Learning with Lex

Learning with Lex

Learning with Lex: Surviving College Classes During a Pandemic 101

By Lexi McKinney | June 27, 2024

Welcome back to the second edition of Learning with Lex. I am grateful for my avid readers who enjoy hearing about my raw take on all aspects of my college experience. Today’s topic is the most debated area for many students or former students.

I often receive questions about the classes I’ve completed, and honestly, the past two years have been phenomenal. From news editing to in-field reporting, receiving a college degree is just a bonus for completing required classes. However, it was not always this much of a breeze. My first semester of prerequisites was tedious. The courses were formatted like high school classes, and the homework load was unbearable for a student with a job. Most of the time, I was working the night shift to complete a math project or humanities essay, and the lesson I learned then was how the beginning of college was essentially a senior year of high school 2.0.

For the tuition alone, I understand why students are skeptical about choosing college to begin a career. The courses were saturated, and the exams were daunting; I felt like a recluse while trying to maintain all A’s. At this point, taking another required science or math elective was like sitting at the dentist for two hours getting a root canal. Unbearable, and counting down the seconds for it to be over.

If I am being honest, for the price point and time invested, I felt like the beginning of college was expensive, boring, and time-consuming. Most days began to feel like a hassle, and coordinating a proper schedule without classes filling up was nearly impossible. My greatest wish is for requirements to shift from core classes to adult-based life courses.

College students panic while debt is fearless. Understanding how important it is to be frugal with expenses could alter the next decade for young adults. It would also be beneficial to consider a course that teaches students about home improvement, survival skills, how to negotiate salaries at work, etc.

If I understood the concept of loans at 18 years old, could you imagine how differently I would have dispersed my Christmas money, graduation gifts, and additional income? Even saving a thousand dollars would have been a valuable resource with buying textbooks, or having more money to spend while attending school.

Overall, college has prepared me for the workspace, and I have received some of the most valuable knowledge. However, I fully support alternative routes after graduating high school. Whether it be trade school, or taking time to experience entry-level jobs and saving money before deciding, I think any route is productive and resourceful.

I would never say I regret attending college, but just like life, some moments made me doubtful, and while I am happy to earn multiple degrees, take time to map out a plan before throwing yourself in a classroom. Do the extra research, save money, and find the career path that makes you eager to wake up every morning!

America the Beautiful Freshwater Challenge  

America the Beautiful Freshwater Challenge  

Governor Whitmer Header


June 27, 2024

Contact: [email protected]


Gov. Whitmer Accepts Invitation to Join White House Initiative to Conserve and Restore Freshwater Resources: America the Beautiful Freshwater Challenge 

The challenge establishes a national partnership to conserve and restore America’s rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands.


LANSING, Mich. – Today, Governor Whitmer announced that Michigan is joining the inaugural list of over 160 partners participating in the White House’s America the Beautiful Freshwater Challenge. The initiative sets new national goals for wetland, river, and stream reconnection, restoration, and conservation, and calls on states, territories, Tribes, local governments, businesses, and non-governmental organizations to advance their own actions in support of these shared goals.


The Freshwater Challenge complements Governor Whitmer’s ongoing initiatives to protect our Lakes—both Great and small—rebuild Michigan’s water infrastructure, protect access to clean drinking water, and respond to climate change, as outlined in the MI Healthy Climate Plan. The challenge also aligns with many of the initiatives of the Great Lakes St Lawrence Governors and Premieres, a group that the governor chairs.


“We are thrilled to join the Biden-Harris administration’s ‘America the Beautiful Freshwater Challenge,’” said Governor Whitmer. “As home to the Great Lakes, which contain 21% of the world’s fresh surface water, we are committed to protecting our precious natural resources. Water is integral to our economy and our way of life, and we all have a responsibility to protect it for future generations. Since I took office, my administration has worked across the aisle to make record investments in land and water conservation and water infrastructure. The Freshwater Challenge offers us new opportunities to build on our work of protecting our natural resources while expanding economic opportunity. I will work with anyone to protect our water resources. Let’s get it done.”


“Whether it’s reducing pollution, restoring wetlands, or enhancing shorelines, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy is up to the challenge of protecting Michigan’s freshwater resources,” said EGLE Director, Phil Roos. “Michigan’s unmatched water resources literally define our state, giving all Michiganders a unique responsibility to steward them. Under Governor Whitmer’s leadership, Michigan has seen unprecedented investments in water infrastructure, protection, and revitalization projects but there is so much more to do. Michigan’s waters will always face challenges, but the constant among the challenges is Michiganders’ resolve to make a difference through collaboration and innovation.”


Michigan’s unmatched access to freshwater has enabled our state to become a leader in advancing equity, creating good-paying jobs, increasing economic opportunities, and improving quality of life. The challenge reaffirms Michigan’s commitment to protecting freshwater resources at home, across the Great Lakes region, and throughout the country.


Water Investments

Since 2019, the Whitmer-Gilchrist administration has invested more than $4 billion to rebuild and modernize Michigan’s water infrastructure, including removing lead service lines, reducing toxic contaminants like PFAS, and mitigating sewer overflows. The governor has also signed bills that make it easier for communities to access funding for infrastructure projects, ensuring resources go to the communities who need them most.


Recently, the administration made record investments to protect the Great Lakes from pollution and invasive species, revitalize wetlands, protect ground water resources, restore rivers, and more.


The administration has also aggressively leveraged resources for water infrastructure and protection projects thanks to Michigan’s hardworking congressional delegation’s work to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and other federal opportunities like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.


MI Healthy Climate Plan

The MI Healthy Climate Plan (MHCP) is the state’s climate action roadmap that charts a path to a more prosperous, healthy, equitable, carbon-neutral future by 2050 with interim emissions reductions in 2025 and 2030. The MHCP outlines steps to meet the state’s 2030 climate goals. It includes key recommendations around protecting Michigan’s land and water resources, including a promise to protect 30% of Michigan’s land and water by 2030, protect and restore existing wetlands and waterways, create new wetlands—where appropriate—and more.


In recent years, the state has made incredible progress toward the goals of the MHCP. While the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) is responsible for the overall implementation of the plan, work extends across multiple departments. This includes the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) work on the Michigan the Beautiful initiative where DNR is working with diverse partners to conserve, connect, and restore 30 percent of Michigan’s land and water by 2030.


Tuned-In Thursday: The Best Music of 2024 So Far

Tuned-In Thursday: The Best Music of 2024 So Far

This year has brought some really great music so far, from summer bops, to melancholic winter ballads, 2024 has been an incredibly well-rounded year for music so far. The year is halfway done as of next week, and with this (along with every other music blog) I will be counting down the best albums released so far this year.

To qualify for this list, an album would have to have been released this calendar year, as well not be confused with an EP (extended play) or a single. With this, I have gathered ten records that are varied in genre and tone, and generally stand out to me this year. These are not in any particular order.

Arooj Aftab – “Night Rein”

Jazz has not always been my thing, but with Arooj Aftab’s record, “Night Rein” I feel as though my love for jazz is finally surfacing in my year-end lists. “Night Rein” is a contemplative record that sparked not only me writing this list, but it solidified my affinity for indie artists. I put “Night Rein” here on the first spot because I feel as though it has not gotten a ton of love since it has came out. My favorite tracks on the record are “Na Gul” and “Raat Ki Rani.”

Beyoncé – “Cowboy Carter”

Beyoncé’s eighth studio record is genre-defying, groovy, you can dance to it, has a huge country influence, and I really love it. “AMERIICAN REQUIEM” and “II HANDS II HEAVEN” are my favorite tracks on the record and encapsulate the vibe really well: a soulful and heartfelt tribute to country, while also being quite the modern pop masterclass. Beyoncé’s cunning lyricism and ear for the old and new make her a current front-runner for album of the year at the Grammys, and award she has not won yet, but with this record, her goal is closer than ever.

Charli XCX – “Brat”

Brat, to me, is a once in a lifetime pop record. As I stated in my review of it two weeks ago: “’Brat’ by Charli XCX being this good does not make sense…‘Brat’ is confusing as it is liberating…” and I absolutely stand by this sentiment. Charli’s commercial and critical success with this record, (it is currently the number one rated album on the aggregate review site, Metacritic for 2024) is staggering to say the least. She has been on a rise since 2013, with early pop hits, then transitioning to underground electronic-pop fame, and now it seems everything has gone full circle with “Brat.” Charli has made a pop-hit record but stuck to her morals and her friends, no matter how hard it was.

Eunuchs – “Harbour Century”

One of the most blistering and fast-paced rock albums to have come out within the last five years, “Harbour Century” by Australian brutal progressive-rock band Eunuchs (think Black Midi or Mr. Bungle) is definitely a unique record. It juxtaposes crooning and melodic vocals with striking and angular guitar, drum, and saxophone instrumental breaks. Tracks I would recommend out of this one would be “Pat A Dragon” and “Bird Angel Dynasty.”

Cindy Lee – “Diamond Jubilee”

This one is hard to recommend because of just how inaccessible it is. You can only download it off of a GeoCities website, (a place on the internet I’ve never heard of before.) However, once you cross that barrier to entry, you’ll find one of the best kept secrets of 2024. “Diamond Jubilee” is a double-album worth downloading and worth listening to. It is for fans of psychedelic and hypnogogic-pop music (a la Ariel Pink, Flaming Lips or Animal Collective.)

The Lemon Twigs – “A Dream Is All I Know”

The charming Lemon Twigs returned from a pretty successful run in 2023 with their breakout record, “Everything Harmony” and while I personally thought the record was pastiche and lukewarm, lacking any real style and standout lyricism, their 2024 album, “A Dream Is All I Know,” is their best record to date. It is precise, compact and filled with amazing lyrics and incredible sunshine pop. “Ember Days” is one of my favorite songs of the year so far.

Chief Keef – “Almighty So 2”

As stated in my review on a previous edition of Tuned-In Thursday, I think this record is great. It’s bombastic, boastful, but most importantly it is well constructed and put-together. I will end this section with a piece from my review: “Chief Keef is arguably the most comfortable he has ever sounded, no awkward flows, no whack-sounding bars – all precision and all skill. Boastful yet introspective lyrics are what I usually look for on the lyrical side of a modern rap record and Chief Keef effortlessly delivers.” The best tracks on this LP are “Jesus” and “1,2,3.”

Amaro Freitas – “Y’Y”

Brazilian jazz musician and composer Amaro Freitas went on a retreat to an Amazonian basin where he experienced nature and the people who reside within the Amazon. Through this worthwhile experience he invites us in to a lush and beautiful landscape that acts not only as a personal diary of his travels, but a spiritual guide to the self. Freitas’s Bandcamp page write-up puts it best, “While Side A of Y’Y serves as an expression of connection to the earth and to the ancestors, Side B serves as proof of connections between the global Black avant-jazz community.” My favorite track on the record is the last track, “Encantados.”

Martha Skye Murphy – “Um”

“Um” by Martha Skye Murphy (guest vocalist on the infamous “Narrator” by Squid) is an odd egg – not a spoiled one though – just odd. On paper, the ambient and electroacoustic elements should not mix with the pop and rock ones. However, Murphy has created a sentimental and reflective world that tackles subjects such as para-social relationships, existentiality, self-image and the nature of a world constructed by humans. These philosophical musings don’t go over the casual listener’s head, Murphy simply invites the audience in, and gives her worthwhile perspective. Standouts on this one are “IRL,” “Kind,” and “Pick Yourself Up.”

Black Dresses – “Laughingfish”

Black Dresses’ “final” album stands alone as one of their boldest and brashest. It mixes industrial soundscapes with electronic and rock instrumentals. Duo Ada Rook and Devi McCallion have been making music together for over 8 years, but this record seems more like a sincere break-up album. Songs like “Wounded Animal” and “If You Find Me Gone” are not for the faint of heart or for the casual listener, because of this, “Laughingfish” is really hard to recommend, however, if you like bands like Rammstein and Nine Inch Nails, listen to this but proceed with caution. But if this is a true sendoff then it is one hell of one.

Love trails? Take the DNR’s Michigan trails experience survey

Love trails? Take the DNR’s Michigan trails experience survey

DNR banner with link to website

DNR News

Kids running on a trail at Waterloo
June 27, 2024
Contact: Tim Novak, 517-388-8347

Love trails? Take the DNR’s Michigan trails experience survey and share how you explore the outdoors

Online questionnaire remains open through Aug. 1

Michigan is home to more than 13,400 miles of state-designated trails that offer something for everyone – there’s a reason we’re known as The Trails State – and this summer, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources wants to hear what trail visitors have to say about their experiences biking, hiking, track-chair operating, paddling, horseback riding, off-road vehicle riding and snowmobiling these pathways. The 2024 Michigan Trails Experience Survey is open now through Aug. 1.

“We’re excited to be gathering information about how Michigan residents and visitors use and enjoy trails throughout our beautiful state,” said Tim Novak, state trails coordinator with the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division. “It will take just a few minutes of your time and your feedback will help us better understand trail users and how we can help make trail experiences the best they can be.”

The online survey, available at Michigan.gov/DNRTrails, includes questions about the kinds of activities enjoyed on trails, conditions and amenities that make for a great trail experience, frequently visited trail regions in Michigan and more.

“We hope all trail users, from hikers and cyclists to paddlers, horseback riders and motorized trail users, will take this opportunity to let us know about their trail experience,” Novak said.

“Our goal with this survey is to capture a comprehensive picture of how residents and visitors use trails throughout Michigan and what their ideal trail experience looks and feels like. With this information, we’ll be able to better understand the needs and wants of trail users, which in turn will help inform how we can best ensure optimal trail experiences for everyone, however they get outdoors and explore these pathways across the state.”

Survey findings will be analyzed and shared with the Michigan Trails Advisory Council, made up of Michigan residents who advise the director of the DNR and the governor on the creation, development, operation and maintenance of motorized and nonmotorized trails.

The Trails State

Michigan hosts more than 13,400 miles of state-designated trails, including multiuse trails:

  • 4,020 miles of hiking trails.
  • 1,375 miles of rail trails.
  • 4,090 miles of designated ORV and motorcycle trails and routes.
  • 6,165 miles of designated snowmobile trails.
  • 845 miles of equestrian trails.
  • 2,085 miles of biking trails.
  • 635 miles of water trails.
  • 365 miles of groomed cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails.

Note to editors: Accompanying photos are available below for download. Caption information follows.

  • Exploring: A group of kids explore the DTE Energy Foundation Trail at Waterloo Recreation Area in Washtenaw County.
  • Bike ride: A pair of cyclists ride the Iron Belle Trail near Ironwood in Gogebic County.
The value of engaging communities

The value of engaging communities

A veteran project manager highlights the value of engaging communities

On this week’s Talking Michigan Transportation podcast, a conversation with Mohammed Alghurabi, a long-time MDOT senior project manager being honored this week by the Engineering Society of Detroit.

Listen now: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1374205/15318183-a-veteran-project-manager-highlights-the-value-of-engaging-communities

TMT - A veteran project manager highlights the value of engaging communities

Alghurabi is best known in recent years for his work in southwest Detroit communities to prepare for building the Gordie Howe International Bridge linking Michigan and Canada.

However, he’s also managed other big projects, including the building of the last freeway added to the state trunkline system, M-6 (Paul B. Henry Freeway) in Kent and Ottawa counties.

Now his portfolio includes a project to modernize and improve connectivity on urban corridors in Detroit and Grand Rapids, working closely with officials from both cities:

Alghurabi shares his experience building trust with residents, business owners and others affected by the work on the various projects.