Thursday, September 16, 2021

Justice Sonia Sotomayor and university leaders speak at the MSU Academic Welcome

August 27, 2018
Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor talks about her life path at the MSU Academic Welcome on Aug. 27, 2018.
Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor talks about her life path at the MSU Academic Welcome on Aug. 27, 2018. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

Gathered in the Jack Breslin Student Events Center this morning, the Class of 2022 was welcomed by university leaders, members of the MSU administration and U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor at the annual MSU Academic Welcome. 

The event began with MSU Provost June Youatt addressing what she said was the "largest and most diverse freshman class," noting that now is the most important time to show students they have the university's support. Youatt also discussed the importance of graduating in four years to the new students, and that the goal is to make graduating a possibility for everyone.   

“What we want you to imagine is being back in this space four years from now,” Youatt said.  

Following Youatt, other members of the MSU administration welcomed the freshmen, including Vice President for Student Affairs Denise Maybank, Executive Vice President for Government and External Relations Kathy Wilbur and Interim President John Engler. 

Engler said that because the Class of 2022 is the largest and most diverse incoming class MSU has ever seen, the students in the room were making history. He also made an announcement that the university will be breaking ground on a new STEM facility, estimated to be finished in two years, that will be one of the most “exciting learning places on campus.” 

Engler also addressed the sexual assault epidemic stemming from ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar's sexual abuse and said the university will continue working on prevention, safety, communication and accountability. 

“Everyone is aware there is a national conversation about sexual assault, sexual misconduct and harassment going on for awhile, MSU was a part of that," Engler said. "And preventing sexual misconduct and relationship violence is one of our top priorities here on campus.”

He also said a lot of investments have been made in student health services, especially mental health services. He said that 24/7 help, through a student support program, is online and on a mobile app. 

“We’re trying to make communications easier, better, more effective for all of you," Engler said. 

He concluded his speech by bringing up the search for a university president and advised students to voice their opinions to the Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, President Katherine "Cookie" Rifiotis, who is the only student on the presidential search committee. 

Rifiotis also spoke at the event, and as a fellow undergraduate student, gave seven points of advice called the "Spartan Seven" for the incoming freshmen to follow. 

“Ultimately, respect each other’s backgrounds and opinions," Rifiotis said. "And at the most important and difficult points, respect each other." 

The MSU Academic Welcome concluded with Sotomayor's speech. 

Through East Lansing's One Book, One Community program, students were encouraged to read Sotomayor's memoir, "My Beloved World", before coming together to hear from the author about her journey of becoming the first Latina and third woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Discussing themes from her novel and stories from her life, she spoke to the new students about the importance of making a difference and following one's passion.   

“If you work with integrity, honesty, and a giving heart, everything you do will have and give you meaning," Sotomayor said. "That meaning comes when you give something of value to your community.” 

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