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A glance at MSU's 2017-2018 Homecoming Court

October 20, 2017
Marketing and progessional writing senior Natalie Gotko is picture on Oct. 15, 2017 outside the Union.
Marketing and progessional writing senior Natalie Gotko is picture on Oct. 15, 2017 outside the Union. —
Photo by Anntaninna Biondo | The State News

Homecoming Week is here at MSU, and that means both students and alumni will be coming together to celebrate one thing they have in common — a shared Spartan heritage. 

The theme of this year’s homecoming is set as “Uniquely Spartan,” according to the webpage of the MSU Alumni Association. The Association’s webpage asks the question, “What makes a Spartan unique?” It then provides an answer: “It’s a combination of traits that resonate across our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Spartans are genuine. Tenacious. Diverse. Open. Collaborative. Bold. Spartans are world changing. We help individuals and communities achieve their potential and pursue the highest level of performance to make the world a better place for all.”

The State News profiled a number of members of MSU’s 2017-2018 Homecoming Court to get a sense of how student Spartans are planning to leave their own marks upon the world, both at and beyond MSU. As “ambassadors” to the Spartan community for the 2017-2018 school year, these seniors talked about their own dreams, goals and missions for MSU and the world.

Ms. Makaila Marshall

Hometown: Toledo, Ohio

Major: Communication

Minor: Cognitive Science

Makaila Marshall hails from Michigan’s southern neighbor, the state of Ohio. Her studies at MSU include a major in communication and a minor in cognitive science. Becoming an ambassador for the Homecoming Court, she said in an email, was a journey that she took seriously. 

“I actually have known several of the years-past homecoming members. It was something they always suggested I applied for but it wasn't until I was anonymously nominated to apply, that I actually did,” Marshall said in an email.

The process of applying, Marshall said, was well-worth it.

“I've always worked to leave my footprints on this campus and I am very excited that being member of this court will be my last one as an undergraduate,” she said. “Upon graduation, I hope to inspire others to follow their dreams and to never limit themselves.”

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Along with her status as an ambassador to the Homecoming Court, Marshall juggles several other leadership positions at MSU – she’s been a resident assistant, a residence hall representative and a 2015-16 Miss Black and Gold title holder representing the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. at MSU.

“Currently I am a Behavioral Coach working with children with developmental disorders and disabilities for Horizon Behavioral Solutions, as well as an Office Aid in the Diversity Programs office in the Engineering Building,” Marshall added. 

She also talked of what she hopes to obtain for her future career.

“Career wise, I plan on having my own nonprofit organization that aims to positively impact adolescent to middle-aged women through increasing self-love, providing personal and professional development assistance, and education on mental and physical health,” she said. “I would also like to spread awareness on developmental disabilities through service projects and the use of peer mentorship to children who have disabilities.”

Marshall talked about her own heritage being an inspiring factor in her decision to pursue these goals. 

“As a woman, and more specifically a black woman, I understand the difficulties,” Marshall said. 

Mr. Colin White

Hometown: Okemos, Mich.

Major: Applied Engineering Sciences

Minor: Supply Chain Management

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Colin White, a native of Michigan, is a member of both the College of Engineering and the Eli Broad College of Business at MSU. His studies include coursework rooted in engineering and business principles, and he is a member of the Honors College, as well.

He’s the Vice President of the Men’s Club Volleyball team, a member of Impact 89 FM, part of the Society of Applied Engineering Sciences, and he has an undergraduate research position at MSU. White spoke of his hopes to bring progressive change to MSU and beyond. 

“There’s a lot of stuff going on right now, in our country,” White said. “I think unity’s really important, but also progressive change. Michigan State’s not perfect, I think it does a lot of things well, but I think it also has a lot that it can improve on. So any way that I can help be a catalyst for any changes is something I’d like to do.”

White acknowledged that his position as an ambassador to the Homecoming Court allowed him the ability to reach out to his fellow students.

“Having multiple leadership positions lets me have some influence over other students,” he said. 

Speaking of his future career, White reiterated his desires to make an impact in a community.

“My dream job would be to work in the esports industry,” White said, referencing a work industry that organizes multiplayer video game competitions, sometimes with professional players. "I mean it’s growing a lot right now, but still a lot of people just think it’s like, nerds in their basement and it’s not really a real thing yet. But it’s pretty big and it’s going to be exploding, and I’d really like to get in the same way of enacting change on campus, change the industry and help it continue to explode, and direct it in the right way and make sure that’s an industry that not only continues to grow, but grow in the right ways."

Ms. Natalie Gotko

Hometown: Rochester, Mich.

Majors: Marketing and Professional Writing

Even before she was accepted to MSU, Gotko knew that she was already a Spartan at heart.

“Both of my parents went here and like half of my family went here, so I’ve like considered myself a Spartan my whole life,” Gotko said. 

Her acceptance to MSU gave her the ability to pursue not one, but two interests in marketing and professional writing. She was also presented with a variety of opportunities to leave her mark on her fellow peers and the university itself.

“When I finally got accepted to MSU and decided to go to MSU, I arrived on campus and I just wanted to experience it all, and I think that’s why I like, got so involved on campus. I think that it’s important that students really dig in and do as much as they can to help themselves grow, and help students around them grow, and then help the university as a whole grow. I think it’s all connected,” she said. 

Soon after arriving at MSU, Gotko dove right into the vast amount of opportunities presented to her. She’s held leadership roles at numerous organizations on MSU’s campus. She’s worked with the University Activities Board for three years and this year, she serves as the marketing assistant to the MSU Union. She’s also the public relations team president for her sorority, Alpha Xi Delta. 

By becoming an ambassador to the Homecoming Court, Gotko knew the exact goals she wanted to fulfill on campus.

“I think that, to this campus specifically, I think that I’d want to bring a positive attitude and a love for this school,” she said.

She added that she is grateful to serve as an ambassador on the Homecoming Court for this very reason and how the experience has impacted her. 

“It was amazing because I got to feel that I had done good, if that makes sense. It was almost like a point of pride for me, to be able to share with my family and everything like that. My favorite thing about being on court is the fact that I get to share it – the experience – with my friends and family," Gotko said on being nominated.

She’s still forging a pathway for what she wants to do after college, but that doesn’t stop Gotko from dreaming about the career she would like to have in the future.

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“My dream job currently though, is to eventually at some point down the line, run a presidential campaign because I kind of see campaigning and politics, specifically campaigning, as like, branding a person. How can they put their best self forward, how can they use the slogans that encapsulate the ideas that they have for the country and everything like that? So I think it’s like –with marketing and professional writing and learning how to use persuasion and rhetoric and language altogether – it’s like constructing this idea that people can support and rally behind. I think that would be really cool,” she explained. 

Ms. Yixi Dong

Hometown: Sichuan, China

Major: Nursing

Minor: Psychology

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She’s been everything from an intercultural aide to an English mentor, a research assistant to a teaching assistant. Currently, she works at the Olin Health Center on MSU’s campus, in order to promote student health.

From abroad in Sichuan, China comes Dong, an international student who, like her fellow peers on the Homecoming Court, has many aspirations in life. When she received news that she would be a part of the Homecoming Court, Dong said she felt wonderful because she could represent fellow international students like herself.

“The first feeling I had is, ‘I can represent international students, this group of people, because I’m from China.’ The main purpose for me to apply to become (part of) the Homecoming Court is not only about myself, it’s more about I want to talk more about international students’ issues and situations because I feel like a lot of people still have this gray area – they don’t see us, they don’t see international students very clearly,” she said.

She seeks to bridge the gap between international and domestic students.

“I can talk more about issues and maybe let other people understand our situations more,” Dong said of her position as ambassador on the court. 

Dong, who is working toward a nursing major and psychology minor, expressed her desire to go into a field in which she can work in improving children’s mental health. 

“So my dream job, to be really specific, is pediatric psychiatrist,” she said. She cited her coursework in nursing and psychology acting as a catalyst in her decision of a future career. Her classes, she said, are very interesting.

“I felt like I would probably go to do something, combine children’s mental health and nursing together,” she said. 

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