Allison Steffen will be one of the first three students to graduate from the College of Arts & Letters’ Citizen Scholars program, which launched in the fall 2016 to help prepare the next generation of diverse, high achieving, and engaged citizen leaders.
“As one of the first students to have completed the program, I think the members of my class were the experiments for the best methods of professional networking, global leadership, research, creative activity, civic engagement, and how to effectively achieve those skills,” said Steffen, who will graduate Sunday, May 5, with a B.A. in Apparel and Textile Design and a minor in Graphic Design. “I feel like I have watched the Citizen Scholars program grow and change into a successful community of people who care about making a difference. My biggest take-away from having completed the program is to be engaged; be engaged in your communities and with your peers and mentors.”
As a collaboration between all departments within the College of Arts & Letters, the Citizen Scholars program aims to help students identify and achieve their goals while preparing them for meaningful careers and leadership roles. Students in the program gain experience in high-impact learning environments such as study abroad, study away, internships, service learning in the community, and civic interactions.
My biggest take-away from having completed the program is to be engaged; be engaged in your communities and with your peers and mentors.
“I was initially drawn to the Citizen Scholars program my freshman year because I knew it was a community of people who all want to make a difference and an impact on MSU and beyond,” Steffen said. “The program allowed me to make connections with faculty and other students that I did not know were possible. It also enhanced my college career by pushing me to be involved socially within the community of MSU and the greater Lansing area. Citizen Scholars made my college experience more than just doing projects and homework.”
An experience from the program that stands out to Steffen the most was her creation of a public art project with Sandra Logan, Associate Professor and Director of the Citizen Scholars program, and fellow Citizen Scholar Isabel Humphrey-Phillips. This woven art project on a fence in East Lansing’s Valley Court Park, called Reweaving Our Social Fabric, was done in honor of sexual assault awareness month.
“The project allowed me to work and learn from Associate Professor Sandra Logan as well as combine my interests of textiles and social justice,” Steffen said.
For completing the Citizen Scholars program, students are awarded $5,000 to be used for study abroad, study away, undergraduate research, internships, or other enrichment opportunities. Steffen used her funding for an internship at Adrianna Papell, a clothing company in New York City.
Citizen Scholars made my college experience more than just doing projects and homework.
“Working for that company was such a rewarding experience. I learned so many life and job-related skills,” Steffen said. “The Citizen Scholars program allowed me to live in a fashion capital of the U.S. and have experience working in the job field that I am passionate about. My major and the program work well together, because to make it in the fashion industry, you need connections, and one of the pillars of the Citizen Scholars program is professional networking.”
Steffen currently is applying for jobs in the fashion industry and has had interviews in various places around the country.
“I hope to eventually design for a sustainable clothing company,” she said. “The fashion industry is one of the worst industries for the environment, but the Citizen Scholars program has given me the tools and skills to make connections and make changes, and I am hoping to use these skills to promote change within the industry.”
Steffen encourages anyone to join who is considering the Citizen Scholars program.
“My first college class ever was a required Citizen Scholars course, and in it, I made my very first college friend and one of my best friends today,” she said. “If anything, the Citizen Scholars program puts you in touch with like-minded people who may become your best friends.”