Looking for a quiet, cozy spot to study in the Business College Complex? The Broad College’s Multicultural Business Programs Level Up Academic Center, on the second floor of the Eppley Center, is the place to be! Students can now enjoy the warm, welcoming space while admiring creative wall art that celebrates diversity and inclusion.
Over the summer, MBP commissioned a Lansing-based artist to paint murals on two of the study lounge walls, and the space now looks more colorful than ever. Painted by visual artist Mila Lynn, the murals are mosaics of faces of people with different identities to represent the diverse student body involved in MBP.
The idea to bring artwork into the academic space came from MBP’s commitment to amplifying the voices of minoritized students, sharing their campus experiences and helping them create meaningful and empowering connections.
“We put our students front and center when designing the Level Up center. It is truly a space for students, which houses our tutoring services and offices for our seven student organizations,” Ed Tillett, director of MBP, said. “This academic space was created for students, so we strive to best tailor it to their needs and wants. Looking at the blank walls in the lounge, I thought to myself, ‘Why not get creative and decorate them with our very own customized, original art?’ And that’s how the idea came to life.”
Diversity is MBP’s greatest asset, and that’s something that Tillett wanted to lean into.
“I want students to feel that they belong here as soon as they walk into the space. After all, our program’s North Star is to cultivate and instill a sense of belonging and inclusivity in our student community,” he said. “The artwork must speak to and for students of all identities. Empowerment is a central theme of the piece, which aligns with the name of the study lounge: ‘Level Up.’ With our unwavering support and advocacy, we are emboldening our students to grow and excel every day — and build a distinguished legacy of successful, empathetic and influential business leaders who positively impact their communities.”
The murals embody this mission and purpose by portraying faces that are gender-neutral and represent a diverse collective of racial, cultural and gender identities.
“Mila’s work is exactly what I was looking for,” Tillett said. “Her art highlights and celebrates minorities with the culmination of both our glories and struggles. In addition, her being a Lansing local made my choice an obvious one.”
“Ed gave me a lot of creative freedom with this exciting project, and I drew from many artistic and real-life inspirations to funnel his message into my art,” Lynn said. “The cartoony art style and vivid colors are my stylistic choice to brighten up the academic space.”
Lynn is an independent artist whose work focuses on inspiring and educating others and pushing minority stories past common narratives with unique symbolism. Beyond MSU, she has recently created a mural on the east side of Grand Rapids, showcasing diversity and unity in the local community.
“I want the murals [at Broad] to remind students that they have an important place in the world and their voices are valued,” she said. “I conceptualized diversity into collages of faces depicting various identities and ethnicities, in hope that students can find themselves in the paintings. Whoever they are or whatever they look like, they belong here at MSU.”
Poetry from a recent Spartan graduate is also a feature of the MBP murals. Hakeem Weatherspoon, nicknamed “The People’s Poet,” is a mutual acquaintance of both Tillett and Lynn and was asked to create encouraging words of affirmation for the pieces.
“Hakeem’s words ingrained an authentic Spartan spirit in the artwork,” Lynn said. “Additionally, I accentuated the underlying message of student empowerment by painting positive words such as unique, powerful, energized etc. in bright yellow to encourage students to chase their dreams and grow into fearless future leaders.”
So far, students have been pleasantly surprised to see the murals in their study lounge.
“We have gotten overwhelmingly positive feedback on the murals. They catch your eyes and make a wonderful addition to our student lounge,” Tillett said. “The name of the study lounge itself, ‘Level Up,’ inspires and challenges us to innovate and better our program every day. With a student-first mindset, our team continues to think out of the box to cater to our students’ needs. We plan to equip the Level Up Academic Center with more technology and tools to further facilitate their learning experience.”
The Broad College’s Multicultural Business Programs guide and support self-identified minoritized students through genuine advocacy, empowerment strategies and initiatives to ensure their success as future business leaders. Aside from the Summer Business Institute and Multicultural Business Success Academy, MBP provides student services such as academic tutoring and supports seven Broad registered student organizations.