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Detroit-Based Electives

Semester in Detroit elective classes are open to all UM students. The classes take place in Detroit, but the program can help coordinate transportation for those students in Ann Arbor who are interested. Below are the electives offered for Fall 2016:


Detroit: Beyond the Other

RCCORE 334 - Special Topics Section: 004 

This class is devoted to short fiction in search of a creative rendering of the people in Detroit, a city which offers rich opportunities to explore the theme of the “other.” Students will develop short narratives that capture their impressions of the city through its people. Class discussions will help direct students.During the term we will read fiction primarily about Detroit. Readings will include the following authors: Dorene O’Brien, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Harriett Arnow, Jeffrey Eugenides and others. When the going gets tough, Detroit writers dig deep into the city’s interior, filter it through their hearts then let the words flow from their fingertips. Detroiters reflect and write, reflect again, talk it out somewhere, then write some more. That’s the process we’ll use in this class, beginning with regular journal, in-class writing exercises, character and place sketches, hearing Detroit writers and lots of talking and sharing. Students will mine the journal entries and writing exercises for a final book project that each student will create, consisting their written work for this class and whatever else is needed to tell the story. In addition, students will each write a short story that will be included in the class book of fiction and may be included in the student’s personal book, as well.


Environmental Justice Organizing in Detroit

RCCORE 334 - Special Topics Section: 005

This course looks at movements, resistance, resilience, and liberation. Community organizing is one of the most popular areas of specialization to the School of Social Work. A growing body of evidence reveals that people of color and low-income persons have borne greater environmental and health risks than the society at large in their neighborhood, workplace, and playgrounds. Over the last decade grassroots activists have attempted to change the way governments implement environmental and health laws. Grassroots groups have organized, educated, and empowered themselves to improve the way government regulations and environmental policies are administered. In a class setting we will connect history, current events, and real-life experiences to local organizing and movement struggles that build power for our communities. These courses will utilize highly interactive popular education methods where participants share political analysis, learn facilitation and organizing skills, and think together about long-term, transformative strategies to build environmental, racial and economic justice. It is critical for organizers, activists, scholars and community members to come together, connect our work with each other, share our experiences and place our local organizing within a larger historical and political context. We can build deep and strong social movements that act strategically and collectively over the long term. Students will develop actual tools in popular education, facilitation and workshop organizing that can be applied immediately in the fieldUnderstand the roots of Environmental Racism/ InjusticeUnderstand how organizing in grassroots communities is uniqueUnderstanding and practicing grassroots methods of organizing from the block to block and neighborhood to neighborhood levelUnderstanding the differences between organizing methods: protests, campaigns, community organizing and movement building


UM in the D: The Less Visible Footprint

RCSSCI 360 - Social Science Junior Seminar Section: 004 

As the University of Michigan approaches its bicentennial celebration in 2017, there will be much talk about its links with Detroit, both the programmatic ties between the campus and the city and the many projects and initiatives the University has undertaken in southeast Michigan. Less visible, but no less interesting — and probably more diverse — is the impact of the many alumni of the University who reside in the city, are involved in its communities and cultural life, and contribute to its economy.In this seminar, we are going to seek out and interview people who, having graduated from the University, moved to Detroit and now live and work in the city. We will seek to understand what motivated different generations or cohorts of graduates to make these choices; how in retrospect they reflect on their careers and measure their impact; and how they assess the U-M’s relationship with the city — and what it could do better or differently. The aim is to develop a rough profile — across careers, lifestyles, and generations — of how Michigan graduates have made a difference in Detroit and how Detroit has shaped their outlook and made them who they are.Much of this investigation will be done through interviews and oral histories, backed up by readings and other background material. Initial weeks will be devoted to preparation — assembling a list of individuals (partly from names provided beforehand) that students want to speak with; developing a range of questions — both standard and particular — that will be explored in interviews; learning basic techniques for conducting oral histories and doing a few practice runs. Once prepared, teams of students will conduct weekly sessions in structured sessions with alumni who have agreed to be interviewed. Each team will do perhaps six or seven such interviews with Detroiters. As these progress, the seminar will hold debriefing sessions where we collect, compare, and discuss themes that emerge, and students will be able to bring our findings to bear upon their other courses in SiD, as well as their internship experiences. What becomes of this work will depend on what we turn up, but it will certainly be part of the end-of-term showcase, perhaps of a blog or of presentations around the bicentennial.


Writing in the D

RCIDIV 350 - Special TopicsSection: 003 

In this 8-week course, Writing in The D, U-M students and students from various Detroit Public High Schools will work on improving their writing skills through writing short fiction.The class will offer a unique opportunity to experience the city through the eyes of its students and to share the process of creating fiction.