Dr. Alisa Perkins

Associate Professor, Western Michigan University

Project Manager, Detroit Muslim Storytelling Project. 

Dream of Detroit


Tell us a bit about your educational and professional trajectory.

I am an anthropologist who has been carrying out ethnographic research in the Detroit metro area since 2007. I recently joined with Dream of Detroit to work on a community-based participatory research project.

About the Organization

Dream of Detroit is a neighborhood revitalization organization in west Detroit that works on housing rehabilitation and community building.

Tell us a bit about your projects (in which you worked with UROP students)

The Detroit Muslim Storytelling Project is an oral-history initiative to build and disseminate information about African American Muslim community leadership in Detroit historically and today. We will showcase our interviews in a public archive, website, documentary, and general readership publication.

What attracted you to working with this organization and in your field?

I was attracted to this organization because of its grass-roots nature and its track record of success.

What led you to become a mentor to undergraduate students?

As an associate professor of comparative religion at Western Michigan University, I became a mentor to undergraduate students at other universities through this project because I wanted to provide students with the opportunity to learn while contributing to public knowledge building efforts.

How do students contribute to your work?

Students help prepare materials for our archive and website.

What has been the most valuable lesson you have learned mentoring undergraduate students?

A valuable lesson I have learned by mentoring undergraduate students is to listen carefully and ask a lot of questions. Undergraduates have great ideas and it is important to create open channels of communication to make sure that they feel welcome to express their ideas.

What do you think is the key to a successful mentoring relationship and/or what is your favorite thing about mentoring?

As stated above, the key to a successful mentoring relationship is realizing that learning is a two-way street. My favorite thing about mentoring is learning new ideas and perspectives from undergraduates.

What advice do you have for current UROP students?

My advice for current UROP students is to let your mentor get to know you as a person, along with any long or short term goals you might have for your education and career.

Do you have advice for future UROP Community Partners?

UROP is an amazing community. My advice for future UROP Community Partners is to make sure you apportion sufficient time for students to train and complete tasks.