Desire Paths: Launching the Envision Green Partnership

Today, Provost Welch and I had the honor to officially launch our Envision Green partnership with Michigan State University. I wish to thank the many LCC team members who worked to bring this agreement into reality. I was asked to provide some remarks during the press conference; they are reprinted below. Our amazing transfer student Sarah Day and I also had a chance to appear on the MSU Today podcast to discuss the partnership.

Thank you, President Stanley. I’d also like to thank Provost Woodruff, Provost Welch, and our student Sarah Day.

To say we at Lansing Community College are excited about Envision Green would be an understatement. As Dr. Stanley said, the intent of this agreement is to make the transition from LCC to MSU as seamless as possible. Greatly expanding our partnership with MSU allows us to continue to provide our students with the high-quality educational and life experiences they deserve.

Envision Green is a win-win for students, for higher education, and our local community.

Working together to build Lansing’s next generation and keep them here in our community, is an important way to advance the greater Lansing region.

As we sign this agreement, I want to point out some interesting parallels between our two institutions. MSU was founded in the 1850s as a land grant institution before that was even a thing. Land grant colleges and universities were established through the Morrill Act in 1862. LCC was founded in the 1950s as a community college before that was a thing in Michigan: The Michigan Community College Act was passed in 1966. Both of our institutions were ahead of the curve. We both have Strong missions of access, equity, and student success.

At LCC, we have partnerships with many colleges and universities. But in full disclosure: I have very strong personal ties to Michigan State. My son Owen is a freshman at MSU, and he’s a fourth-generation Spartan. All three of my degrees are from MSU; my wife Kathryn has 2 degrees from MSU; both of our fathers graduated from MSU; even my grandfather graduated from Michigan State College in the 1930s.

But that’s not really why Envision Green is personal for me. The relationship between MSU and LCC launched my career.

While working on my MA in English literature, I visited an LCC classroom, and that visit changed my life. I am very grateful that the English department at MSU and the English department here at LCC set up a teaching internship for me; I taught freshman composition here as an MSU student. And I would not have landed my first full-time professor job without that experience.

A strong informal relationship has existed between LCC and MSU for a long time, and we are working to formalize it to create more seamless, equitable pathways for students to travel along.

There’s an old adage at colleges and universities about how campus planners decide where to put the sidewalks. The story goes that they wait to put the sidewalks in until students wear pathways in the grass between buildings. Urban planners have a name for these trails. They are called “desire paths” and it’s a key concept in urban planning, intuitive design, and the wisdom of crowds. In fact, the Michigan State University campus is kind of famous for using this desire path strategy.

We know that generations of Spartans have started here at LCC and have worn a path to MSU.

My own father-in-law Mike did it in the 1950s. He graduated from high school here in Lansing in 1958; no one in his family had gone to college. He started at the then-brand-new Lansing Community College as one of our first students, then transferred to Michigan State where he earned a degree in Packaging, one of the first graduates of that top-ranked program.

My father-in-law isn’t the only one. Thousands of LCC students have envisioned themselves on a path to MSU for a long time. And we will hear from Sarah Day, one of those great students in a minute.

So what we’re doing is working to formalize a journey that students have been taking for decades by making the details easier and more comprehensive. We are working to remove barriers to student success, and increase degree attainment in the region.

Our two institutions are formalizing these pathways to improve the lives of students and create more equitable educational outcomes. I believe that Envision Green will result in more Mid-Michigan students receiving the support and resources they need as they progress toward a degree.

Now, teams at both of our institutions have been working hard for a long time to build Envision Green, and it’s my pleasure to introduce one of those leaders: our Lansing Community College Provost, Dr. Sally Welch.