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- SiD Collaborates with the Rackham Program in Public Scholarship
- Meet Ujijji Davis, SiD Spring ‘19 Guest Lecturer
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1. Get out of your comfort zone (Alex Nowlin)
Whether you’re from a small town in Michigan or New York City, Detroit will open you up to unique opportunities that you won’t experience anywhere else. This includes biking through the city with hundreds of other people at Slow Roll, learning about radical activism that has taken place in Detroit through the work of Grace Lee Boggs and others, and getting to hang out with Lolita Hernandez and Stephen Ward, the most fun teachers that have ever lived.
2. Challenge and broaden your understanding of a valuable college education (Tristan Luoma)
Being a student at the University of Michigan can be a bit overwhelming. It’s very easy to lose sight of yourself, your passions, and your convictions in such a competitive atmosphere. During such an important time in a student’s life, this certainly does more harm than good. Living in, taking classes in, and engaging with the city of Detroit will challenge what’s become the norm, and will push you to learn about yourself and your surroundings in entirely new and refreshing ways. From the content covered in class to open dialogues and debriefs over cups of coffee, every situation will contribute to your growth as not only a student, but as a human being.
3. Establish positive and lasting relationships with peers, professors, and mentors (Tristan Luoma)
Through your down time, classes, and internships, you’ll establish meaningful and lasting relationships with some of the most genuine people you’ll ever meet. The friendships you’ll make in SiD will be some of your best ones yet, and having your cohort as a support system through the best and worst days will be invaluable to your Detroit experience. In addition, SiD is lucky to have some of the most inspiring and passionate educators as professors, and from my experiences, a lot of what you learn won’t come from the books and exercises, but instead from the teachers who love to see their students learn and be engaged with the city. Lastly, through your internships, you’ll be able to bond with not only your supervisor, but everybody involved with the organization. Everybody you interact with wants to hear your story and to see you succeed, and will often go out of their way to help to make that happen.
4. Cultivate a relationship with the city of Detroit. (Liv Herbert)
Ann Arbor is often regarded as the gem of Michigan, and while it has its its strengths, I found myself developing a more loving, exciting relationship with Detroit than I’ve ever had with Ann Arbor. I’ve spent the last 11 years living in Ann Arbor and consider it home in many ways, but living in and engaging with the city of Detroit was much more fulfilling. The city has a rich history of success, innovation, and struggle. It is a conglomerate of diverse cultures and peoples, all working in their own ways to better their city. It is in fact a very large place and therefore my personal discoveries felt never-ending, be it a restaurant, a neighborhood to bike to, a museum event, a jazz club, a bookstore...the list goes on. I felt more challenged than I ever have while living in the city. Detroit forced me to look at life through a different lens. Detroit taught me to hope in a lot of ways; to have hope in how we can build cities and treat their people; hope in how we can educate our youth and cultivate communities. Detroit opened its arms to me and my SiD cohort, and if you are respectful of its space and the people already there, it will welcome you as well.
5. Becoming a part of a strong, motivated, critically thinking grassroots network (Jillian Mills)
DETROIT IS A WONDERFUL, SHINING CITY, FILLED WITH BEAUTIFUL, MOTIVATED, AND CREATIVE SOULS! Thank goodness for Semester in Detroit. I (along with a number of other U-M undergraduates) had the opportunity to live and work in the city of Detroit while establishing a connection with some of the city’s community members and leaders. I found the most beauty in working with a brilliant network of people who have devoted their lives to the reclamation of their own community spaces and institutions. Temporarily being a part of this network gave me a boost of energy and sense of empowerment, as the Semester in Detroit student cohort had an invaluable opportunity to gain true insight into the work being done by grassroots community organizers and engage in discussion with the community itself. Detroit has a strong web of social activists who are constantly exchanging new ideas and perspectives with one another in order to collaboratively energize their neighbors and empower the voices of their communities. By being surrounded by this network of motivated leaders -- each with a unique set of identities, perspectives, and lived experiences -- I felt like an empowered agent of social change. Detroit made me see that it was possible to raise the voices of the community members.
6. It’s OK, Not to Know. (Olivia Howard)
In Semester in Detroit, you have to confront fears and insecurities when your learning experience migrates from the safety of the classroom to the fabric of the community. You will meet new people and be challenged in situations that are unfamiliar to you. Being immersed in a community of creative, intelligent, inspiring and motivated members, leaders and collaborators, this is an opportunity to mobilize yourself to jump on a task you have not been prepared for or you haven’t been educated to handle. Sometimes this is intimidating. It’s an empowering experience and a life-long lesson to apply your knowledge and skills and discover what your role in a community can be. The SiD community is a close-knit family – both in the city and in the cohort - and you always have supportive network to rely on. Make new friends and don’t be afraid of what you don’t (yet) know! Find out.
7. Seeing Detroit through many layers (Talia Clarick)
This experience is different from spending a day in the city learning about something specific, taking a single class on the city, or having a conversation about it from afar. Not only are you engaging in classes and a community-based internship, but you are living in it and breathing in it. This multi faceted approach proved to be the best way to learn about Detroit and love it for its many layers. The questions and issues brought up in the 20th Century Detroit history are the same ones that drove the internships and provided inspiration for our writing in the creative writing class. What is unique about Detroit is that its history is visible through its landscape and infrastructure. You can take a drive through Detroit and see this for yourself, but in SiD you meet the people responsible for taking care of it and are woven into it. The experience was short but significant because of how rich it was.
8. Learning about Detroit in a way that (literally) isn’t possible without living there (Alexis Nowicki)
I thought a lot about Detroit before participating in SiD, but I never knew the right way to talk about it. Every new thing I learned about Detroit — from when I was a kid to sophomore year of college — just added to my confusion about it. When I was younger, adults told me to stay away from the city but weren’t able to exactly explain why. Toward the end of high school, I started hearing about cool things going on in Detroit — “hip” things that I was interested in, but that my parents didn’t feel comfortable with me going to. Once I was in college, I started going to Detroit frequently. I would take the Detroit Connector to Slow’s BBQ, Eastern Market, and Astro Coffee and then tell my friends I wanted to live in Detroit; that things seemed great there now. But then I would read about the injustices that were going on in the non-Eastern Market or Corktown neighborhoods of the city, and realize I wasn’t getting the whole picture. I then tried to read as much about Detroit as I could. I learned things, but I couldn’t quite grasp the tensions that existed in the city as I read about them. When I heard about Semester in Detroit, I knew I had to do it. It was my only chance — while in college, at least — to live in the city, while also learning about it. The experience was truly immersive; there’s no way I would have gone to the parts of Detroit or talked to the people I did without being in SiD.
9. You’ll Miss the City (Alex Nowlin)
When all’s said and done, and you head back to Ann Arbor or wherever, I guarantee you will miss the city. You will miss the friendly atmosphere where Detroiters always said “hello” as you passed them on the sidewalk. You will miss the friends you made in your cohort and try to keep your group message alive. You will miss hearing someone say “check your privilege” at least once a day. You’ll wish you could walk down the street whenever to get a plate of pulled pork from Slow’s. But, you will return to campus feeling a sense of accomplishment and nostalgia. You’ll miss the empowerment you felt in Detroit when you learned about the potential of grassroots activism and community organizing. Believe it or not, you may even miss the times you felt uncomfortable or awkward in your surroundings, because you’ll realize those moments made you more whole. You’ll realize just how fast six weeks go by and wish you had more time to immerse yourself in Detroit, in a community. When all’s said and done, you’ll feel homesick.