget we’d encourage some thriftier spending. Check out some of the second-hand stores nearby, including St. Vincent De Paul, Goodwill in North Lansing,Goodwill in South Lansing, or the Salvation Army Family Store. We’d recommend SVDP or Salvation Army – these stores belong to local branches of the national organization, so the money you spend in the stores gets funneled back into our community here in mid-Michigan.

2. How do I get around campus and the city?

Cars…Welcome to the land of the car. Vehicles are definitely the preferred mode of transportation in the Lansing Area. For those with a car, here are a couple things you should know:

  • Car Insurance: Michigan has the second highest car insurance in the nation due to “no fault” insurance. Check with your car insurance provider to see if you should switch.
  • Parking on Campus: If you have a graduate assistantship the grad assistant parking permit lets you park in any employee lot south of the river, plus Brody neighborhood. Give yourself plenty of time to find a space, especially during peak hours (9a-4p). Pro Tip: once the parking permit goes into effect, call the Parking Office and verify your MSU ID is enabled for gated lots. Some employee lots have gates and many grad assistants’ ID’s somehow are not automatically enabled for entry.

Bus

  • Personally, I’d recommend everyone buy a bus pass. They can be purchased virtually anywhere in East Lansing and on MSU’s campus, and they’re good on all CATA bus routes.
  • Campus bus routes are extremely convenient for getting around campus. For those living off-campus, it can sometimes be easier to find a parking spot in the morning and take the bus around campus. Browse the CATA website for more info on the campus busses.

Bikes

  • Biking is easy. However, one thing of note is, while MSU is a bike friendly campus, some streets lack bike lanes. Don’t let this deter you – it is safer for you to bike the road than to bike the sidewalk. Just be sure to use your hand signals, obery regular laws of traffic, and wear a helmet. And don’t forget, you need to register your bike with MSU PD.
  • Be sure to buy a bike lock; MSU PD recommends a U-shaped lock that goes through your frame and front wheel to deter theft.

3. Where can I get my groceries?

Many of you will get swipes at the dining hall as part of your assistantship – but for those that don’t and those that want to eat in their apartment, you’re likely wondering where to get groceries. Grocery stores in the Lansing Area vary by price and quality:

  • Meijer has a large grocery selection, and you can get just about whatever you need. Again, for those without a vehicle, the Meijer in Okemos is the easiest to get to via public transportation (Route 1).
  • Kroger is a grocery store where you can get groceries and essentials (toiletries, paper towels, ziploc bags, etc.). There are a couple of Kroger stores in the area including one in Okemos (next to the Target across from Meridian Mall) and one at Frandor in Lansing.
  • Fresh Thyme is a grocery store. This store can be pricier for some things, but sells a lot of local food and healthier selections. This store is easy to get to since it is off Trowbridge Road, and right across from South Neighborhood.
  • There are also a host of local farmer’s markets throughout the week that you can visit to get fresh and local product. Horrocks Farm Market is also a great option, it’s considered an “indoor” farmer’s market and is open all week, but definitely a little further from campus than the other options.
  • All organic? Check out Whole Foods or Foods for Living on Grand River Ave, but beware, they are definitely more pricier than other options in the area.

4. Where can I get a drink around here?

Although the capital of Michigan, Lansing nightlife is not as “lit” as we might expect. East Lansing, as a college town, has just enough to get by.

If you’re into the bar scene, Wednesday is the day where we get more bang for our buck and have a higher chance of not running into one of our students, supervisees, and/or anyone else who we may not want to see. On Wednesdays, you can find:

Half off drinks:

  • Dublin Square Irish Pub (“Dubs” or “Dublins”)
  • Harper’s Restaurant & Brewpub (“Harper’s”)
  • Lou & Harry’s (“Lou Has”)
  • Wine Wednesdays / Half off bottles of wine at Beggars Banquet (“Beggars”)

On Thursdays from 11am-8pm, one of the popular undergrad traditions is The Riv’s Burgerama (“Rama”). You can certainly partake, but just be aware this is super popular with the undergrad crowd, and there’s a high chance of running into someone you supervise.

  • $2 burgers and fries
  • $4.25 Coors Light pitchers

If you’re less into loud music, the Lansing area does have a lot of fun options for more chill, laid-back bar environments. If you’re into great cocktails, try Zoobies in Old Town, Henry’s Place in Okemos, and Troppo in Downtown Lansing. For a beer-centric setting, try Lansing Brewing Company, HopCat, and Tavern and Tap. For townie dive-bar feels, try Stobers Bar, Moriarty’s Pub, the Green Door Bar & Grill, Nuthouse Sports Grill, or The Peanut Barrel (a popular favorite of the class of 2017). There are also a lot of great local breweries and distilleries to try out, including American Fifth, Red Cedar Spirits, Ellison Brewery and Spirits, and Midtown Brewing Co.

5. Where are the best places to shop?

There are a few different places to shop in the Lansing area.

  • Meridian Mall is located in Okemos and can be easily reached via car and public transportation (Route 01). There are a number of stores in Meridian including Macy’s, JCPenney’s, H&M, Old Navy, etc.
  • Frandor Shopping Center is another option and is located in Lansing. Frandor has stores such as: Petco, T. J. Maxx, Michaels, Joann Fabrics, Party City, Kroger Grocery Store, etc.
  • Eastwood Towne Center center is an outdoor mall with some more “upscale” shopping options, like Banana REpublic, Express, Pier 1, and Lane Bryant.

6. Where’s a good place to eat?

In Lansing it’s not hard to find somewhere to eat, but it can be difficult to know what’s great and what’s just “meh.” While not a foodie town, there are some really great gems scattered throughout the city that you definitely have to try. For Sushi, there’s Omi in East Lansing, Sansu in Hannah Plaza, Maru on Lake Lansing and Maru in Okemos, and Ai Fusion. For Indian, there’s Sindhu’s in Hannah Plaza, Swagath on Trowbridge, and Persis in Okemos. There are also some Lansing Classics that you must try before graduation:

  • Soup Spoon – popular for lunch and brunch, and there soup is to die for.
  • Golden Harvest – extremely small breakfast joint, if you’re going, get up EARLY, the line is two hours long by 9am.
  • Meat – amazing BBQ, but they roast once per day. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
  • Hopcat – typical bar fare, close to campus; suprisingly good Sunday brunch
  • Peanut Barrel – typical bar fare, close to campus
  • Black Cat Bistro – close to campus and a little bit more upscale
  • Altu’s Ethiopian Cuisine
  • Cosmos Pizza – a popular pizza joint in Old Towne, famous for their “trust us” pizza and connected to Zoobies

7. What can I do to decompress and get away for a day?

  • Lake Lansing is just a short fifteen minute drive from campus (also accessible via route 22 and 23), and is a great place to picnic and relax for a day. There are a few bar/restaurants nearby to get sustenance as well, including an ice cream store that always has a line around the corner.
  • Old Town: A cute but small part of town that has several good local restaurants, art galleries, and shops to explore. Additionally, the only to LGBT bars in Lansing are located in this part of town – Esquire and Spiral – they’re not amazing, but it’s something.
  • Uncle John’s Cider Mill – basically a cider mill that has fun events throughout the year, it can be a nice half-day event to get off-campus and out of Lansing.
  • Lake Michigan – there are a TON of resort towns lining Lake Michigan that are great for a weekend getaway (although many of your weekends will be spent doing homework). Some popular locations are South Haven, Grand Haven, Saugatuck/Douglas, and Traverse City.
  • Ann Arbor – home of the rivals to the east, Ann Arbor has a bit more to explore than Lansing does. A lot of great restaurants and shops, and a bit more nightlife.
  • Grand Rapids – just a quick hour or so drive, Grand Rapids is also a fun day or weekend getaway. There are a TON of breweries and art shows that happen in GR throughout the year which might be of interest to you.

8. Where can I get my haircut?

We know many of you will be leaving barbers and stylists at home that you’ve been seeing for years and it will be tough to find someone to replace them. There are a few options below that we have used, but we’d also recommend talking to a second year with a haircut you like to ask where they get there hair done, as this is by no means an exhaustive nor culturally comprehensive list.

  • New Style Salon: A hair salon off Trowbridge Road. This salon is right next to campus since it is across from South Neighborhood.
  • Aveda is a hair salon on Grand River Ave, which provides students with discounts to get their hair done.
  • Grand River Barber Company: a really great group of barbers, most of whom specialize in cutting all types of hair, right on Grand River and you can make an appointment online. NOTE: they recently moved into a large space next to the Peanut Barrel, the Google map doesn’t reflect this yet.
  • Campus Barbers Inc: I had a good experience with them once, but they are super busy so I never went back.

9. Where’s a good place to study?

This questions will be different for everyone, some people study best in groups and some study best alone. Some study best at home and some need to be somewhere else. Of course, the Main Library is a popular choice and has both a social and silent study wing. Also, they have group study rooms that you can check out online – perfect for one of the five group projects you’ll have in year one! There are also a ton of coffee shops that line Grand River and are scattered throughout town that are popular to study at. A few of us are known to study at the Beggar’s Banquet as well. Ultimately, try out a few different places and find out what works for you.

10. Now what…?

Now start to take it all in. I think all second years would echo the statement that the first year is really hard – the schoolwork can be tough, but let’s also remember that there are HUGE changes happening in your personal and professional lives on top of the academic stressors. Lean on your cohort-mates and the second years to talk through what you’re feeling – we promise you’re not alone. Engage in self-care, and remember that this looks different for everyone. For some, it’s a pint of Halo-top and a night of Netflix and for others its a night out on the town.

Additionally, take the time at the beginning of the year to start building relationships. Try to say “yes” more often than you say “no.” While you might be busy and grad school is a time to work, this should also be a time to build friendships and have fun.