ASMSU alumni reflect on their time in student government
Over the years, alumni of ASMSU have landed themselves in a variety of careers.
MSU's student government has churned out state representatives, professors, doctors, artists, one Michigan governor and more.
Bob Murphy is the director of university relations and policy with the Michigan Association of State Universities. He also worked in the state budget office after graduation from MSU – but he got his start in ASMSU representing of the College of Social Science. Eventually, he would serve two separate terms as finance chairperson and academic assembly chairperson. He believes these positions helped him follow his career path.
“I can say unequivocally, my experience in ASMSU was vital for my career," Murphy said. "I was hired at the state budget office because I had created a nearly million dollar budget when I was chair of finance, and then when I was the academic assembly chair, I made a budget request and executed a budget in an executive position."
Murphy believes that student governments like ASMSU provide unique leadership opportunities.
"You don't find experience like that for graduates fresh out undergraduate," he said. "It just doesn't exist."
John Sauve, who served in ASMSU from 1985 to 1987 began his time there representing the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, before serving as chairperson of the student board. Today, he is a sculptor. He said that understanding government helps in the arts sector.
“I work in public art, and that means that every sculpture I have, I have an intent to put it up in public somewhere," Sauve said. "I’m working with municipalities throughout the area, the region, the country to understand how government works, to understand how downtown development authorities work, to understand how the chamber of commerce works, to understand who has a vested interest in developing community programming that public work serves."
MSU journalism professor Sue Carter served in MSU's student government during the 1970-1971 academic year as president of the former Women's Residence Council. She says she still uses skills from ASMSU constantly.
“I think all of us who have ever served time with ASMSU have learned about organizations, about cooperation, about debate, and about politics," Carter said.
She also reflected on the political climate during her term in ASMSU, and how it affected the organization's duties.
“It was a very challenging time because it was during the peak of the Vietnam War and the student protests against it," Carter said. "So, a lot of our energy was directed at working with students, understanding the protest that was going on, and also being a liaison with the administration and with the state government. We met one time with Governor Milliken who was interested and concerned about student issues relative to the Vietnam War.”
Sauve too reflected on the international issues the group had to face as some of the most meaningful and formative experiences he had. During his tenure in ASMSU, divestment from companies supporting apartheid was a flashpoint on campuses across the country.
"Coke was one of the big targets on campus," he said. "There's a lot of people who were really good at research, and really good at debate, and really good at looking at things from every different angle. And regardless of your viewpoint on something like that, I know it was a big part of my foundation."
Murphy also listed facing an international issue as one of his biggest accomplishments while serving as chair of the academic assembly. Getting the ball rolling on revoking an honorary Doctorate of Law that MSU presented to would-be Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe in 1990 proved a valuable experience to Murphy.
“Michigan State University back in 1980-something gave an honorary degree to Robert Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe," Murphy said. "And that was when Mugabe was looking to be kind of a new, exciting leader in sub-saharan Africa and then, as many people know, he turned out to be a pretty ruthless dictator….One of the things we started earlier in my administration was trying to work with MSU administration to formally revoke Mugabe’s degree, and eventually it happened."
Murphy said the meaning behind retracting the degree was important.
“It’s not something that affected students directly, but what it did do was draw a clear line in the sand about what we as Spartans believed in and what we wanted our degrees to represent, and who we want to be associated with," Murphy said.
Sauve went on to say that issues facing the nation today will impact current ASMSU members similarly.
“I spoke with Lorenzo a couple months ago, and just seeing how he’s handling it, how he’s going through issues like free speech," Sauve said. "I mean where are you going to get an experience like that? Those are life lessons that stay with you forever. I draw back on my experiences at ASMSU every day.”
For today's ASMSU members, Carter offered advice.
“Be aware," Carter said. "Listen to your constituents. Understand that you are in a representative position, and work hard to educate yourself and always be ethical in your judgements”