A Message to 2020 Graduates

CANR Dean Ron Hendrick offers congratulations to the 2020 class.

CANR Dean Ron Hendrick
CANR Dean Ron Hendrick

Dear Class of 2020,

It wasn’t supposed to end like this.

The sudden switch from learning in the classroom, in the lab and in the field, to learning remotely and online. You and your professors, working to adapt to this new way of doing things literally on a moment’s notice. All while we were away from campus and each other.

Those of you who defended your theses and dissertations did so without your advisory committee and lab- or officemates, at least in the sense that we usually think of people being “present.” 

None of us are on campus to see the spring transformation from gray to green; something we always looked forward to after a typical Michigan winter.

And we won’t be together this weekend at the Breslin Center to celebrate your accomplishments with your friends and families. I look forward to our online celebration in a few weeks, but it just won’t feel the same without being there in-person.

Let’s not pretend otherwise: this is an unsatisfying and unsettling end to your time at MSU, and the four years that many of you and I began together.

My first orientation and convocation coincided with your arrival here as first-year students, and we have experienced many things together since then.   

We’ve experienced some highs and lows together following Spartan athletics these past four years, some on the field and some off. There were other high and lows, as well.

Having experienced the Nassar crisis together, we see the color teal and all it represents in a whole new light.

We’ve watched decrepit old buildings come down along Grand River and Michigan Avenue, as new high-rise apartments went up.

We all know what “FRIB” stands for, even if we don’t all know what a rare isotope beam is.

And now this virus. We’re experiencing it simultaneously, but definitely not together. It’s upended our very existence, and consequently how we will end our time together.

You’re heading out into a world made more uncertain by the COVID19 virus, and I’ll be returning – whether in person or virtually – to a campus still adapting to its impacts.

Our new world is uncertain, but not bleak. It will take time, longer in some areas and more quickly in others, but our world will adapt. Businesses, the health system, the food system, governments, and the rest will recover. But the world will need people like you in order to do so.

Our interior and exterior spaces will need to look and function differently from now on. You’re trained for that. Our food system needs to be made more resilient, from farm to fork and everything in between. You’re trained for that, too.

We’re going to need new bio-based products, and different kinds of packaging for lots of items. You’ll make that happen, because you can.

People will learn and recreate differently than they used to, and you’re going to help them do that. Poor nutrition is exacerbating the virus’ impacts on some communities and people, both urban and rural. The world needs you to help them. And you will.

You’ll do these things and many more because they need to be done. And, because you can. Because being a Spartan means something, and because there is no group of Spartans in more than 75 years who’ve weathered more turmoil, and risen to meet more difficult situations, more often, than you have.

Take what you’ve learned during your time here - in the classroom, from what’s happened on campus and across the globe, and about yourselves - and go do the good things that Spartans do. Go make a positive difference, for yourselves and for others. Go out, and change a world that needs you.

And most of all, Go Green.

Ron Hendrick, Ph.D.
Professor and Dean
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

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