U-M’s Semester in Detroit offers inclusive and immersive educational experiences
The University of Michigan’s Semester in Detroit program, conceived originally by U-M students and launched in 2009, brings undergraduate students from the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses together at the university’s Detroit Center.
The program has also included students from Grand Valley State University since 2016.
Students in the program live, learn and work within the city for one semester. The program, with its blend of academic study and hands-on community work, is unique, says Jamon Jordan, or Baba Jamon to his students, a history lecturer in the SiD program and historian for the city of Detroit.
“It really molds the class into one unit, a class that transcends geographical divisions. It makes sense that all of that comes together in Detroit,” Jordan said. “All those different campuses become one class, become one University of Michigan.”
Part of the Semester in Detroit program, administered by the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts Residential College, involves student internships at local nonprofits.
Jeimy Lopez, a student majoring in organizational studies with a minor in education and originally from southwest Detroit, interned at 482 Forward. It’s an organization that advocates for a community-driven approach to improving education.
In fall 2023, Lopez took part in the Literacy for Liberation campaign, which focused on enhancing reading scores in Detroit Public Schools while promoting literacy at home. A significant part of Lopez’s contribution included a children’s holiday book drive. Boxes were placed in various Detroit locations, including TechTown where 482 Forward is located.
“I believe this initiative is integral to Detroit’s educational development, especially since Detroit’s $94 million ‘right-to-read’ lawsuit settlement is coming through,” Lopez said. “Oftentimes, withholding reading skills has historically been used to oppress people.”
Swayamleen Kaur, an international student who studied psychology at UM-Flint, gained a valuable perspective on gender equality through her internship at Alternatives for Girls. It is an organization committed to uplifting women and providing resources that support their educational journey and help them secure a meaningful role in society.
“Being in this organization is rewiring my brain into seeing how women are treated. This internship has become a turning point of my own in the way I see myself,” Kaur said. “It offers a more open approach to how teachers conduct their classes, their routine. They go about it in an interactive way.”
Craig Regester, associate director of Semester in Detroit, said the boundary between the school and community is something the program pushes against.
“All of our classes and the curriculum are publicly oriented. Any course in the program is open to the supervisors with whom the students are interning,” he said.
Detroit native Briana Hurt, a senior from UM-Dearborn, contributed to Detroit through her involvement with Keep Growing Detroit, an urban farming organization that emphasizes food sovereignty and entrepreneurship among Detroit residents.
“They promote the notion of citizens being in control of the types of food they eat and cultivate, really encouraging autonomy when it comes to diet,” she said.
The program is now accepting applications for this year’s spring and fall semesters. For more information, visit https://mcompass.umich.edu/_portal/tds-program-brochure?programid=10923