Last Thursday evening, I joined Provost Woodruff when she met with the General Assembly of the Associated Students of MSU (ASMSU). After many Zoom calls with ASMSU representatives over the last twenty months, last week was the first time she and I had been together in a room with ASMSU representatives. I was reminded once again how much I enjoy working with students who step forward to serve as through student government.
For those of you who might not be familiar with ASMSU, it is MSU’s undergraduate student government. Its mission is to “enhance our individual and collective student experience through education, empowerment and advocacy by dedication to the needs and interests of students.” Students are elected to the General Assembly (GA) by colleges, by representative organizations like the Council of Racial and Ethnic Students and the Council of Progressive Students, and by major governing organizations on campus like the Residence Hall Association and Fraternity and Sorority Life Councils.
Participation in ASMSU is a major commitment for a student, especially when they assume a leadership position. The GA meets every other Thursday and subcommittees meet on the other alternating Thursdays. Additionally, class councils meet weekly. Leadership of ASMSU is elected from the ranks of the GA, and they meet regularly with university leaders and one another.
I have the privilege of meeting every other week with ASMSU’s President and its Vice President of Academic Affairs and periodically with other members of the GA as issues arise. I also work with ASMSU’s representatives on standing and ad hoc university governance committees and occasionally at special events. This is the fourth set of leaders and representatives with whom I have worked, and every year I grow more and more impressed with the quality of their leadership and the depth of their commitment to MSU and its students.
My experiences with ASMSU representatives and leaders have been consistently productive and positive, and we have accomplished a great deal before and during the pandemic in support of MSU undergraduates and Student Success at MSU. For example, ASMSU led the effort to implement the Satisfactory/Not Satisfactory grade reporting option at the start of the pandemic and its reimplementation last year as the pandemic wore on. Their consistent support for students’ physical and mental health led to the creation of mental health days last spring and fall break days this year (which will be a permanent part of the academic calendar). They have pressed for changes to policies that will increase access and equity across campus, and they are active members of influential university governance committees.
While Provost Woodruff spoke to the GA last week, I reflected on what I thought might be the foundation for ASMSU’s great success in supporting the students they represent. I think ASMSU possesses and cultivates among its members two particularly effective attributes. The first is passion. The questions provided to the Provost in preparation for her meeting with the GA ranged across every aspect of the undergraduate student experience. Members posed questions about courses and grading, students’ mental and physical health, shared governance, COVID-19 safety, DEI, and internship and field experiences. Every question demonstrated the representatives’ passionate commitment to representing undergraduates in every aspect of their experience at MSU.
The second attribute that empowers ASMSU to be so influential on campus is moderation. ASMSU develops its leaders over the course of a student’s years at MSU. Emerging ASMSU leaders are exposed to and ultimately learn to confront the complexity of the important issues about which they feel most passionate. There are no easy answers to vexing problems, and as representatives rise through the ranks of ASMSU leadership they develop a very sophisticated understanding of how the university works, how many different perspectives there are among students, and how to compromise and seek allies all across campus. And they do this without ever wavering in their commitment to the students they represent.
At our meeting last week with ASMSU, a student named Jordan Kovach said something particularly impactful and telling of the foundational philosophy that guides ASMSU: "As student leaders, we all know that things are going to move slow, but we always want to make progress for those to come."
That is a beautiful commitment to make, and one that I happily adopt.
Thank you, ASMSU, for all that you do!