U-M offering new Semester in Detroit program Winter Term

October 30, 2008
  • umichnews@umich.edu

ANN ARBOR—About a dozen University of Michigan students will move into a Wayne State University residence hall winter term, living, learning, working and giving something back to Michigan’s largest city.

Students in the new Semester in Detroit program will take U-M courses at the U-M Detroit Center taught by U-M faculty or at WSU winter term from January into April, working as interns with community and cultural arts organizations. U-M was founded in Detroit in 1817 and has remained connected ever since with faculty working on about 100 research projects in the city each year.

U-M and WSU are partners with Michigan State University in Michigan’s University Research Corridor (URC), which encourages collaboration between the universities to revive the state’s economy.

The new program will bring together students and faculty from both U-M and WSU and the core course is being taught by June Manning Thomas, U-M’s Centennial Professor of Urban and Regional Planning who spent much of her career at MSU and wrote two books on Detroit development.

“After World War II, the city’s population grew to 1.8 million and city planners were expecting it to double,” Thomas said, noting post-war suburbanization began a long population decline starting in the 1950s, with the city having 834,00 in 2006, according to U.S. Census estimates.

Over the past decade, the number of U.S. college students enrolling in study abroad semesters, designed to help students grow by immersing them in another culture for one semester, have grown by 150 percent. The Semester in Detroit program, modeled after U-M’s Semester in Washington, D.C. program, applies a similar concepts to the local level, helping students live, work and be a part of an important U.S. city.

“By living in the city I am helping, I’m convinced that my work will make a bigger impact, because I will be serving my own community,” said Jennifer Cowhy, a U-M sociology sophomore enrolled in the program recently wrote in The Michigan Daily. “Moreover, this allows me to better appreciate the issues currently facing the city, since those issues will become increasingly relevant to my daily life.”

Organized by the U-M Residential College and the Ginsberg Center and funded by the Office of the Provost and U-M’s College of Literature, Science, and Arts (LSA). Margaret Dewar, Ginsberg Center Director and College of Architecture and Urban Planning Professor, and Charles Bright, Residential College Director and LSA Professor of History, are the Faculty Co-Directors of Semester in Detroit for the 2008-2009 academic year.

Core curriculum for the program includes:

? The Core Urban Planning Course. All students will take this course taught by Thomas, author of “Redevelopment and Race: Planning a Finer City in Postwar Detroit.” She has studied and researched Detroit’s planning history for more than two decades.

? Part-Time Community-Based Internship. Each student will be placed in an internship with a community service or arts organization and will attend a regular seminar to reflect on and discuss this experience.

? Elective Courses. Confirmed electives include a School of Art and Design course called “Detroit Connections” taught by assistant professor Nick Tobier, a course in community studies taught in collaboration with Mosaic Youth Theater by Stephen Ward, assistant professor of Afroamerican and African Studies, and a creative writing course called “Writing in Detroit” taught by Lolita Hernandez, who teaches creative writing at the Residential College.

Arrangements are being made with Wayne State’s Department of Urban Planning and Geography to create opportunities for U-M students to select from a range of courses.

The program is still considering applications for the winter term program. U-M undergraduates interested in enrolling in the program can call Craig Regester at (313) 505-5185 or email him at regester@umich.edu

Semester in Detroit