This summer, I had the privilege of speaking with the parents of our incoming students. The remarks below are a transcript of what I said.
Welcome to the MSU family! My name is Sekhar Chivukula, and I am the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of Undergraduate Studies – a long title, which means I have the privilege of working with all of our faculty and advisors from across campus to help make sure all of MSU students succeed.
As a father of a child (our last) who is leaving for college this fall, I know exactly how you feel: a mixture of pride and happiness with a bit of trepidation thrown in! All of us at MSU appreciate the trust you and your student place in us.
Let me tell you a bit about MSU. Founded in 1855, Michigan State University was the prototype for the entire land-grant university system. After President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act in 1862, MSU became the nation’s first land-grant university in 1863.
As a land-grant institution, MSU’s undergraduate mission is to provide an “outstanding education to promising, qualified students in order to prepare them to contribute fully to society as globally engaged citizen leaders.”
Here is what your students can look forward to at MSU:
· They will be challenged to learn material at the frontiers of human knowledge and – as a research university – given opportunities to contribute to that knowledge and understanding.
· They will live in a diverse community of scholars, and learn as much from their peers as from their instructors – in many cases precisely because their MSU classmates won’t come from the same backgrounds or have the same points of view.
· They will make lifelong friends, not just among the students but also with our advisors and faculty.
MSU is organized into fourteen degree granting colleges, covering the core areas of arts and letters, social sciences, and natural sciences – as well as professional programs in areas such as engineering, business, nursing, communication arts and sciences, agriculture, education, veterinary medicine, and music. Some students know from day one exactly what they would like to do, others are not sure. Some who know what they want to do on day one, change their mind. That’s OK. Our curriculum is designed to allow students to learn about a wide variety of disciplines, and to find their passion.
MSU also provides undergraduates with tremendous opportunities outside the classroom as well. Internships, education abroad, service learning, and undergraduate research are all high-impact activities that can enhance their skills and help them in their post-graduation goals.
So, what can you do to help? Success in college requires support and understanding from families (not just the financial kind!).
If we at MSU are doing our job, your student will be challenged to learn and grow – and sometimes growth involves stretching yourself. Many of our students were never truly challenged in high school – most were at the top of their classes, and didn’t have to work to do that. Things will be different here – and your understanding and support of your student, your belief in them, and your sympathetic ear after a late night of studying, or when a quiz didn’t quite go as planned is crucial.
However, it is also important to let your student have the opportunity to learn and face those challenges themselves – otherwise they won’t gain the confidence they will need to succeed in our ever-changing world.
Most college students rightly view parents and family as their primary source of support when times get tough – but if that happens, help your student to also reach out to their instructors, advisors, residence hall associates, and other support staff at MSU. Help and support, but don’t hover.
This is also a significant time of transition for you, as parents. I know from the experience of working with my older child that it took a deliberate effort to make the transition from making sure they got up and off to school at the right time every morning – as we did through high school – to giving them the space to run their own lives and, yes, to even choose their own major for themselves.
But the end goal is worth it: with your help and support your student will leave home as a teenager … and, during their years here at MSU, they will grow into responsible young adults. Neither you nor we can do the growing for them – but together we can insure that every one of the remarkable young people entering MSU this year achieve their true potential.
At MSU, we believe that all admitted students have the ability to succeed – and we are committed to doing our part to see that every student graduates. The families of our students play a vital role in this process, and we work to actively partner with them.