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DCERP Summer Fellows

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.

2022 DCERP Fellows Project Profiles

Aminata Ndiaye (she/her)

Aminata Ndiaye

I’m a rising second-year undergraduate in the college of Engineering.  For my fellowship, I am working with Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision (SDEV), a nonprofit focused on improving the environment and economy of southwest Detroit, meeting community needs and elevating their voices in the process. I am helping with SDEV's land, water, and air initiatives which include programs that seek to improve quality of life for residents. More specifically, my work is concentrated on policy campaigns and research with partners around Michigan as well as some hands-on community gardening to improve food sovereignty in the area. Additionally, I am working with SDEV on a study in partnership with the University of Michigan and Detroit nonprofits that focuses on improving housing disparities that make residents more vulnerable to climate hazards.

Ashley Trent (she/her)

Ashley Trent

I’m a Junior at Henry Ford College and majoring in graphic design.   I’m in a fellowship through U of M that allows us to work and learn with the Detroit community.  I’m working with the Detroit Community Wealth Fund, which helps cooperative businesses from the city acquire funding, resources, and support as they start out. Since my career in graphic design is centered around branding and marketing, I’m studying how my services as a brand designer can be used toward the greater good and help the entrepreneurs and business owners in Detroit.  The people of Detroit face lots of challenges that aren’t experienced outside of their community, and brand design shouldn’t be one of them. I will use my skills and expertise to do my part to make sure the dreamers of Detroit won’t be stopped.

Buraq Oral (he/him)

Buraq Oral

Asalam Alaikum (peace be upon you).  I’m majoring in biology, health, and society with a minor in community action and social change. This summer, I am working with Dream of Detroit, a community organization that aims to create a sustainable neighborhood through housing and land development. Located on the Westside of Detroit in the 48238 zipcode, Dream serves, not only the large Muslim population, but the entire neighborhood. I am assisting with a documentary project led by Dr. Alisa Perkins to showcase all the community work that Dream is doing by highlighting the stories of various community members.  Through my participation in this work, I hope to learn what it means to build a thriving community that is diverse, inclusive, and sustainable, while also building lasting relationships with community members, who similar to myself, are passionate about bettering the lives of others in the community they reside.

Caitlin Lynch (she/her)

Caitlin Lynch

I am a rising sophomore majoring in Program in the Environment and minoring in Spanish and Urban Studies. This summer, I am interning at Bridging Neighborhoods, which serves Delray residents who have been affected by environmental injustice through housing programs. I am doing data analysis, conducting satisfaction interviews, writing surveys, and researching Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs). CBAs form when community coalitions negotiate for benefits from developers building in their neighborhood.  The first formal CBA was only created in 2001, which means research about them is still emerging. It also means that there isn’t a set formula for the agreements, so there is room for creativity. Communities can negotiate for what is best for them, be it environmental mitigation tactics like buffering, first-source hiring, or home repair programs like the one Bridging Neighborhoods runs. I feel very lucky to be learning from Detroiters who are leading the way in this relatively new way of looking at land use.

Chen Lyu (he/him)

Chen Lyu

I’m a rising senior currently studying economics and sociology. I am researching with ProsperUS this summer! ProsperUS is a community development financial institution. It provides micro-lending services, entrepreneurship training and other business assistance to prospective entrepreneurs in Detroit, who lack access to traditional banking services. ProsperUS puts equity at the center of their mission, expanding services to historically marginalized demographics and geographic areas. Moreover, ProsperUS also focuses on relationship building and community impact of their clients.  I will be assisting with their impact assessment, which will involve gathering and analyzing their  lending data and interviewing entrepreneurs in person. Through these processes, we will develop insights to better inform the organization’s future practices to advance its goals at its 10 years anniversary.

Cynthia Fout (she/her)

Cynthia Fout

I’m entering my third year at the University of Michigan.  I’ve been stationed at Detroit Public School Community District, specifically within Talent Pipelines and Professional Growth.  My main project is research and development for a Future Educators Club that will add to the burgeoning pipeline of homegrown teachers within DPSCD.  Previous studies have shown that students flourish in the classroom when their teachers match them in background and appearance, specifically when the race of the students and teachers are the same. Currently, DPSCD’s student population is 98% non-white, with their teacher population lagging behind this margin by 30% due to national teacher and teacher-of-color shortages. The creation of a Detroit Future Educators Club is just one of the many initiatives taken on by DPSCD to close this gap and supply their students with exceptional Detroiter teachers who students can both relate with and see their own success through. A Future Educators Club will be a student’s first step in becoming a profound role model for students like them. 

Dahika Ahmed (she/her)

Dahika Ahmed

I am a rising junior and am majoring in Psychology, and pursuing a minor in Gender and Health. I am a 2022 DCERP Fellow. Through DCERP, I work with Friends of Parkside, a nonprofit organization located on Detroit’s East side. Since 1991, its mission is to serve the needs and well-being of the residents of the public housing complex, the Village of Parkside. My work for Friends of Parkside includes creating and conducting evaluations for their Annual Health, Safety, and Job Fair as well as assisting with the planning of the Annual Health, Safety, and Job Fair and producing a final report. With the feedback given from the evaluations, Friends of Parkside can gather ideas on how they can improve and better serve their residents, as well as ensure that they can provide the resources needed to address the issues that adversely affect their residents. I hope that, by the end of this project, I would’ve made a meaningful impact on the people of Friends of Parkside and the Village of Parkside.

Diya Mitchell (she/her)

Diya Mitchell

 I am a rising sophomore, currently leaning towards Sociology or Psychology. This summer I am serving as a DCERP fellow with the non-profit organization CDAD (Community Development Advocates of Detroit). CDAD is known for its public policy work for nonprofits,community organizations, and overall advocating for improving the city of Detroit. As of now, CDAD specializes in the right to counsel and affordable housing for Detroit residents in response to its neighborhood crisis.  My latest assignment is to confirm City Council Members’ attendance to CDAD’s Right to Counsel Ordinance Community Meeting & Celebration. Also, to draft a ‘tax incentive white paper’ to eventually publish for CDAD members who may not know information about this topic. What I appreciate most about CDAD is that it aids the Detroit community with resources that residents may not be able to find easily. It gives community members a voice and a chance to have a say in how their environment is used. I hope to expand my own knowledge of the law and to teach my community how to do for themselves.

Edisa Niyifasha (she/her)

Edisa Niyifasha

I’m a senior majoring in Sociology and Social Work. I am a U-M DCERP fellow working with Detroit Public Schools- Office of Homeless and Foster Care. We are collecting data on students' attendance and living status in order to find interventions that can reduce the chronic absenteeism rate in Detroit schools. We provide services such as food, clothes, school supplies, and shelter referrals to these students. Right now I am working with the other staff members to create an annual report by collecting quantitative data on the resources we provide and how many people use the resources. I am interning data in excel and making calculations. This data is very important because it allows sponsors and donors to see the impact these services have on young youth facing home instability. It gives the youth a chance to prioritize school and not worry about essential needs such as food and clothes.

Erin Abell (she/her)

Erin Abell

I am a rising junior majoring in Political Science with a minor in Moral and Political Philosophy. I am currently interning at the Neighborhood Service Organization. They’re a non-profit organization that focuses on ending homelessness in Wayne and Oakland counties through a holistic and housing first approach. They have multiple emergency and long term housing buildings that provide meals, as well as psychological counseling, health services, and social workers to aid in job searches. I am conducting interviews with department heads, doing background research, and creating comparative studies that look for gaps in care for the community that we’re serving and any way to improve the existing care that we are providing. I am also helping with marketing through social media and outreach leading up to their summer fundraising event in August.

Jazzmyn Loyd (they/them, she/her)

Jazzmyn Loyd

I’m a sophomore and plan to major in Organizational Studies and Psychology.   I am working with ProsperUs Detroit, which is an economic development non-profit that builds and sustains Detroit entrepreneurs and small businesses. I am researching how ProsperUs can improve their approach to Relationship Based Lending so as to help their borrowers become ready to increase their capital. I will be introducing innovative methods for adjusting our approach to Relationship-Based Lending and helping to explore the questions ProsperUs has. The community ProsperUs Detroit serves is predominantly African American and have been continuously prevented from starting and growing businesses. ProsperUs is working to change the structural racism in Detroit in the most equitable approach and “give the city back” to the minority population. As someone who was born and raised in Detroit, I want to see my city thrive again and continue to be the home for thousands of minority businesses.

Jessica Trinh (she/her)

Jessica Trinh

I’m a senior studying sociology with a sub major of law justice and social change. I’m a fellow at the university of michigan’s detroit community engagement research program and I was placed at Chandler Park Conservancy. The park is located on the eastside of Detroit and it’s goal is to create exceptional opportunities for youth and others of all ages. Some of the things that I am working towards with my co-fellow Madelyn Contreras is to support the park with their events so that they can bring as many people from the community together. Chandler Park Conservancy is a valuable organization because they care a lot about making sure that people feel at home. In addition to that, they also have a lot of programs and amenities that allow kids to be outside. I think that it’s important that kids get as much experiential learning as possible growing up, especially for kids that grow up in low income minority communities because the schools that they go to usually do not have as many extracurriculars. Yes, education in the classroom is important, but education from experience is just as important.

Jillian Terrell (she/her)

Jillian Terrell

I’m a senior majoring in Community and Global Public Health and I’m a DCERP 2022 fellow! I’m researching with Hope Village Revitalization, a community development organization working to improve health and quality of life in Detroit’s Hope Village while prioritizing sustainability and equity. My project consists of a few parts: I create marketing materials for the Hope Village Farmers Market and other community events hosted by the organization, I gather sales data from vendors each Wednesday at the Farmers Market and survey community members on market experience and satisfaction, and I create easily comprehensible content on health conditions such as asthma and diabetes for the HVR website. This project is important to me because every aspect of it revolves around increasing access to health resources, which is something I am extremely passionate about as a public health major. 

Keegan McCalmont (he/him)

Keegan McCalmont

I’m a senior majoring in sociology and minoring and history as well as American culture. I am a DCERP fellow working with Downtown Detroit Partnership, the nonprofit responsible for many of the parks of downtown Detroit including Campus Martius, Cadillac Park, Beacon Park, and others. DDP is also responsible for the Business Improvement Zone, a partnership with local businesses to make downtown a great place to live, work, and visit. Ultimately, their mission is cultivating economic and social impact in Downtown Detroit by connecting public, private and philanthropic sectors, providing stewardship of public spaces, and developing programs that engage and benefit all. I am helping DDP further understand and better integrate community sentiments regarding public spaces and what should be done with them by developing surveys and finding creative ways to get feedback from residents and people visiting the parks. Public spaces like these are a foundation on which communities are built and help make valuable relationships possible. I am eager to learn as much as I can about Detroit in the hopes that I can understand what makes this community special and work towards elevating it to its fullest potential.

Lisa Tarsavage (she/her)

Lisa Tarsavage

I’m a junior majoring in computer science with a minor in digital studies and a certification in socially engaged design. This summer, I’m working as a fellow in the U-M Detroit Community Engaged Research Program (DCERP) in an effort to really learn what it means to work with a community.  My community partner is Nortown CDC, a nonprofit attempting to build up both the residential and economic sectors of the Nortown neighborhood, which is located in northeast Detroit. They have several projects in the works, but some of the most impactful projects include Nortown Homes (a project to devoted to providing low-income housing to local residents), the Norris house (a building of historic significance whose restoration could mean more positive attention on the neighborhood), and their ongoing efforts to develop an coalition of local business owners.   During my time there, I will be working closely with the director on the Norris house and on the development of a database detailing all of the businesses on Van Dyke between Eight Mile Rd. and Six Mile Rd. I will also, if time permits, help the organization rework its website. All of these projects have the potential to incite greater collaboration between members of the Nortown community, so they can continue the fight for their neighborhood to remain a neighborhood instead of devolving into a full-fledged industrial zone.

Madelyn Contreras (she/her)

Madelyn Contreras

I am a rising senior and majoring in sociology. I am a U-M DCERP fellow spending my summer in Detroit.  I am researching with Chandler Park Conservancy. Their mission is to develop environmental stewardship, recreational activities, and conservation opportunities at Chandler Park for the Detroit community.  They educate members about how important conservation really is.  It gives a beautiful place for the community to go to that has a variety of amenities that have just been renovated and are brand new. They offer free events for everyone to come together and have a great time. They also offer an affordable summer camp for youth during the summer,  free day camps, and free environmental stewardship classes,  to get them outside, active, and a place to have an amazing summer.  It is so important because it brings the community together, educating them on different topics like the history of music in Detroit, or environmental education,  whilst having fun outdoors.  I am  working on supporting Chandler Park, helping them with their events in the park, their youth sports summer camp, and also renovating the park itself. It is important because the park gives a safe and healthy environment  for people to go and spend time with one another, and also offers tons of opportunities for everyone.

Maya Morse (she/her)

Maya Morse

I am a rising junior studying History with a minor in Law, Justice, and Social Change. This summer, I am an intern at the Southwest Detroit Community Justice Center.  The SWDCJC is an alternative justice jail diversion center which aims to combat the root inequities that lead to incarceration through their programming. Every Wednesday, we facilitate a community court program with Detroit’s 4th Precinct that eliminates the fines and jail time associated with low-level misdemeanors, opting instead to assign community service. We serve a primarily Latino community and provide referral services to other non-profit organizations as well. My role primarily includes conducting research for grant proposals and graphic design tasks. My research aims to identify target areas where more support programs would be beneficial to the community and how they would make an impact.  Seeing that we are located in a primarily latin area, the support that SWDCJC provides is particularly important in order to target the hardships faced through language and citizenship that may result in involvement with the criminal justice system. We are the only program of its kind in the state of Michigan and are proud of the work we do to combat structural injustice in our justice system.

Olivia Daniel (she/her)

Olivia Daniel

I’m a senior majoring in Biology, Health, and Society and this summer I am a U-M DCERP fellow.  I’m researching with the Michigan State University Extension: Detroit Partnership for Food, Learning, and Innovation (DPFLI) this summer. This organization grows food in an urban garden and donates it to 2 food pantries in the Brightmoor area. Their most recent mission is to grow an edible food forest with 200 varieties of fruit and nuts that the surrounding community can come and harvest. Currently, I help maintain the site daily and report on the health of the plants. I really value this organization’s mission because lack of access to fresh healthy food is a huge problem in urban communities and can lead to health and wealth disparities. The DPFLI is trying to combat this problem by bringing food to the community and giving community members the chance to interact with their food.

Om Shah (he/him)

Om Shah

I’m an incoming sophomore hoping to major in public policy and eventually practice civil rights law. Through the Detroit Community Engaged Research Program, I’m currently an intern at the City of Detroit’s Office of Disability Affairs, which falls under the Department of Civil Rights, Inclusion, and Opportunity. As a whole, the Office of Disability Affairs works to improve accessibility to all kinds of city resourcesprovided for all members of the disability community. By enabling residents with disabilities to participate in the community more effectively, the Office of Disability Services is able to lift up the entirecity. Currently, I’m researching best practices for interactions between emergency responses teams and individuals with autism in order to apply them to the Detroit Police Department. Specifically, I hope toimprove training for Detroit’s police officers by adding a component explicitly stating how to best approach an individual with autism. In the future, I plan to both organize a community event spreadingawareness of the Code Red text alert system amongst the disability community and survey different emergency response teams to determine their needs in relation to disability awareness.

Rose Reilly (she/her)

Rose Reilly

I’m a Junior, majoring in Public Policy.  I am a U-M DCERP fellow, interning for the City of Detroit’s Office of Civil Rights, Inclusion, and Opportunity.  The Office provides language access services, handles complaints of discrimination throughout the city and within the workplace, and provides guidance and accountability services to ensure that economic development in the City benefits all citizens of Detroit. I am working on a mediation program that can be used as an alternative to the traditional discrimination complaint conciliation that is currently offered by the office to people who file complaints of discrimination in the City of Detroit. I am working with another intern to research other municipalities with programs similar to the one we hope to build, develop and conduct a survey of the community, and create a mediation program proposal.This program will include restorative justice elements and hopefully, allow communities to come together to address complaints of discrimination in a way that is authentic and most effective for their community. I am excited to be a part of a governmental program that empowers local community members in this way!

Zainab Mustafa (she/her)

Zainab Mustafa

I’m a rising junior, majoring in political science. I am a U-M DCERP fellow this summer working with the Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD) which focuses on social justice and improving the lives of people in the city of Detroit. Some of their work includes public policy advocacy, community/youth engagement, and capacity building. CDAD collaborates with a variety of other organizations and political figures in order to best meet the needs of the community and influence legislation.  I am working primarily on the right to council initiative to ensure legal representation for people who face evictions. Detroit has a housing crisis and many people do not know their rights. While landlords can afford to secure an attorney for themselves, most people who face eviction cannot. People are entitled to proper legal representation and advice to avoid eviction. This is an issue that is important to me because housing is more than just the place where you live; it makes it possible to be hired and keep a job as well as protect one’s mental health. Everyone should have access to a stable home and know of their rights. Hopefully, over this summer I am able to work on networking, public speaking, and community engagement skills. I also want to become more knowledgeable about the structure of governmental systems and nonprofit organizations.