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- Leaders and Best? Questioning the UM “Detroit Center for Innovation”
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There is simply no way Semester in Detroit would have successfully emerged over the past decade without the teaching, wisdom, connections and guidance of Lolita Hernandez - our long-time SID faculty colleague, and dear friend, who recently retired from the University of Michigan Residential College. As a lifelong Detroiter, retired auto-worker, veteran labor activist, and award-winning writer, Lolita brought so much value and depth to Semester in Detroit. Her guidance to the program in its formative years helped us to develop an orientation toward Detroit and Detroiters that was based on principles of respect, solidarity and justice. Her central leadership (and years of work!) developing the award-winning Detroiters Speak community mini-course built strong foundations that will continue to pay dividends as this unique curriculum grows long into the future.
Lolita's Creative Writing course has been a perennial favorite in our program since first launched in the winter 2009 semester. Whether she called the class, "Detroit: Beyond the Other", or "Detroit: Fact or Fiction", Lolita had this magical ability to facilitate a creative writing space for our students that linked their deeper understanding of themselves to a richer and more complex appreciation for the city of Detroit. For their final assignment, Lolita would have students create their own books compiling their writings, feelings and thoughts (pictured above are the students' books from Lolita's final SID class.)
As if all of these contributions were not enough, Lolita started one of the first, and longest-running, traditions within the Semester in Detroit program: generously cooking and hosting dinner in her Lafayette Park town-house at the beginning of each semester for all of our SID students, whether enrolled in her elective course or not. And, a few years into the program, Lolita introduced all of us to the Thursday night open-jazz jams at Bert's in the Marketplace - and nearly every semester since would motivate our students to experience this remarkably creative and one-of-a-kind venue.
Lastly, Lolita introduced SID to the late, great General Gordon Baker, Jr. - arguably one of the most important activists, teachers and movement-leaders in Detroit's recent memory. In addition to inviting "Gen" into many of her classes over the years, after his passing, Lolita was the central organizer and leader of the successful launching of the memorial scholarship fund established in General's name.
Suffice it to say that SID will never be the same without the fabulous and generous energy, the deep and tireless commitments, and the funny and funky rhythms of our beloved colleague and sister, Lolita Hernandez! We look forward to staying connected with Lolita in her golden years; and especially to her promised keynote address at SID's 10th Anniversary Celebration in 2019! On behalf of the entire SID community, we wish Lolita the best as she moves west to be closer to family. Look out Las Vegas, here she comes!