A Transformative Campus

There are twelve entrances to the sprawling campus of Michigan State University. Four of them (Farm Lane, Shaw Lane, Wilson Road, and Service Road) count twice as you can enter from either end, but each is a separate entrance.

Why focus on where we enter campus? Actually, I've been thinking about campus entrances ever since I had the pleasant task of choosing the cover photo for my just released book, MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: THE RISE OF A RESEARCH UNIVERSITY AND THE NEW MILLENNIUM, 1970-2005 (MSU Press). (More about that later.)

Of course, over my 45 years here at MSU, I've driven through every campus entry point many times, and taken note of their initial and partial visual impressions. But, I also searched online for "images of entrances to college campuses,” finding a diverse range of interesting and impressive examples.

Michigan State University has paid close attention to the look and appeal of its campus entrances, too, but, as Dean Long notes in his most recent blog “A Living Place for Education,”

“There is no main gate at Michigan State University. Instead, the campus is designed to be accessible to everyone and from all sides. The place is porous, enriched by the exchange of people, ideas, and experiences that is at the heart of the educational endeavor.”

As a result, our entrances reflect this philosophy. The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum adorns the Farm Lane entrance at Grand River. And the underpasses on Farm Lane to the south feature stately columns, the block ‘S’, and the distinctive, iconic lanterns that for a decade graced the Farm Lane bridge and, later, became part of the center campus. The beautifully landscaped Trowbridge Road entrance features a large brick portal structure marking entry to MSU. But the entrance that interests me most is at Shaw Lane off Hagadorn Road; in large part because of what lies beyond and within.

To be more explicit, on the cover of my history of the modern MSU is an aerial shot featuring the Cyclotron, Wharton Center, the MSU College of Law, and the Broad College of Business complex. Stretching to the west and to the south is the heart of modern MSU with its research, teaching, and treatment facilities in the sciences and in animal and human medicine.

This six-block area contains many of the human and technical resources that make our University a great transformative agent and server of society.

Looking back in time, my framed postwar July 1947 map of the Michigan State University campus shows Shaw Lane to the east ending at the Dairy Barn and the Bull Barn just south of Shaw Hall. So, in what was formerly an exclusively agricultural sector of campus, some of the greatest dreams and plans for Michigan State University have been realized and continue to grow.

That said, I encourage you to drive into campus from Hagadorn Road onto East Shaw/North Shaw to Red Cedar Road, and turn south. Then, turn east onto Wilson Road to Bogue Street, turn south to Woodlot Drive, and east again to Hagadorn.

This short drive encompasses a vital section of campus that was instrumental in seeing a largely agricultural college transform into a modern scientific, artistic, humanistic, medical, and animal research university serving the production of knowledge and the needs of people to realize its full land-grant heritage.