Fall 2013 'Detroiters Speak' participant Jay Meeks talks with guest speaker John Gallagher, Detroit Free Press writer and author of Reimagining Detroit, after class. 


The University of Michigan Detroit Center is not your average classroom, not since a new course premiered in the space last fall.


Lolita Hernandez’s ‘Detroiters Speak’ course blurs the roles of teacher and student. Several perspectives converge when the University course opens the conversation to the community. Once Hernandez passes the mic, U-M Students, faculty, guest speakers from the Detroit community, and city residents learn from each other's experiences in the city.


The public course premiered last fall during a critical turning point in Detroit. The uncertainty of bankruptcy and new leadership prompted the world to ask: “what’s next?”


Hernandez says discussion about Detroit's fate is critical to the course.


 “Detroiters Speak is an ongoing exchange of ideas about the critical issues affecting this dynamic city as we prepare for its future,” says Hernandez. 


Hernandez had previously hosted the Semester in Detroit public speaker series, but decided to focus the events into a formal ‘Detroiters Speak’ course. Participants--U-M undergraduates and members of the public--have online access to guest speakers' suggested readings. Students are also invited to write discussion questions and reflections on the events, in order to encourage more thoughtful engagement with the community.


Community members who contribute their perspectives and experiences to the class also receive “credit”. Participants who attend five or more class sessions receive a certificate of completion for the semester.


Jay Meeks is a native and current resident of Detroit, who received a certificate for ‘Detroiters Speak’ last fall. Meeks, a graduate of the University of Michigan, is also an original member of the student planning team that shaped the Semester in Detroit program. He says the philosophy of ‘Detroiters Speak’ aligns Semester in Detroit's.


"I view the ‘Detroiters Speak’ class as a reciprocal learning opportunity for students to learn from community members and community members to learn from students," Meeks says. 


Hernandez also emphasizes the community-building aspect of the course.


Detroiters Speak is an opportunity for U-M students and members of the community to explore together Detroit's history and culture through text, music, and stories,” says Hernandez. “It’s not your average class.”


Join Meeks and Hernandez at the first 'Detroiters Speak' event of 2014 - this Thursday, January 23rd at the University of Michigan Detroit Center from 6:30-8:30pm.


Parking is free with validation at the U-M Detroit Center Service Desk. Free transportation from Ann Arbor can be reserved by emailing Craig Regester at regester@umich.edu.


'Detroiters Speak' is co-sponsored by Semester in Detroit, The University of Michigan Detroit Center, The Residential College and the LSA Center for Engaged Academic Learning.