Monday, May 20, 2024

'Double Spartans': Deciding to attend MSU for both undergraduate, graduate degrees

April 17, 2024
Masters student and Assistant Community Director Marissa Ogea poses in her office in Phillips Hall on April 11, 2024. Ogea is pursuing an MA in Nonprofit Leadership, Global Cultures, and Social Enterprise.
Masters student and Assistant Community Director Marissa Ogea poses in her office in Phillips Hall on April 11, 2024. Ogea is pursuing an MA in Nonprofit Leadership, Global Cultures, and Social Enterprise.

There are over 7,200 students enrolled in master's and doctoral programs at Michigan State University. Some of these students have the unique opportunity of attending MSU for both their undergraduate and graduate degrees, becoming "double Spartans."

One way that students can put themselves on this track is through the Osteopathic Medical Scholars Program. Through this, students can attend MSU for undergrad via the College of Osteopathic Medicine and, if they maintain a high enough GPA, they can waive the MCAT requirement for grad school admission. 

Breanna Williams is one Spartan who took this path. Alongside the pathway program itself, the community she was able to cultivate during her undergrad influenced her decision to stay.

"One of the reasons why I wanted to go to the D.O. program here, I was involved in a lot of activities … so overall, my experience at MSU, socially and academically was very good," Williams said. 

Williams was extremely involved on campus during her undergrad years as a member of the Honors College, the Charles Drew Science Scholars program and Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority, Inc.

"I feel like knowing that I had a community and I still have a sense of family here also helped me say, 'I really want to go here,'" Williams said.

Alec Said is getting his master's in computer science at MSU, having studied electrical and computer engineering during his undergrad. Like Williams, he said having a sense of community was a great product of attending MSU for both degrees. 

"I don't have the time to hold an officer position for the club, but there are ways to participate intermittently through the year or the semester, so I can still participate in all those clubs I really liked to do in undergrad," Said said. 

Professional connections can also be strengthened when students remain on campus for a long period of time. 

Marissa Ogea studied humanities as an undergraduate at MSU and is now completing her master's degree in nonprofit leadership, global cultures and social enterprises. Within her master's program, Ogea has been able to reconnect with professors from her time as an undergraduate and maintain a sense of familiarity within her college. 

"Being able to take everyone that I knew previously from undergrad, and still maintain that relationship with now, like, one year after graduation, ... (has) been really nice and just very easy with trying to transition into a postgraduate degree," Ogea said. 

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For Williams, going straight into medical school marked a tough transition. When comparing her experience to that of her medical school peers, she noted that being familiar with the campus and having ties to old groups and leaders made the change much smoother.  

"Just being able to be familiar with my surroundings and know different places that I can access resources to help me if I’m struggling with something, I think that was very beneficial for my transition," Williams said. 

This access made it that much easier for Williams to overcome those obstacles and continue to strive for excellence in her program. 

"I feel like the school has provided me with enough resources, between advisors and community support (from) my classmates, that I feel much more confident," she said. 

Said added there is also a greater connection between professors and students in graduate programs.

"Professors are almost really excited to be teaching grad classes, like, you can tell," he said. "They're almost showing the class their specific, special, parts of the field that they're working on and they're excited about."

Compared to undergraduate courses, Said said there is a larger sense of commitment and excitement in graduate school.

"Students in every class are working toward their Ph.D. or working toward their thesis," he said. "And they're excited to be there, so the professor's excited to have them."

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Ogea, who is a first-generation student, said attending graduate school was a large achievement for her. Looking back at her undergrad, she said, she approaches her graduate degree differently.

"I think for me, being able to continue my education and … not having that same sense of almost intentional defeat that I did in undergrad where I kind of just set myself up for anticipating failure … I think that has really changed," Ogea said.

Ogea said she found strength in her sense of identity and community by completing grad school at the same institution. 

"Being able to continue being a Spartan has been really great," she said. "... just being able to have that sense of achievement and belonging."

Now, with one year left in her program, Ogea is navigating what she wants to do with the rest of her time at MSU. 

"It is a really big, personal task to take on," Ogea said. "But it's also something that, given the resources that I have from Michigan State, ... I don't take on by myself."

For Williams, this coming year will likely be her last in East Lansing. The following year of her program will be spent doing clinical rotations, which she hopes to complete closer to her hometown. Williams said she wants to make the most of her remaining time at MSU by trying new restaurants and attending one final football game. 

"I just want to enjoy the last bit of actually being able to call this campus my home," she said.

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