Town and Gown
Town and Gown offers a free opportunity to learn from experts in a wide array of fields in an accessible and interactive format.
Senior Ambassador Program
The Senior Ambassadors Program pairs seniors and students in order to facilitate meaningful conversations and new friendships.
The Senior Ambassadors Program launched in September 2020 as an initiative led by MSU’s AgeAlive and involving a wonderful collaboration with East Lansing's Prime Time Seniors Program, East Lansing’s senior center, and the Social Science Scholars Program, a selective academic initiative at MSU which recruits small cohorts of able and socially conscious students. A shared commitment to enhancing the quality of community life for Greater Lansing seniors led these three organizations come to together. The dedication and professional expertise of AgeAlive and Prime Team was combined with the excellence, passion, and kindness of a remarkable group of MSU undergraduates in order to create the Senior Ambassadors Program’s befriending initiative and the Town & Gown lecture and discussion series. Both are entirely free.
The befriending initiative reflects the fact that seniors and undergraduates stand to gain by forging authentic relationships, currently over Zoom. By enjoying their interactions with these special students, seniors benefit in terms of having another opportunity for simple enjoyment and the kind of regular, meaningful social connection which is known to enhance psychological and physical wellbeing. The students themselves benefit equally from having the chance to make a new friend, from putting their academic commitments and pressures to one side, from gaining advice from a senior with more life experience, and from learning about times quite different from their own. These are win-win, mutually rewarding friendships and we are excited to see the program grow.
Town and Gown is another intergenerational initiative which has been designed for the enjoyment of seniors and students who desire more intellectual engagement. Every week a new speaker, usually an MSU faculty member, presents on their research to an audience via Zoom and then answers questions from participants. Topics have ranged from climate change, the effects of social media and mental health to medieval history, the science of policing, and income disparities in Michigan. We have also enjoyed the company of MSU musicians and the reflections of the CIA’s station chief in Moscow during the 1980s. All of these sessions have been moderated by undergraduates in the Social Science Scholars Program and the Town and Gown now has an enthusiastic local following.
Several people played a key role in creating these fruitful collaborations between university and community. The endeavor has been led by Dr. Clare Luz’s AgeAlive, an organization housed in the College of Osteopathic Medicine which is dedicated to making MSU and East Lansing more age friendly. Lori Strom, who worked before retirement as the Lifespan and Family Services Coordinator in the MSU WorkLife Office, and has served as a vital bridge between MSU and Prime Time. On the community side, Kelly Arndt, Director of the Prime Time Senior Center in the East Lansing Hannah Community Center, and Lisa Richey, Program Manager of Prime Time, have made everything possible: hiring interns, identifying community members who would benefit from the Senior Ambassadors programs, and advising on all aspects of program design. Working under the guidance of Clare, Lori, Kelly and Lisa, the members of the Social Science Scholars Program have done much to realize our ambitions of making East Lansing a more congenial, rewarding and engaging place for seniors. This team includes John Waller and Jenn Arbogast, Director and Coordinator of the Scholars Program respectively, as well as several fantastically intelligent and mature undergraduates who share a deep generosity of spirit: Erykah Benson, Emily Saxon, Haley Nash, Issi John, CJ Sivak, Ren Mueller, Wisdom Henry, Tyler Hoguet, Chris Eyke, Kate Frieden, Stella Weinberg, Shweta Adsul ….