AAs the eighth oldest institution for higher learning in the United States, Rutgers is celebrating its 250th anniversary on November 10, 2016. To celebrate this monumental milestone, I Am Rutgers will be featuring Rutgers’ most involved and accomplished students in a new series, “250 for 250.” This year-long series will serve as a reflection of Rutgers’ diverse student body and status as a premier national research university.
Video by Katie Miller
I think we can all agree that public speaking isn’t the easiest thing in the world. It’s hard to get up in front of people, be yourself and say what you need to say. Let’s take that a step further and acknowledge the adrenaline-inducing, stress bucket you could potentially turn into if you had to get up on stage and read some of your most intimate poetry entries. Well, if you’re Michael Anderson, this is something you excel at. As the microphone coordinator for Verbal Mayhem, Rutgers’ number one open mic, Michael has performed at over 100 shows since his first year.
Verbal Mayhem is a poetry collective that sponsors the slam poetry team and provides a space for Rutgers students and the New Brunswick community to perform and share their work.
It’s really amazing. It’s just a gathering of a diverse group of people that come together every single Wednesday night to recite poetry that we’ve written beforehand, but it’s not just poetry, it’s comedy, it’s music, it’s dance if somebody wants to dance. I’m the open mic coordinator, so I’m the host.”
Along with being the host for Verbal Mayhem, Michael’s involvement at Rutgers is extensive, including working at RVision and the Werblin Recreation Center. Michael is a junior with a Journalism and Media Studies major and a double minor in Africana Studies and Digital Communication, Information, and Media. He also works as a Scarlet Ambassador, hosting tours for prospective students and their families. For Michael, the best part about being a tour guide is getting people excited for their futures.
I like to tell them, whatever college they come to, they’re coming into the most amazing time in their lives. Everyone’s listening to us on social media, the news is dictated by what we young people say now. So you have all that power, but what if you have nothing to say? College is where you find out what you have to say. It’s a lot of responsibility too.”
Since he is so heavily accomplished and involved, it seems like it would be difficult to single out an achievement and consider it the biggest one. However, Michael chooses to focus on the transformative experience that came with being an orientation leader. Being a successful orientation leader vastly changed the way Michael views problems, or as he puts them, “future solutions in the making.” He also feels that the experience as a whole cultivated the person he is today to the extent that he is considering a career in student affairs following graduation.
After interviewing Michael it became clear that his ultimate passions and inspirations revolve around people and altering their perspectives.
I’m definitely passionate about poetry, but it’s not the poetry. I guess behind the poetry is the idea of transforming the way people look at things. I always tell people one of my favorite authors is Malcolm Gladwell. I’ve read all his books. When he writes, it’s really hard to get into because he has this weird way of phrasing things, but once you start to understand what he’s saying, he takes something so simple, something so everyday and something that you thought you knew everything about, and he shows you that you didn’t look at it from all angles. And that’s what I like about journalism because you have the opportunity to show people all the different perspectives. People have a tendency to think that they know who they are at a very young age. For example, people who excel in english are like ‘I’m definitely not a science person,’ but Malcolm Gladwell and people like him, show you how all of it is related. They can show you the beauty and the art in the cold hard science and the cold hard science in the techniques and the rhythms of writing. It’s like a synthesis of disparate things.”
Success almost never comes without challenges. The way we deal with difficult situations often helps us to learn from our mistakes to shape our future mindsets. For Michael, one of the biggest challenges he overcame was failing a linguistics class, a subject that he loves and is passionate about.
The challenge was convincing myself that the letter wasn’t a representation of what I got out of the situation. I learned that you’re the end factor for how you’re going to view something. You are the final judge. You always think, ‘my parents are going to think this and the future grad schools are going think this’ but what do I think of myself?”
It’s important to know what inspires people to be motivated, ambitious and to ultimately be the best people they can be. Generally, recognizing what inspires you leads to more productivity and success.
I’m inspired by other people’s confidence in themselves. Not like a haughty sort of cocky confidence, but like a humble confidence. You know that teacher that you have, maybe every once and a while who is just a genuinely good teacher? And they’re just doing their job, but it affected you and they did it confidently. It’s this confidence and purpose behind what they’re doing that sets them apart from everyone else. I’m really inspired by that.”
Following graduation, Michael’s goals are to inspire and help people, though he is not sure if that will be through student affairs, motivational speaking or journalism.
I would love to be one of those motivational speakers that go to high school and pump people up. If I could get paid to do that, that would be amazing. I’m not even sure how to get to that point. I think you have to have gone through something extraordinary. I don’t think that’s fair though. I think people just living their regular lives is so amazing. Like we’re all here all the time and we all have things to share from just regular things that happen that aren’t necessarily extraordinary. That would be my dream job.”