Through the Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program (DCERP), undergraduate students
from the U-M spend the summer working with a wide variety of Detroit non-profits on research and creative projects led by the organizations themselves. Fellows participating in this 9-week program are paid a stipend, provided housing in Detroit, and become part of an intentional learning community that shares a passion for social justice and making change. DCERP fellows attend program meetings and form small collaborative learning groups that delve into topics of mutual interest, such as getting to know the city, its culture and history through a social justice lens, community engagement, personal growth and professional development. The program culminates with a public showcase, during which DCERP fellows present about their projects and the insights they have gained.
2023 DCERP Fellows Project Profiles
Adesewa Ojo (she/her)
Hello, I’m a rising sophomore majoring in History. I am working with the City of Detroit Office of Disability Affairs, established to provide equitable conditions for Detroit’s disability community. I am doing historical research and community survey to identify the issues facing the POC disability community in Detroit. My research fits into ODA’s final phase of its three-year strategic plan, where it will be collaborating with different organizations to focus on healthcare, housing, transportation, and employment inequities facing the disability community. My research work with a primary focus on Detroit’s disabled community will bring awareness of the issues facing the community and contribute to the next steps for improving all aspects of well-being for the disability community in an equitable way.
I am a rising sophomore double-majoring in Political Science and Sociology doing research with the Southwest Detroit Community Justice Center (SWDCJC). This nonprofit seeks to restore public trust in the justice system and assist in reducing crime through programs such as community court and the Prostitution Offenders Program. As a research fellow I help SWDCJC apply for grants, overhaul its website, and improve its programs. Every Wednesday I attend court to help with client intake in the 36th District Court, which allows me to learn about the needs of Southwest Detroit residents and the justice system. I cannot wait to apply what I learned about social justice through SWDCJC to my future legal education once accepted into law school.
Ariel Chatman (she/her)
Hello, I am a senior majoring in Women’s and Gender Studies. This summer, I am partnering with LGBT Detroit, an organization centered around amplifying and sustaining LGBT+ culture, education, advocacy, and human rights. Designed for and by black queer people, LGBT Detroit's resources include HIV/AIDS campaigns, community leadership programs, and Hotter than July (the second oldest black-hosted LGBTQ+ Pride event in the world). I operate as the organization’s program assistant, aiding in the production of their media content and engagement. LGBT Detroit is vital because it exists as a safe space for individuals whose identity affords them the unique, and challenging intersection of being both black/brown and queer. Having this pillar in the community not only establishes a
Hello! I am a rising sophomore majoring in biology with a minor in environmental science. My summer internship is with Keep Growing Detroit, whose mission is to create a food sovereign Detroit and support both farmers and youth through various programs. I am developing an educational environmental curriculum for the youth program, as well as helping to harvest summer crops and research land grants. Working with the community and team members has been a truly wonderful opportunity, as well as learning the craft and skill it takes to be a farmer. Whether reviewing articles about environmental justice or planting scallion seeds in trays, I have learned to present in the moment and focus on advancing food sovereignty in a city where 70% of households are food insecure. Access to healthy foods is of vast importance, and I hope to grow in understanding of how to create a food system that is equitable and inclusive to all.
I'm a rising sophomore double-majoring in Chemistry and Earth & Environmental Sciences. I'm interning with the MSU Extension Detroit Partnership for Food Learning and Innovation (DPFLI), an urban farm and agricultural research site in the Brightmoor neighborhood. The DPFLI is expanding access to sustainable food and educating Detroiters about agriculture in their own backyards. The site grows a wide range of food crops and native plants and also provides 4-H programming and opportunities for community involvement. My research will survey Detroit farmers to gather data on the quantity, quality, and variety of fruit and nut crops growing in the area. This will inform further development of community resources. Detroit is a major hub of urban agriculture and backyard farming in response to issues such as a lack of food sovereignty and an abundance of abandoned land. Research into this aspect of the local economy and culture is therefore incredibly important.
I’m a junior majoring in Linguistics and minoring in Gender and Health. This summer I am interning at the City of Detroit’s Office of Disability Affairs (ODA) which is an organization working to make Detroit a more welcoming, accessible, and inclusive environment. The ODA was established in 2021 under the division of the Civil Rights, Inclusion, and Opportunity office (CRIO) to increase opportunities for people with disabilities living across Detroit. The work of CRIO and the ODA ensures that no one is left behind or discriminated against and I'm glad to have joined the team! My task is to research current laws & regulations in relation to providing interpreters for Deaf and hard of hearing patients as well as making recommendations for improvement. Through the time I spend at my site, I hope to learn more about Detroit's disability community and push policymakers to make Detroit accessible for all the people who live within it.
I’m a junior majoring in public health and double minoring in statistics and the environment. For my fellowship, I’m working at Brightmoor Artisans Collective (BAC), a nonprofit in Detroit that focuses on food systems, community wellness & economic development in a neighborhood with significant blight and need for greater access to healthy affordable food. BAC is developing the Farmstead Incubator Project to create a land trust for the purpose of streamlining purchasing of sites and supporting BIPOC farmers in Brightmoor. I’m researching and mapping out suitable land plots in the first stage, communicating and collaborating with economic and agricultural organizations in Detroit in the second stage, then finally canvassing and soliciting residents’ feedback in the third stage. Through my work, I hope to assist in promoting agricultural sovereignty and ownership of land for BIPOC farmers.
I'm a rising second year student on track to major in Urban Technology. I'm working with the Detroit Historical Society, a public history organization which collects and maintains artifacts related to the history of Detroit. The collection is housed at Historic Fort Wayne, and the group primarily focuses on serving the public at large. I'm primarily organizing and digitizing the Downs photo collections, which holds photos of Detroit taken between 1949-1952 by commercial photographer John David Snyder. I’m researching the background and contents of each photo. I find this project particularly interesting and important because these photos represent a Detroit which was rapidly developing in the immediate postwar era, something which is overshadowed by current hardships faced by the community.
I’m a rising sophomore majoring in Environmental studies, specializing in equality and justice, and I’m working with Dream of Detroit, an organization focusing on neighborhood revitalization, community engagement and organization, and elevating the community’s voice with their Islamic faith. Some of Dream of Detroit’s work includes Project Homecoming - a home for the formerly incarcerated, renovating houses in the community within their Community Land Trust, and attempts to draw in commercial business to the area. I’m involved with Dream’s Storytelling Project, which gives a stage for elders in the community to share their knowledge and stories with youth that interview them. I’m also involved in the Street Fair, an annual event that highlights talents within the community, particularly in the arts and small businesses.Dream of Detroit has a plethora of projects and goals that always have the community at heart because the community itself aids in running the organization.
Maggie Sterling (she/her)
I am a rising senior majoring in Sociology with a concentration in Social Work. After graduation, I will be attending University of Michigan’s School of Social Work to complete my Master’s of Social Work degree with a pathway in Community Change. Through DCERP this summer, I am working with Neighborhood Service Organization (NSO). NSO works to bridge gaps in housing, health, and well-being across Detroit by providing homeless recovery services, assistance for children and adults with disabilities, and other important community outreach. I am helping to build a community closet in one of NSO’s supportive housing apartment complexes in Detroit. The goal of this project is to create a well-maintained and accessible resource for the NSO and Detroit communities, fully stocked with clothing and supplies. Clients will be able to ‘shop’ the closet with dignity and respect, empowering individuals and acknowledging them as valuable members of our greater community here in the city.
Hello, my name is Marie (any pronouns), and I am a rising sophomore studying aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan (U-M). I am researching with HOPE Village Revitalization where I head marketing research for their local farmers market. I focus on growing the market in terms of customers, vendors, events, and more. I conduct surveys, research advertisement strategies, and give suggestions based on the data I collect. I also help with the farmers market wherever I can. This market is important to the community because it is located in the center of a neighborhood with one grocery store and very limited second spaces. Members of the community should have access to healthy foods and a place to enjoy fun and interesting events in a peaceful park.
Hello, my name is Owen (he/him). I am a rising junior and a double major in Organizational Studies and Environmental Studies. This summer, I am working as a U-M DCERP Fellow with the Nortown Community Development Corporation in Northeast Detroit. The NCDC primarily manages and rents affordable housing to low-income families in Detroit’s third district. It also plans initiatives and developments throughout the district to promote community spaces. My primary project at the NCDC will be to investigate the feasibility of strengthening a greenway park along the historic Conner Creek of Detroit and connecting it with existing greenways nearby. While Conner Creek has been covered up to act as a sewage system, the Conner Creek Greenway is meant to follow the creek’s natural course all the way down to the Detroit River. This greenway is part of a larger goal to revitalize the neighborhoods in Northeast Detroit and provide safe green spaces and connective mobility routes to residents of the area. Creating public spaces where families and residents can come together to enjoy natural spaces and become acquainted with one another is key to building strong communities. This project, and the NCDC’s other projects, have this aim in mind. I hope to collect knowledge and skills about community-building from this experience and am excited to see how I will reflect on and grow from it.
Hello, my name is Regina Duerst (she/her). I’m a rising junior at the University of Michigan, and I am majoring in Spanish and History. This summer, I’m working with the Clark Park Coalition, one of the city parks located in Southwest Detroit. I’m putting together a history of the park, to be featured on their website and in a local newspaper. In the meantime, I’m also assisting with summer programs and events for youth and the community, as well as the park’s social media. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the people — employees, volunteers, families — who help Clark Park function every day, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to contribute by writing their stories down.
I am a rising sophomore intending on majoring in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. I am interning with the Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP), a nonprofit organization that works with small businesses and tech companies to create community building and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) focused events. The team I am working with is the Parks + Public Spaces sector: I am involved in the planning of “Past Forward” which is a festival honoring Detroit’s Black Wall Street, 35 city blocks of thriving shops, hotels, theaters and businesses that were Black-owned. The district was founded by Black men and women. I also have participated in the planning of Juneteenth and Immigrant Heritage Month events as well as general weekly community park events like movie nights and workouts. By working with minority-owned organizations that enhance the park events and build community, the DDP aims to create safe, inclusive, and accessible park spaces by keeping this input of minorities and lower income communities at the forefront of their work.
I’m a rising junior majoring in psychology and minoring in community action and social change. I'm interning with the Detroit Food Academy, which provides youth with resources and information to make nutritious, delicious meals. DFA also teaches social and emotional learning skills and financial literacy to support Detroit youth's development. I am collecting data through interviews, focus groups and surveys to help DFA with its mission and programming. Also, I am creating social media content highlighting DFA’s summer program activities. This work is essential due to food insecurity being a huge issue in urbanized areas such as Detroit. The lack of healthy, affordable, and high-quality nearby grocery stores/restaurants makes having nutritionally-dense meals difficult for local residents. Thankfully, programs such as DFA are working to improve youth’s diets by offering healthy eating choices and habits. During this time, I believe I will learn a lot about the benefits of nutrition and well-being. I hope to share these experiences and resources with others to inspire healthy living.