A Convergence of Higher Education and Quality of Life
There is only a short stretch of road separating two of Michigan’s vibrant communities: Lansing and East Lansing. One city is home to the capitol of a state working to expand and diversify its economy and culture, the other is home to a dynamic Big Ten university. The thousands of young, creative and innovative minds at work on and around Michigan State University’s (MSU) campus are a vital part of Lansing’s — and the state’s — efforts toward progress and change.
East Lansing is crawling with young, enterprising individuals looking for new opportunities and Lansing is the perfect outlet for their energy. This is not to say that local adults aren’t already inspired to take on new initiatives and innovate the way Lansing looks from a fresh perspective because many are, and do. However, it is undeniable that recent graduates and undergraduates are eager to do something significant with their newly gained education and aspirations. They want to work, get a job, fill their resume and get involved with something they are passionate about.
Also, many MSU students are new to the Lansing community and the way its infrastructure operates. Therefore, they are more likely to feel comfortable changing it or to spot places it could be tweaked and/or strengthened. Even more than that, many individuals are looking for experience in communication, personal relations, design, or whatever their passion might be. Thousands of young individuals with great creative capacity and an interest in gaining experience exist on and around MSU’s campus and they are an invaluable resource for Lansing. Whether its paid or unpaid work, students are looking to learn, work, and create. Why not put this resource to use to better Lansing?
As a junior at MSU I have been inspired and impressed by the diverse collection of ways the university and its students enrich the Lansing community and vice versa.
Perhaps the most obvious impact MSU has on the Lansing community directly correlates with that fact that Michigan State is a large institution with a student population totaling more than 46,000. It attracts and provides venues for events, speakers, musicians and shows that probably would not venture to the Lansing area otherwise.
The Wharton Center, MSU’s largest venue, brings in Broadway shows other major cities including Chicago, don’t get. These events bring in local residents, out-of-towners, students, faculty and staff and showcase stores and restaurants in Lansing and East Lansing, enhancing its cultural landscape. Beyond that, students offer a whole range of on campus plays, comedy and musical acts that add to Lansing and East Lansing’s entertainment scene.
Additionally, the sporting events at MSU add a spark to the spirit, sense of community, and thriving business culture to the region that’s irreplaceable.
However, it is important to realize that MSU enriches Lansing in a much deeper way than through sports and entertainment. MSU integrates career and civic engagement within the community, facilitating many volunteer opportunities for students within Lansing and abroad. There are many programs at MSU supporting and encouraging positive and enriching interaction between Lansing and East Lansing.
Most students at MSU participate in efforts to engage in the community outside campus and gain field experience through a course, internship, or volunteer work. This fosters possibilities for a symbiotic relationship between local businesses and organizations and students. In return businesses give students access to innovative ideas, mentorship and creativity.
Beyond the professional realms such as government internships, thousands of MSU students have contributed to community building projects in Lansing. For example, last semester I was a student mentor at a local non-profit art studio, REACH. Through that experience I got out of the campus bubble and actually talked to an impacted Lansing children that I would have never experienced without MSU’s effort to increase civic engagement. There are many MSU students who tutor local elementary and high school students, help out in classrooms, engage in workshops and after school activities with local youth, and aid with community initiatives like community gardens and farmer’s markets. Many of these outstanding efforts are featured on outreach.msu.edu.
Despite the dynamic qualities of both East Lansing and Lansing, and the community engagement that students already take part in, there is still a clear disconnect between the two cities. It would be incredibly beneficial for both communities for this gap to grow smaller. The vast amount of collaborative possibilities existing between East Lansing and Lansing has barely been tapped.
- Lansing’s Entrepreneurial Revival (February 26, 2010)
- The New Age of Education: We Need It (January 25, 2010)
- The Great Job Myth (December 22, 2009)
- Rethinking ‘Talent Retention’ (December 7, 2009)
- Community Ties: Tying People to Their Michigan Community (February 18, 2010)