October 7, 2016 11:30:57 AM
I recently spoke to the Day One Leadership class on the MSU campus. While I hope that there was some mutual benefit to the morning, I know that I gained a real appreciation for the program these kids have chosen and for their recognition of something that I didn't see until I was so much older: the value and personal satisfaction of citizenship, leadership and community service.
Since 2007 MSU has offered this option to freshmen. Their mission statement or credo is: Do Right; Do Good and Do Well. Simple concepts and words for us all to aspire to live by no matter our age.
I have spoken to a couple of people recently who mused a wish for such an opportunity when they were in college. I'd like to think that I would have taken advantage of it, but I was a late bloomer. It took being in the Navy for me to understand the significance of participating in something more important than myself. I was much more focused on horses and airplanes.
The class was a Friday morning at 0800 and it appeared as though most of the 200+ were in attendance. That in and of itself was admirable. I can recall trying to rationalize getting out of my 0800 Friday econ class, which was mandatory. This class is an elective, which jumps them up another notch in my estimation.
Dr. Cade Smith is the Assistant Dean and Director of Student Leadership and Community Engagement who oversees the program. I watched closely as he opened the class. Since I hadn't spoken to a group of students in quite a while I wanted to get a sense of their engagement. He began the class by informing them of the status of their class requirements and upcoming activities following that with a very generous introduction for me.
Students used to be a captive audience. Once they were there you had them for about 50 minutes except these days you don't. I surmise that you have to be particularly adept at varying tone and location to keep the attention of this generation. They are much more focused on their cellphones for texting or Internet access than anything from a professor. Dr. Smith was in constant motion and from what I could tell he succeeded in holding their attention.
There is so much talk about the differences in generations. Baby Boomers, Gen X's and Millennials and now this group of freshmen are in what is being called Generation Z, whatever that means. Things important to people vary with age but leadership and citizenship and excellence can and should transcend the ages.
If you want to feel good about our future, this is the group for you. There is doubtless potential in everyone, but this particular program is developing a group of young people who already have the self awareness to maximize their talents. Even more importantly they are ready to share themselves and their talents with us as volunteers.
The program offers some smart options such as living together in a dorm. Though not required, it is a great opportunity for freshmen to experience a new community at a time when they have lost proximity to their family structure.
The support that this provides should be a valuable resource as they transition to responsible adulthood. The influence of a peer group focused on the goals of the Day One program can only strengthen the individual who is perhaps occasionally adrift in a new environment.
The other exciting piece of this program is the commitment of multiple Day One teams to local organizations. Starkville and the surrounding area are the beneficiaries of this extraordinary requirement for the team-based program to inculcate the value of volunteering at an early age.
Examples of just a few of the local recipients receiving the time and talents of Day One students are the Oktibbeha County Humane Society, the Heritage Museum, Habitat for Humanity, Palmer Home and T.K. Martin Center.
From the students in the Day One programs to the MSU Extension Center to the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to the Maroon Volunteer Center there are MSU purveyors of excellence and leadership that Starkville should acknowledge and nourish.
When MSU bleeds maroon most likely it is Starkville getting the life-affirming transfusion.
Lynn Spruill, a former commercial airline pilot, elected official and city administrator owns and manages Spruill Property Management in Starkville. Her email address is [email protected]