Looking back, moving forward
As the MSU seniors approach their final week on the banks of the Red Cedar, they reflect on how they’ve been shaped by the last four years on campus. With memories both good and bad, each one played an important role in establishing the character of the class. And no matter where they go from here, the Spartans will remember the times they’ve spent with each other at their alma mater.
Victory for MSU
Social relations and policy senior Joe Duffy always will remember his first MSU football game.
On Sept. 6, 2008, he was awoken at 7 a.m. by pounding on his dorm room door, chants coming from outside his window and a group of students marching through the hallway, broadcasting a call to arms to join in the tailgating.
“(It was) my first introduction to the (football) culture,” Duffy said. “The sophomores yelling at us that it’s time to get up, time to get ready, time to go to the game.”
Throughout his undergraduate career, Duffy has attended all but two of MSU’s home football games and has shared some of his fondest memories inside the walls of Spartan Stadium.
Among those memories is MSU’s overtime victory against Notre Dame in 2010, when the Spartan’s won on a dramatic last-second fake field goal that went for a touchdown — a play that went down in MSU history as “Little Giants.”
Duffy said he’ll always remember how the stadium erupted when then-senior tight end Charlie Gantt caught the ball and scored the winning touchdown.
“It still leaves me speechless,” Duffy said. “I still get a little teary-eyed when I watch the video on YouTube. Whenever I have a particularly large amount of homework I need to finish and I need some inspiration, I just watch Little Giants, and that’s usually enough to get me through it.”
Another memory senior Spartans share is the four victories over in-state rival Michigan during their time at MSU.
“I’m glad to be able to say I will graduate Michigan State having never lost to Michigan in football,” Duffy said.
But success hasn’t been limited to football. The men’s basketball team has made the NCAA Tournament all four years including trips to the Final Four in 2009 and 2010.
Even before he came to MSU, accounting senior Justin Wojtkowiak had seen his fair share of Spartan victories.
“I’ve been watching Michigan State basketball ever since I knew what basketball was,” Wojtkowiak said. “Coming here, I knew right away I wanted to be a part of the Izzone.”
Now a co-director and four-year member of the famous student section, Wojtkowiak said being a part of the Izzone definitely has shaped his college experience.
“No matter what I did, everything kind of shut down to go to basketball games,” he said. “I absolutely loved it … It’s one of those things that you only get that experience if you come to MSU and are in the Izzone.”
Wojtkowiak said being a member of the Izzone is one of the things he will miss most about MSU, especially since it brought him some of his closest friends and greatest memories.
“The best part about being in the Izzone is being a part of something,” Wojtkowiak said. “The school and coach Izzo (give) you an opportunity to do that because they care about the students, and want the students to be a part of something.”
Amid all the great memories interdisciplinary studies in social science senior Adrienne Kilgore will keep when she graduates from MSU next week, her final year always will be tainted by the racial events that took place in the fall of 2011.
“It felt like a smack in the face,” the Successful Black Women historian and programing director said.
An outcry among students followed a series of on-campus racial incidents that occurred in the last weeks of September 2011. “No Ni***rs Please” was written on a white board of a student’s door in West Akers Hall. Later, another racial slur was found on a wall in Butterfield Hall, and students reported a black doll being hung by its neck in the Biomedical and Physical Sciences Building.
Graduating Black Student Alliance, or BSA, president Mario Lemons said a total of 10 racially charged incidents were documented in the first six weeks of this school year. Lemons said as of April 5, 30 cases had been documented, though he added there probably were many more that went unreported.
“To see such horrible events on campus related to race was really disheartening for a lot of people,” Lemons said.
Following the racial incidents, students marched on campus and brought a list of demands to the university administration to help handle racial incidents.
Lemons said BSA has had meetings with the university every other week since the incidents began to work on social and institutional racism.
“We’re making history because we’re changing things for the future,” Lemons said.
While it might be surprising to some, Kilgore said she will look back positively on the racial events that occurred on campus because of what she did about it.
“I was able to leave something here,” Kilgore said. “I enjoyed my senior year — that’s something I’ll remember.”
In early February of last year, about 11 inches of snow blanketed Greater Lansing, and while the amount is hardly a record at MSU, forecasts the day before convinced MSU officials to cancel class for the first time since 1994.
Horticulture senior Joe Shear said he remembers hearing rumors class would be canceled, but wasn’t sure until he received a confirmation email from the university.
“It was a fun day,” Shear said. “One that will go down in memory.”
Human biology senior Casey Smauder said every class will remember the snow day because it was a rare event that impacted the entire school.
“It never happens,” Smauder said. “It’s a part of history.”
Shear said the snow day is a common bond among fellow Spartans in this year’s class.
“To be here for (a snow day) when generations haven’t — it’s pretty cool.”
Yes we can
Every time Ashley Hall walks by Adams field, she remembers people clamoring to see then-presidential candidate Barack Obama speak in 2008, said the former MSU College Democrats vice president.
“It was my first experience being a part of a community at Michigan State,” the political theory and constitutional democracy senior said.
A crowd of an estimated 20,000 people saw Obama receive a Spartan jersey and speak in early October of 2008.
“Even people who I know don’t follow politics … they knew it was something they had to be at,” professional writing senior Eric Huffman said. “I didn’t expect that many people to show up.”
Earlier this semester, presidential candidate Ron Paul spoke to thousands at the Auditorium.
“It was just interesting to see all the energy that was in the building,” media arts and technology senior Tony Maccio said.
Maccio said he is not a Ron Paul supporter but wanted to take the opportunity to see a national leader speak on campus.
“I’d like to think it has had an impact on the senior class,” Maccio said.
Kolin Karchon, an alumnus who began MSU’s College Libertarian group and graduated in December, said having leaders like Ron Paul and Barack Obama visit helps students realize how important they are and how much their opinion matters.
“(Ron Paul’s) visit here will have an everlasting impact on (students’) philosophies,” he said.
Hall said she felt privileged to be able to attend both events, though she said not enough students have taken these opportunities.
She compared this chance to her parents attending rallies for former President John F. Kennedy as children.
“Those are the things they remember from when they were young, and these are going to be the things I remember from when I was young,” she said.
A friend in me
When criminal justice senior Kenny Thomas moved to East Lansing from the small town of Tecumseh, Mich., four years ago, he was a little skeptical about living in a dorm with complete strangers. But four years later, Thomas calls the guys he met his freshman year in Wonders Hall the best friends of his life.
“I’m definitely surprised at how easy it was to make all these friends that I have,” Thomas said. “I got lucky, and things fell into place pretty easily for me. I lucked out.”
Coming from a small town in southern Michigan, Thomas said it was important for him to break away from his roots when he came to college, and one of his main goals was to meet a lot of new people.
Little did he know the bonds he formed with his roommate and suitemates would last longer than a school year and go deeper than a night at the bars.
After his freshman year, Thomas moved in with one of his suitemates and has since lived with him, or extended friends of his freshman suitemates, every year.
But Thomas shares more than just a house with his tight-knit group of friends. He shares four years of memories that he said he will never forget.
Of all the memories he has made, he said the ones he will remember most are brewing beer with one of his current roommates and making goofy videos with his housemates.
“We like to make videos,” he said. “That’s one of the fun things I always show people to explain who my roommates are.”
Although Thomas knows it’s time to move on to the next chapter of his life, he said it will be strange to not see his friends as much as he is used to.
“I think it’ll be weird because I’ve spent the last three or four years of my life with these people,” he said. “It’ll be weird not always being able to have them around … But I know I’ll always have these guys as my good friends.”