Linguistics doctoral student Kelly Wright was one of six U-M graduate students and six faculty members who comprised the inaugural cohort of participants in the Mellon Public Engagement and the Humanities (MPEH) workshop in 2019. 

The group spent eight weeks during the summer learning tools for public communication, visiting public humanities sites in Michigan, and exploring why collaboration and public engagement matters to the humanities. (MPEH program and 2020 cohort application.)

Each week, the MPEH participants had the opportunity to hear expert presenters, both internal and external to U-M, who shared public scholarship resources and led the group in skill-building workshops. 

They also took field trips to museums, libraries, and nonprofits, such as the Michigan History Center and the Arab American National Museum. There, they worked together, through various points of framing and reframing of academic work, to develop "a product for the public good" that integrates research and public engagement.

As a result, Kelly proposed an augmented reality app to work alongside the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA)-led initiative to transform Detroit’s Midtown area into a public hub of art and culture. Kelly’s app would represent the history of the Black neighborhoods that have been demolished for the highway, art museum, and Detroit Square construction. 

As part of her project, Kelly compiled a list of resources, funding, and points of contact. It is open access, and she encourages folks to use it. Access the app here.        

Overall, Kelly says, collaborating with others in the MPEH program was a worthwhile experience: 

“I found it very edifying to gain perspectives of faculty members on the special challenge of conducting--and assessing--publicly-engaged work inside higher education, which has no consistent metrics for accounting for labor and impact outside of the traditional veins of academic progress.”

Photo: Kelly Wright (second row, center) is pictured with the 2019 MPEH cohort.