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Susie’s Story: Working to Make Michigan Great

Facing College: Diverse Student Voices from Michigan State University

As told to: Aaron Kovanda and Andrea Witcher

So here’s the story.

I didn’t know I was going to be going to MSU right away.  It depended on one scholarship that I might or might not get. Actually, I was pretty set on just going to Northern Michigan and living at home for two years; that was the idea. I’m from the U.P., from Negaunee, it’s like fifteen minutes away from NMU. But then this scholarship that I got, it’s called the STARR Scholarship, it kind of made my decision for me…

So I was like…shoot! Now I’m going down to State.

It was a bit of a scary thought at first, because I’m really close to my family. So I was nervous, but at the same time I was excited. I was excited to be moving away from where I lived. It’s not that I didn’t like my home! I had friends and close family of course, but the UP has a lot of conservative people—and I’m a very liberal-minded person.  A lot of people in my high school were very conservative so I just felt like I always had a lot of opposing opinions on issues that were just … fundamental to me. So coming here to MSU, it’s a lot better. I like the diversity down here.  It’s nice to actually be exposed to people that aren’t all the same.

Actually, I’ve always been pretty active, politically, and MSU has really allowed me to grow in that, especially toward the environment. At first I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.  I’ve changed my major four times while I’ve been here. I started with pre-med, and then I was human bio, and I was even fishery and wildlife for a little while. Finally I stopped on biochemistry. What I wanted to do was, help people I guess, which is why I started with pre-med, but I wanted to do something with the environment, which is why I finally ended up doing biochemistry.

But I don’t just care about the environment in terms of my classes. A lot of the way that I care, that I try to help, can be more… political. It stems from fighting for the environment, and that’s more important now than ever.  Here at college, you can participate in a community of people that want to get involved politically: joining protests, arguing in debates. I’ve talked to our senators and representatives. It’s especially easy to participate here, since MSU is in the capital. It just makes it seem more likely that you can make a difference by being politically active.

I’m planning to go to grad school, to get a dual degree in, hopefully, global environmental health and public policy. Then I’m thinking of going on to law school after my master’s to become an environmental justice lawyer, so maybe someday working for groups like Earth’s Justice or International Resource Defense Council. For me it’s issues like the Flint water crisis, or like even just, flooding on the coastlines, ag pollution destroying people’s lives, the amount of people in the world who are affected by CAFOs which means concentrated animal feeding operations. Minority communities and people with a lower income are more negatively affected by these issues and it’s just absolutely insane.

I’m worried because I think our world is facing a lot of challenging issues, especially involving the environment. Climate change is obviously always on my mind. I personally think that this generation and this time period is definitely going down in history, so it’s interesting to be part of the fight. It’s such an important fight in my opinion, because now it’s an issue much more at the forefront. I’m excited to be able to help as much as I can. Helping the environment helps the public, so it’s a nice little combo in my opinion. The world is gonna need people like me fighting for it in the near future. I get to help the planet and I get to help people at the same time.

That’s probably the biggest thing for me: I always wanted to help people, and I feel like MSU has really prepared me to do that in a specific way that will make a real difference.  I feel like I really know how to do that now, and I want to do it here, in Michigan. I notice that a lot of people leave the state …kind of like jumping ship. And while I originally felt this way, thinking I would apply out of state for grad school, my thought process now is less about going somewhere that’s already great, and more about working to make the place I’m at great. I think that what I really want to do is stay here and help keep Michigan beautiful, and by doing that, maybe convince others to stay here as well.

So basically,  I’m really glad that scholarship came through!


This story originally appeared in Facing College: Diverse Student Voices, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.

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