Spartans Taking Care and Connecting

By Jaimie Hutchison, MA, LPC and Spartan contributors

“Humans are among the most social species on the planet, with brains uniquely adapted for living in large groups. Feeling socially connected increases happiness and health, whereas feeling disconnected is depressing and unhealthy.” Epley, N., & Schroeder, J. (2014). Mistakenly Seeking Solitude. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(5), 1980–1999. 

With so much change to adapt to and so many new things on our plate, it is important to remember that we are worth investing in. Taking care of ourselves and staying connected to others is crucial as we navigate the winter months and our new unique set of circumstances at work and at home.

In true Spartan spirit, here are some ways your fellow Spartans are investing in themselves and staying connected with others.

You are not alone. 

President Stanley


Staying active is very important to me and my wellbeing. I really enjoy playing tennis, now with a mask on, and try to play two or three times a week. I also like to play online games with my family. Since we’re not all in East Lansing we FaceTime while playing, it’s a fun way to spend time together and still enjoy some family-friendly competition.

Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.

Woodruff Spartan office


It has been quite a first semester for this new Spartan.  I enjoy sitting on my sofa thinking about all the great new MSU friends and colleagues who have made this transition so pleasant.

Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D. Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, MSU Foundation Professor

Melissa Woo


Now that the weather has gotten colder, my husband and I have put our bicycles on trainer stands. I try to keep the noon hour clear on my calendar so that my husband and I can use that time for indoor cycling. It gives us a chance to touch base with each other in the middle of the day, and we both get exercise. The great thing about virtual meetings is that it’s tougher for others to notice that I’ve just finished exercising than if we are meeting in person!

Melissa Woo, PhD, Executive Vice President for Administration & Chief Information Officer, Michigan State University, President, Michigan State University Foundation

Jabbar BennettI am a strong advocate for self-care and have begun to invest even more in my own well-being in recent months. Multiple national crises continue to disrupt our daily lives and for some, upend a sense of safety, stability and hope. During these challenging times I have leaned more heavily on my faith, family and friends, and focus on practicing holistic well-being. This summer and fall I completed at least one 20-mile bike ride each week to supplement my aerobic workouts. Though physically exhausting, biking allowed me to meditate, relax, and have fun all at the same time!

Jabbar Bennett, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives, Professor of Medicine, College of Human Medicine

Jennifer McManusI make myself walk outside at least once a day, no matter what the weather is!  I use that time to make a phone call to my mom or I reach out to a friend.  I have belonged to Jazzercise for close to 40 years and instead of going to in person class I do the virtual classes five- six days a week and keep connected with my fellow Jazzerciser friends through a community Facebook page. I supervise an awesome staff who are all working remotely.  We meet at least once a day on Teams for our Daily Touchpoint meeting and share our accomplishments and problems encountered during the day and enjoy a few laughs.  The daily touchpoint meeting has kept us connected as a team and accountable.

Jennifer McManus, MSA, CHRS, Human Resources Manager, Infrastructure Planning and Facilities 

Monica Ramirez-MontagutI love to travel and am a very social person so working from home and not going out, at all, is hard for me. Thankfully, I have a demanding Weiner/Doxie dog, one of those with short legs and a temper. Her name is Cookie. She demands to be taken out every two hours so makes me get up and get away from my computer and walk around the block. On those short walks I get to see other neighbors walking their dogs and briefly chat from afar; those short and sweet interactions make a difference in my day.

Since COVID started, I have an ongoing scheduled Zoom call with my Mom and my siblings. We all live in different cities and countries. Before COVID we seldom called each other or once a year or six months if something was up. These weekly calls ground me and make me feel less alone.

On the weekends, I watch (without guilt) a lot of series from Masterpiece theatre; I recently discovered Walter Presents (a UK TV network) that produces a ton of murder mysteries series. I love the ones based in the Nordic countries and in super interesting real locations. They are super slow paced so they calm me down.

Like everyone else, I re-discovered the fun in cooking and baking. So, I better re-discover the love for yoga and other sports after this pandemic is under control!

Mónica Ramírez-Montagut, Director MSU Broad Museum

Stratton LeeHaving new experiences with familiar and unfamiliar places and people is essential. By decreasing screen time, I’ve increased ME time. I have enjoyed rediscovering and reinventing things I appreciate; walking, engaging with loved ones, and committing to things that bring me joy. For as long as I can, I walk as far as I can, taking note of the scenery, the people, and how I feel.  I pulled out all the old exercise equipment and have committed to 5 minutes of something. Elliptical, balance board, elastic bands, walking… 5-minutes is more than what I was doing, and an excellent start to doing something new.  I use House Party and Zoom to catch up with friends and family, investing in people I value and who value me. While streaming services have been helpful, I prefer being active, so I visit new places and intentionally drive new paths. A two-hour trip to the beach, a 15-minute drive in a neighborhood I’ve never been in, helps keep things fresh and exciting. I’ve committed myself to get lost in my city at least once a month to see what I find. I joined online groups that keep me updated on new businesses and activities in the city.

Stratton C. Lee III, MA, Assistant Director for Undergraduate Programs, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Mark LargentVery intentionally expressing gratitude to my family, friends, and colleagues has provided remarkable amounts of satisfaction and peace for me, especially during the pandemic.  I’ve looked to colleagues like Vennie Gore and Chris Long, both of whom are especially good at expressing gratitude.  Their examples, and the examples of the many people at MSU who are committed to helping the university fulfill its missions, has uplifted me in some very difficult times lately.

Mark Largent, Ph.D., Associate Provost of Undergraduate Education, Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Professor, Department of History

Cheryl SiskI try to get in a daily walk with my dog Stella (aka Crazy Pants).  She has been my co-worker since March, and it does us both a world of good to get outside after a full day of Zoom meetings. And thanks to the magic of Zoom, I am seeing and connecting with my extended family much more regularly, which makes me very happy!  Finally, two of my musical heroes are accordionists Flaco Jimenez and the late Myron Floren (google The Lawrence Welk Show), and I have been taking accordion lessons. Practicing the accordion has become a type of meditation for me and music (even my bad playing) is good for the soul! 

Cheryl Sisk, Ph.D., University Distinguished Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology, Associate Dean for Faculty Development, College of Natural Science

Anissa L EddieWe typically get pizza and have a family movie night every Friday. I read a non-school related book before bed most nights. I see my therapist virtually at least once a month. I watch lighthearted shows when I need to escape for a bit, and we set up a home gym where I exercise approximately 5 times per week for a half hour.

Anissa L. Eddie, MSW, Doctoral Student, Child Development
Dept. of Human Development and Family Studies

Guillermo FloresPutting time into passion projects has been self-care for me. Diving into social media and having fun with it has been a joy connecting with people all over the world. I use it as a tool to learn about others and create friendships. I have created my own Instagram Talk Show where I speak with a variety of guests and have used this time alone to find peace in productivity. Also, being a young professional in the area, I have been volunteering with Downtown Lansing Inc. to showcase the great things going on in Lansing and all of the local restaurants! Learn more about me here.

Guillermo Flores (he/him/his) Associate Director for Fraternity & Sorority Life, Division of Student Affairs & Services

Chris LongDaily practices of mindfulness and walking meetings are the two main ways I have tried to maintain balance, perspective, and well-being during the pandemic. Meditation practice each morning reminds me to remain focused on the present moment in my encounters with people throughout the day, and my daily practice of writing provides important opportunities for me to reflect on how well I am living up to my own core values. Whenever possible, I try to schedule walking virtual meetings. As my colleagues know, I have long enjoyed walking meetings on campus, and now during this intense period of uncertainty and social distancing, I have found virtual walking meetings vital for my mental and physical well-being.

Christopher Long, PhD, Dean, College of Arts and Letters

Karen CorleyI wake up every day with a smile on my face and before I pray, I spend a few minutes of the day thinking about what I am grateful for.  This can range from my family, friends, purpose, colleagues, our leaders, to my eyes, lungs, and heart.  The more specific I am the more powerful I feel.  I have used this time to be kind, patience, reflective and intentionally increase my focused on self-care activities such as walking workouts, massages, calling family and friends, listening to gospel and jazz music, baking, reading and spending time with my daughters and granddaughter.  Finally, I also keep in touch with several of my elderly friends by calling them, delivering meals (masks and social distance) to their doorsteps, or having their groceries delivered when needed. Taking one day at a time, trusting God, and focusing on Faith, Hope and Love.

Karen Corley, Senior Associate Director, Residence Education and Housing Services, Division of Residential and Hospitality Services

Kristi ColemanI make it a priority each day to go outside, breathe the fresh air, and appreciate nature. I enjoy taking walks and riding my bike. I also like to intentionally step away from electronics by reading printed books, playing board games with family members, and baking sweet treats. To help stay connected with extended family and friends, I enjoy weekly phone calls, participating in uplifting group chats, and sharing photos. Finally, I try to keep a positive mental attitude by using reframing while discussing and reflecting on work, family, and overall life during this pandemic. By a shift in perspective, I can go from feeling overwhelmed, to focusing on the many things that I can be grateful for, lessons learned, and the many interesting stories we are collecting to tell future generations.  

Kristi Coleman MA, Director of Network Partnerships and Career Education, Career Services Network

Vennie GoreMy time with my spouse is important for me to stay balanced and cared for. Family is important too; with my father, stepmother, sister and brother living in South Carolina, and daughter living on the west coast, I try to stay in frequent conversation. I have been active all of my life. I work-out five times a week which includes cycling and yoga. My spiritual health is key to my sense of being, and I really enjoy reading as well…. This is what keeps me centered in these unusual times.

Venni Gore, Senior Vice President for Residential and Hospitality Services and Auxiliary Enterprises

Deborah JohnsonI love Zumba and was thrilled to rediscover the virtual instructors from the world online. I am always smiling doing the routines which are musically Latin, Caribbean and R&B, pure joy! Contact with family and friends has been so important, zoom, video calling and echo show technology have aided me in keeping them close and laughing.  Finally, I am enjoying guided meditation and breathing, also available online, great for relaxing a racing mind.

Deborah J. Johnson, Ph.D., Director, Diversity Research Network (DRN), Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives

Wayne HutchisonI go on a walk or a run every day with my dog, Leia. It is a great break from Zoom, and she never lets me forget to go. I usually go at lunch and then again in the late evening. I also listen to music or a podcast while we walk or run. To connect, I have a group text with my military friends across the country so that we can stay in touch with one another about sports, current events, and our families. We also make each other laugh a lot. Just that little bit of joy and connection is impactful. 

Wayne Hutchison, Ph.D., Managing Director, Full-Time MBA Program, Broad College of Business

Jaleah RuthledgeSince starting graduate school, I've had to creatively think of ways to practice self-care and stay on top of school. The current pandemic has further amplified my need to ensure that I am taking care of myself in holistic ways. Each day I do some type of physical exercise, whether that's walking, running, dancing or lifting weights. I've also found that being intentional about connecting with family and friends back home also brings me an overwhelming sense of peace. Lastly, cooking gives me a time to disconnect from everything and just be present in the moment.

Jaleah Rutledge, M.A., PhD. Student, Ecological-Community Psychology, Graduate Assistant, Diversity Research Network, President of the Black Graduate Student Association

Laurie VanEgerenAfter a day of Zooming and concentrated thinking, I look to solitary activities to recharge. Less travel has meant time for new projects like adopting three cats and digging up all the grass in the yard to create a perennial garden. Even now, aided by a headlamp and warm clothes, I work in the garden every evening followed by cross-stitch and the company of my daughter. Saturday evenings are always virtual gatherings with friends. It’s an excellent balance.

Laurie Van Egeren, Ph.D., Interim Associate Director for University Outreach and Engagement   

Sanjay GuptaSpending time with my family has always been important to me and a great way to relax. A big bonus of the pandemic was having our millennial daughter work from our home in Okemos for nearly six months that allowed us to do many things together, including long walks, deep conversations, and watching documentaries. I have also been assisting my wife in experimenting with fermented concoctions such as kombucha, kefir, kvas. Doing something new and different is exciting and doing it together with family is special.

Sanjay Gupta, Ph.D., The Eli & Edythe L. Broad Dean, Broad College of Business 

Jaimie HutchisonWednesday night is my favorite night of the week. I attend my virtual women’s chorus meeting, Sistrum. While singing, I have to pay attention to lyrics, pitch, tone, phrasing, feeling, pronounciation, timing, and breathing. It grounds me. It is two hours of not thinking about anything but the music. The music is chosen with a peace and justice mission in mind. The joy of singing powerful music reduces my stress and allows me to contribute to something larger than myself. To connect with others, I enjoy leading virtual Girl Scout meetings. I have 11 girls in my troop who are 14-15 years old.  We play trivia, create crafts together for local senior citizens, and play games. I may enjoy the play-doh guess-the-sculpture game more than they do. Really, get some play-doh. 

Jaimie Hutchison MA, LPC, Deputy Director, MSU WorkLife Office