Rolling back to the Red Cedar
Students, professors get back in the swing of school with the start of fall
With the end of summer break, Spartans have come back to campus to resume their studies. MSU students reflected on moving back in and their goals for the upcoming year.
The fall semester is underway, and with the start of a new semester comes a host of challenges for students and professors with new class schedules and a packed campus.
It’s a new school year. Preparing for the fall can be stressful for many in the MSU community as thousands of students return to campus amid changes to university tuition and uncertainty about federal student loan rates. Even with changes to tuition and a packed campus, university officials are working to make the transition as smooth as possible for both new and returning students.
Getting to know fellow Spartans
Political theory and constitutional democracy senior Adam Ilenich, who works as a resident assistant isn’t shy to admit he’s the oldest guy in the room at craft night — one of the many activities hosted by the University Activities Board.
“When I lived on campus, I didn’t appreciate it,” Ilenich said. “The free bowling at the Union, for example, it’s a chance to meet people you’d probably never meet otherwise. I used to assume it was lame.”
Pre-med sophomore Hunter Hill helps move her roommate's belongings on Aug. 26, 2013, in front of East Shaw Hall. First-year students moved into the residence halls on Sunday while returning students moved in the next day. Katie Stiefel/The State News
Economics junior Kenny Welsh, left, and his father Bill Welsh carry a futon Aug. 26, 2013 in front of East Shaw Hall. This is Welsh's first year living in Shaw Hall. Katie Stiefel/The State News
It’s Ilenich’s job to welcome on-campus residents in the West Circle Neighborhood, many of whom are new to the university.
“We’re building a community,” he said. “That involves everything from taking students to Sparticipation (to) explaining the policies that keep them safe.”
Arts and crafts might not be for everybody, but Ilenich said being open to meeting fellow Spartans is the best way to prepare for a new year.
“You really can walk up to someone in your building or in class and just introduce yourself,” Ilenich said. “It doesn’t have to be weird or uncomfortable. You’re expected to do that here.”
The international perspective
Getting ready for classes can be particularly challenging for students attending school outside of their native country, such as Jina Lee, a South Korean criminal justice graduate student.
“When you’re an international student, preparing for the school year means effective time management,” Lee said. “It takes you longer to get things done if English isn’t your first language.”
Domestic students should be aware of the challenges” international students”:http://oiss.isp.msu.edu face, Lee said, but international students shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help.
“When I first came here, I didn’t understand what a Social Security number was,” she said. “I needed groceries but couldn’t figure out how to get to Meijer.”
On top of her classes and her research position, MSU’s Criminal Justice Department is requiring Lee to pass additional English speaking and writing exams.
“Be kind to international students,” Lee said. “Look at me. The semester has barely started and I already have to study for a test.”
Prepping the university
Students might be unaware of the behind-the-scenes effort it takes to make the university run efficiently.
Doug Estry, associate provost for undergraduate education and dean of undergraduate studies, helped prepare students by overseeing the Academic Orientation Programs.
“Orientation introduces students to university life,” Estry said. “And we organize a later session for out-of-state students who may not have been able to make it over the summer.”
Estry’s office also is getting ready for the new year by developing undergraduate research programs and updating websites.
Student move-in was a job for Residence Education and Housing Services or REHS, responsible for ensuring thousands of students are able to settle on campus.
“This year, we wanted move-in to be an experience, not just a process,” Chaney said. “There’s just so many people, and it’s easy to get lost in the stress of that. Everyone’s experience is different and everyone is going to need different times to adjust. We’re just here as a resource.”
With 27 residence halls and two apartment complexes, it makes for a hefty task, said Ashley Chaney, assistant director of communications for Residence Education and Housing Services.
Compared to last year, Chaney said there was a small number of students in transitional housing, a temporary living arrangement for students who don’t have a housing assignment.
“We don’t have an exact number, since it’s constantly changing by the hour,” she said. “We have students who never showed up for orientation, students who don’t show up for the year or students who leave after the holiday.”
With enthusiastic student volunteers on staff this year, Chaney said she hoped students’ first impression of MSU was positive.
“Our staff prepared months for this,” she added. “This is what we live and work for. We missed the students. This campus just isn’t the same without them.”
Meet the professors
When it comes to academics, students aren’t the only ones who need to refresh and refocus for the year.
Before leaving MSU for the summer, students fill out faculty evaluation forms, critiquing their professors on everything from the amount of homework they assign to the pace of their course.
It’s feedback that instructors have taken to heart, as well as other tweaks to keep courses up-to-date, journalism professor Joe Grimm said.
“Most professors spend their summer studying and catching up on what’s changing in their field,” Grimm said. “Even if you’ve taught a course for several semesters, you need to keep pace with what’s new. There are always new tools, new ways to do things.”
His advice for students, both new and returning?
“Get engaged with whatever it is you’re doing,” Grimm said. “You’re paying a lot of money to be here, and people have certainly worked hard to get things ready for you.”