Homecoming and Safe Place speak to who we are

10-15-2009

“We’ve always been green.” The theme of Michigan State University’s Homecoming celebration this week is a play on our school colors, yes, but it’s also something more.

While there’s been a resurgence of “being green” in recent years, MSU researchers have been exploring issues of the environment and sustainability for decades. More recently, we have made a serious push to raise awareness of our own footprint—and how we can diminish it—through the Be Spartan Green campaign.

For Homecoming 2009, parade floats are to be made of recyclable materials and promote sustainability themes, and the list of activities goes on.

Two of our distinguished alumni with green credentials of their own will be parade grand marshals this year. One is former faculty member, university president, and state government official Gordon Guyer. Jo-Ellen Darcy, who has spent many years in government overseeing land and water projects, is the other. Darcy was recently confirmed as assistant secretary of the Army for public works—the new Army Corps of Engineers chief.

This year’s Homecoming is a perfect lead-in for Campus Sustainability Week October 19–23. It’s a week dedicated to exploring the possibilities of social, economic, and environmental sustainability in higher education. Read more about it at sustainability.msu.edu.

Yet another event this week speaks to who we are. We’re celebrating the 15th anniversary of MSU Safe Place and honoring some of the people who have given of themselves to make it possible.

MSU Safe Place is for students, faculty, staff, and retirees or their partners and children who are experiencing an emotionally, physically, or sexually abusive relationship. All services are free and confidential. It’s a shelter and a place to find support, referrals, and counseling. It’s a way to increase community awareness of domestic violence and a learning environment for community members through its volunteer and internship opportunities.

It also aims to raise funds to provide educational scholarships for those who have had to interrupt their college education because of domestic violence. Every day, MSU Safe Place staff counsel and advocate for students who are not only dealing with homework assignments, tests, and papers but also with physical, emotional, and financial abuse that interferes with their academic success.

This week we’re honoring former faculty member and administrator Milton Muelder who, with his wife Kathleen, established an endowment fund for scholarships for such students. The endowment they created was a dream of Joanne McPherson, wife of former MSU president Peter McPherson, and she will be on hand to present Dr. Muelder with the first Joanne McPherson award, which recognizes those who have made substanial contributions to MSU Safe Place and whose efforts have made a difference in the lives of survivors of domestic violence.

Also being honored this week is the MSU Federal Credit Union, which has been an outstanding supporter of MSU Safe Place through its contributions to the Race for the Place annual fundraiser and through the volunteerism of its employees.

Our orientation toward environmental sustainability and our support for this worthy program are alike in that they align with our core values of inclusion and connectedness. We are in and of the community and the world. We are caring friends of and advocates for our neighbors and careful stewards of our natural resources.

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