Dialogue key to creating community


Making sense of current events that reflect the larger currents — and turbulence — of our times can be difficult and emotionally taxing at any age. For college students still developing a firm sense of identity as well as the sense of self in relation to others (all while balancing new independence, responsibilities, and stressors) it can be a lot to juggle.

Yet the ability to “make sense” is fundamental to becoming an educated adult. And the ability to share your perspective while fully hearing others who may or may not agree with you is a skill that will expand your own horizons while enabling you to contribute more fully as part of a team. And whether in the classroom or outside it, MSU is committed to helping students develop individual strengths as well as the capacity to excel as part of a team.

In the fall, we will begin a series of dialogue sessions focused on a recent event to create a space for students to express thoughts and feelings as a way to construct meaning around some of the larger issues playing out in society. There will be no agenda. No call to solve anything. Simply a time and place for people to meet face to face and talk about the big stuff.

Of the recent events on the topics list already, there is none more searing than the June 18 shooting at Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C. Fueled by racial hatred, this event shocked and saddened the nation. Though most of our students are away for the summer, some of those who remain on campus responded immediately, painting the rock in tribute.

Photo of the MSU Rock with the text 'We stand by Charleston.'

On Wednesday, I attended a memorial service for the victims of the Charleston shooting. This gathering of members of the community and the MSU family — faculty, staff, and administrators — of all faiths was an affirming way not only to pay tribute to those individuals who lost their lives but also to come together understanding that we must all work together to confront issues of racial intolerance and work actively to promote understanding and inclusivity.

As I stated in a letter I wrote to the greater Lansing Ministerial Alliance:

We in the MSU community are saddened by the news of the tragic shooting in Charleston, S.C. The loss of life in this senseless act of racial violence leaves us searching for answers.

We stand in solidarity with you, the leaders of the churches of our community, as we all try to make sense of what is fueling this type of violence and its impact on communities and individuals.

We will continue to find means for our campus community to have dialogue and build understanding. We welcome your engagement in those efforts.

Our dialogue sessions will be the major focus for the fall, but we welcome other ideas from students, faculty, and members of the community. The ability to connect and understand is a vital skill. And they lead to a more rewarding life. If we help students master them, I know Spartans can lead the way in helping our nation find its way to a better future.


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