Zoey Horowitz was unfamiliar with the Center for Social Solutions before she attended the LSA Social Impact Fair at the University of Michigan this past March. Now, she is the center’s projects assistant, and she has a lot to say about diversity and representation.

Horowitz grew up in Berkeley, California and was always hyper-aware of the uniqueness of her community. Living in a homogenous, albeit liberal, area made her long for a more diverse environment. “I came to the University of Michigan in an effort to see the world. I knew that Berkeley wasn’t what the rest of the world was like. The bubble of activism I lived in wasn’t a reflection of communities elsewhere. I wanted to get out of that bubble and understand other people’s stories and experiences.”

And that she did. Right after beginning her studies at the University of Michigan, Horowitz joined the Prison Creative Arts Project for the opportunity to facilitate a creative writing workshop at a local prison. After developing a personal connection to the incarcerated community, Horowitz started working on the organization’s While We Were Away reentry podcast, which she now produces. The student-run production tells the stories of formerly incarcerated individuals, functioning as both a resource for those struggling through reentry and a platform to start a conversation about a rarely-discussed subject.

“Including the formerly incarcerated community in higher education changes the learning environment and broadens the voices present in academia,” Horowitz voiced. “We take so much power from those who have been incarcerated. We don’t let them speak their own truths. Being inclusive of those who have served time brings in voices of experience and creates empathy. If they’re not part of the conversation, what change is being made? Who is that change being made for?”

When Horowitz attended the LSA Social Impact Fair with the intention of finding potential collaborators for the While We Were Away podcast, she stumbled upon the Center for Social Solutions and was amazed by its connection to her personal passions and the urban planning major she is pursuing. She was drawn to this particular degree because of its focus on action. Similarly, the Center strives not only to identify problems, but to create real solutions to these issues. When Horowitz discovered it, she was immediately interested.

“What was appealing to me about urban planning is that it doesn’t just focus on the problem—it also focuses on the solution. I was really looking for a way to make tangible social changes. And that’s also why I was so drawn to the Center.”

As projects assistant, Horowitz spends most of her time working in outreach and coordinating the Center’s events. She also sees herself as a liaison to the student body. “As a student myself, I hope to urge the Center to reach out to students and other university organizations. Most of the CSS staff doesn’t have past experience with the University of Michigan. It’s cool to be sort of an expert of the university, and to use that to benefit the Center.”

Still unsure about her future, Horowitz is interested in potentially pursuing careers in law, education policy, or criminal justice reform. But regardless of the path she takes, Horowitz knows one thing for certain: she will always be devoting her energy to developing a more inclusive society and initiating real change.