University offers new Semester in Detroit program

About a dozen U-M students will move into a Wayne State University residence hall winter term, living, learning, working and giving something back to Michigan's largest city.

Students in the new Semester in Detroit program will take U-M courses at the Detroit Center taught by U-M faculty or at WSU during winter term from January-April, working as interns with community and cultural arts organizations. U-M was founded in Detroit in 1817 and has remained connected ever since, with faculty working on about 100 research projects in the city each year.

U-M and WSU are partners with Michigan State University in the University Research Corridor (URC), which encourages collaboration between the three institutions to revive the state's economy.

The new program's core course is being taught by June Manning Thomas, Centennial Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, who spent much of her career at MSU and wrote two books on Detroit development.

"After World War II, the city's population grew to 1.8 million and city planners were expecting it to double,'' Thomas says, noting post-war suburbanization began a long population decline starting in the 1950s, with the city having 834,000 in 2006, according to U.S. Census estimates.

Over the past decade, the number of U.S. college students enrolling in study abroad semesters, designed to help students grow by immersing them in another culture for one semester, have grown by 150 percent. The Semester in Detroit, modeled after U-M's Semester in Washington, D.C., program, applies similar concepts to the local level, helping students live, work and be a part of an important U.S. city.

"By living in the city I am helping, I'm convinced that my work will make a bigger impact, because I will be serving my own community,'' Jennifer Cowhy, a sociology sophomore enrolled in the program, recently wrote in The Michigan Daily. "Moreover, this allows me to better appreciate the issues currently facing the city, since those issues will become increasingly relevant to my daily life.''

Organized by the Residential College (RC) and the Ginsberg Center and funded by the Office of the Provost and LSA, the faculty co-directors for the 2008-09 academic year are Margaret Dewar, Ginsberg Center director and Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning professor, and Charles Bright, RC director and LSA professor of history.

Core curriculum for the program includes the Core Urban Planning Course taught by Thomas, part-time community-based internships and elective courses.