Many Worlds Make RCAH

August 31, 2022

By Dylan Miner, Dean
Residential College in the Arts and Humanities

Many Worlds Make RCAH 

Over the past week, we started welcoming a new class of incoming students to the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities (RCAH). This began with the arrival of the inaugural class of ROOT Scholars. Soon after, the rest of the incoming and returning classes arrived in Snyder-Phillips Hall.  

As Dean of the College, I would like to offer a generous and heartfelt welcome to both new and returning Spartans. No matter your class year, most likely much has changed since your last visit to campus. I trust that the change in your lives since the spring has been positive.

Changing Colors 

Soon the leaves, like students embarking on their collegiate journey, will transform and set off from their comfortable connection to the tree’s branch. The cyclical orientation of the seasons means that nothing is static (and we expect to find the leaves returning to the trees next spring), so it will only be a matter of weeks from our first day of classes until the leaves along the banks of the Red Cedar River—and all across campus—transform into vibrant colors: amber, carmine, carnelian russet, and gamboge, among other colorations. Some may subsequently turn lurid or feuille morte.   

As an artist, I often think about colors, like those listed above, and look to the beauty of the natural world for inspiration. As an activist, I recognize that it is our shared responsibility to protect the natural world, including our beloved Great Lakes, which contain nearly one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water. The seasonal change to our world is one that, as humans, we know will happen, even if climate change may ultimately shift when it happens. 

In RCAH, we engage with complex questions and consider the fundamental role the arts and humanities perform in our collective need to address climate change (and other complex societal problems). It is for these reasons, among others, that RCAH will be hiring an 1855 Professor in Arts and Climate Justice this year. This new professor will begin at MSU in Fall 2023, as we continue to amplify the role of the College in making MSU a global leader in arts and social justice.

Many Worlds 

This month—as students return to East Lansing from around the state and around the world—we are reminded that we jointly inhabit many distinct, yet overlapping, worlds. The University and surrounding community comprise a complex ecosystem that welcomed nearly 10,000 new students who, this week, will meet with their professors and instructors for the first time. Many of them will make new friends and rekindle old relationships. In RCAH this week, students will start to build comradeship with new folx and affection for unfamiliar ideas.  

At the core of an RCAH education is—in the words of the Zapatistas, a collective of Indigenous folx living in Mexico’s Lacandon Jungle—the recognition that “many worlds make us” and that “many worlds are made for us.” As scholars, artists, activists, and educators, the RCAH community understands the power embedded within an engaged—and engaging—undergraduate education.  

Further building upon the words of the Zapatistas, we understand that RCAH is the college within Michigan State University “where all communities and languages fit, where all steps may walk, [and] where all may have laughter.” RCAH is an inclusive and accessible community that—to borrow from our recently completed strategic plan—employs “socially engaged arts and humanities to seed change, build community, create inclusive futures, foster radical reciprocity, and imagine possibilities for a better world.” 

Whether you’re returning to campus, or you’re a high school student thinking about college, I hope that you find RCAH to be a college where “many worlds are made.”  

Some of these worlds you will bring with you. Others we must make together. That is a central component of our shared responsibility to each other and to those who will come after us.  

Many worlds make RCAH and we, collectively, make RCAH for everyone.  

Dylan AT Miner, Ph.D.
Dean and Professor 
Residential College in the Arts and Humanities 
Michigan State University