The following article was featured in the May 2013 edition of the Semester in Detroit E-Newsletter. View the full version here.

Entering the Community: A Candid Conversation with the Spring 2013 Cohort

Will Copeland, Youth Director of EMEAC and former U-M Ginsberg Center SERVE advisor, welcomed SID students to Detroit during their program orientation with a conversation that began with: “What are you here to do?”

As students went around the room introducing themselves, each took a different spin on Will’s question. Some interpreted the question as: “Why are you in Detroit?” or “Why are you doing Semester in Detroit?” or “What do you hope to get out of the program?”

The group listened to each student’s answer and it became clear that there are as many different interpretations to the question as there are ways to look at the world.

Some students said: “I’m here to engage with the city.” “I’m here to make my story part of Detroit, and vice versa.” “I’m here to become a more educated Detroit advocate.” “I’m here to learn…a lot.”

No one stated, “I’m here to save the city,” a mentality mocked across the web by “White Entrepreneurial Detroit Guy” memes. But, one student offered that even folks who come to Detroit with that “savior” mentality shouldn’t be demonized, they should be given the opportunity to learn from the community and open their minds. He questioned whether our role should be to learn from each other, or to judge one another?

Will's question “What are you here to do?” pointed out how important intentions are when entering as a guest into the Detroit community. It also opened up more discussion and more questions.

A question is just the beginning. As the semester unfolds, perhaps our Spring 2013 students will begin to discover an even deeper understanding of what, exactly, they are here to do.


The SID E-news is edited by Cassie Basler, SID Communications Coordinator, UM and SID Spring 2012 alum. Please email her any comments or questions about this article and/or newsletter.