For one week of the summer, Michigan State University and the halls of the Eli Broad College of Business are full of learners both younger and much older than typical college students.


Tyler and Dan Mathews

Tyler and Dan Mathews at Grandparents University 2014.

Grandparents University brings together alumni and their grandchildren (ages 8–12) for a three-day educational experience in which they live in a residence hall, attend classes, and enjoy exploring campus together. The program has grown considerably since its beginnings in 2006, from 400 participants in the first year to 1,050 for 2014’s program, held June 24–26.

Dan Mathews (BA Hospitality Business ’66) explains that he brings his grandchildren to Grandparents University because he loves to be with them. “It’s a special time to have three to four days with just the grandkids,” he says. “It’s a totally different experience than when they’re with their parents. We get to know each other better.”

Mathews has been bringing his grandchildren for seven of the program’s nine years. This introduction to Spartan life has included experiences such as making pizza in the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation Culinary Business Learning Lab, diving off the three-meter board in the IM, putting a hand inside a cow’s stomach, meeting former Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins in Spartan Stadium, playing miniature golf on the Holmes Hall lawn, climbing the Rock, learning about MSU landmarks through a scavenger hunt, and meeting famous Spartans such as Zeke the Wonder Dog, Sparty, the MSU Cheerleading/Dance Team, and President Lou Anna K. Simon.

“I’ve learned about things that I didn’t know about, like the [Michigan 4-H] Children’s Gardens,” notes Mathews.

To facilitate this learning, faculty across the university volunteer their time for the week to teach classes related to their expertise.

Crystal Farh, assistant professor of management and a former seventh-grade science teacher, leads GPU’s No Yolk Construction: An Exercise in Creativity. “Ten-year-olds dive headlong into a creative project—they are so fearless, it’s inspiring!” she says. “My students learn about why creativity can be a driver of competitive advantage in organizations. Then, they exercise their own creativity by designing a device to keep a raw egg intact during a 10-foot drop off a Broad College staircase. The key takeaway is that great ideas are born out of many ideas that are tested and refined.”

Other Broad College faculty led programs on culinary hospitality, entrepreneurship, finance, international business, and supply chain management.

“MSU’s supply chain management program is one of the best in the country, but many people don’t know what the field is all about,” says Judy Whipple, associate professor of supply chain management and instructor for GPU’s Just-in-Time. “Students get a sense of what is behind making and delivering the products and services they use every day. Quite often, they chose the class because a family member works in supply chain management. At the end of the session, it is great to hear them say, ‘Wow! Now I know what my relative does. How exciting!’”

“The faculty are phenomenal,” says Mathews. “They’re often full professors who do it because they love the subject matter.”

His grandchildren concur. Twelve-year-old Tyler Mathews notes their friendliness. His sister Brooke Mathews, age 10, agrees. “They always talk to you and help you. They make you feel like college students,” she says.

And feeling like a college student leads to steps to become one, says Stephanie Mathews (BA Hotel & Restaurant Management ’94), Brooke and Tyler’s mother. “They’re more driven to go to college. When we talk about studying, working toward goals – they have a picture of what that’s like.”

For Tyler and Brooke, that picture is full of green and white.

A photo gallery from the event is available on the Broad College Facebook page, or watch a video on YouTube where students of the day learn about entrepreneurship.