What is a Spartan?

On December 13, 2010, in Spartanology, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
I am often asked what it is that makes Michigan State University unique. In a world with thousands of excellent institutions of higher education, what is it that sets Spartans apart?

In the 37 years since I first set foot on her campus, I’ve had the opportunity to know many people who have benefited directly or indirectly from the MSU magic. I’ve learned that not everyone who graduates is a true Spartan. But anyone who truly want’s to model the MSU spirit can become one.

Spartans emerge from the most modest of backgrounds and from the most prominent families. We represent every color of the rainbow and every corner of the globe. Our backgrounds are all uniquely ours, but our common connection is a quest for knowledge that can help us improve the world.

A Spartan reads the classics, creates art and studies the fundamental laws of the universe. We may make three point shots, swim faster and run further, but we know that a broad educational experience is a greater predictor of success than a one dimensional focus.

Spartans have known pain, disappointment and struggle. But we realize that only the hottest fire refines our resolve and defines our character. We make mistakes and suffer setbacks. But Spartans learn from experience, get up when we stumble, and are ultimately victorious in any endeavor we undertake.

Spartans achieve, but remain humble. The greatest among us are defined, not by our position, but by our kindness, caring and humility

Spartans are catalysts for change. We seek clean, sustainable energy, just as we sought and created the agriculture that is feeding the world. We participate in the political process and welcome the opportunity to be servant-leaders.

Spartans are often passionate. We may sometimes protest in the intense tradition of our ancestors. In the end, we are collaborative. We strive for consensus and ultimately find solutions that benefit the greater good.

A Spartan believes that where we came from can give us perspective, but it’s where we are going that makes all the difference.

A Spartan welcomes individuality. We know that if we discuss and debate from a place of diversity we are more likely to make the right decisions when we act as one.

Spartans have open minds and open hearts. We seek to understand, are slow to judge and quick to assist.

The philanthropic spirit of MSU’s World Grant Mission is deeply imbedded in who we are. Spartans are among the first to offer a hand to those in need. And we devote our time, talent and treasure to create a margin of excellence that ensures, enriches and sustains our beloved Institution for future generations.

A Spartan always helps other Spartans, anytime, anywhere. The MSU bond transcends status, achievement and experience. It is a half million individual strands, woven tightly together into an unbreakable force that educates, inspires and enlightens everything it touches.

A Spartan never stops learning. We believe that knowledge is more than just power. It’s the invisible fuel that nourishes our psyche, can solve any problem and leads to peace and understanding.

A Spartan dreams of the future. But we do more than just dream about it. We actively participate in creating it.

Spartans are all these things and more. Our dedication to the greater good is unmatched. Our determination is unbroken. Our compassion is legendary. And our common connection with Michigan State University sustains and strengthens us in everything we do.

We are proud, hardworking, inclusive, practical, bold, genuine, empowering and principled.

We are Spartans.

Scott Westerman is Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations and Executive Director of the Michigan State University Alumni Association.


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