Viewpoint: My semester in Detroit

By Mishara Davis  On  February 14th, 2013

I first encountered the Semester in Detroit program during Assistant Prof. Stephen Ward’s freshman seminar on Malcolm X. Even after taking classes focused on Detroit, I believed I could expand my knowledge of the city. As a Detroiter, Cass Technical High School alum, member of Detroit NAACP and precinct delegate, I seized the opportunity to experience Detroit through the lens of an SID student. So far, the program has exceeded my expectations.

When I first began the program this semester, I thought I knew everything about the city. Was I wrong! During tours in southwest, northwest and downtown Detroit, I discovered elements of the city I never knew existed. I saw black churches on the east side that survived the threat of demolition during redevelopment in the 1950s. I saw modern senior citizen living complexes near Cass Corridor. I saw the industrial landscapes of Ford automotive plants throughout the city and in Hamtramck. And I continue to see new things each week — in my courses and at my internship.

In my SID seminars on urban planning, Detroit history and internship reflection, I feel as if I am on a journey. I move from the turn of the 20th century to the climax of the automotive industry — where race and class played such a large role in American life — to Detroit’s future. My reflection seminar helps me conceptualize current events in the city and offers insight on how the Detroit Future City framework will focus on the economy and may work to sustain the city for the next 50 years. To process it all, I engage with community members at monthly Detroit Speaker Series events, where panelists and the public discuss the city.

At my community-based internship, I encounter reoccurring themes from Detroit’s history, such as urban redevelopment. I have the honor to work alongside attorneys at the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan — a non-profit legal reform organization that strives to protect and expand the rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution. I review prospective cases and help determine if a complaint violates the client’s Constitutional rights. This legal perspective, coupled with courses on the history of Detroit, enrich my experience in the program.

I could tell you all about my time in SID, but the best way to gain a full experience of Semester in Detroit is to apply. The application deadline for spring is March 1. Learn more at

Mishara Davis is an LSA sophomore.