U-M and Detroit

U-M and Detroit

Before moving to Ann Arbor in 1841, the University of Michigan established its first home in Detroit in 1817.

Nearly 200 years later,  the bond between U-M and the state’s largest city remains strong.

As a founding partner in one of the longest-standing U-M collaborations in Detroit, the Detroit Community–Academic Urban Research Center (URC), the School of Public Health is a key participant in that relationship. Launched in 1995 with the aim of improving health through community-based participatory research—a framework that empowers residents to take action for their own health—the URC is a collaboration of ten Detroit-based organizations, including both community-based organizations and health and human services agencies.

The center, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, has had a big impact on health policy and behaviors throughout Detroit. Equally important, the URC has helped pave the way for a flowering of U-M–Detroit partnerships across a range of disciplines. Many of these partnerships utilize the university’s new midtown hub, the U-M Detroit Center, which functions as an office, speaker venue, gallery, and public meeting space. Groups from public health and at least 17 other U-M units—among them art and design, business, engineering, social work, and urban planning—use the center for a broad range of activities, including information sessions, policy discussions, performances, after-school and outreach programs, a summer theater camp, and a Hall of Fame recognizing the achievements of Detroiters who are U-M graduates.

Another focus of U-M’s engagement with Detroit is the university’s Semester in Detroit (SID) program, which “helps students form foundations for long-term relationships with Detroit,” says Craig Regester, associate director of the program. One-third of Michigan undergraduates who spend a term in Detroit through SID end up living there after graduation. Regester notes that no matter how members of the U-M community are involved in Detroit—whether as residents, researchers, students, or neighbors—“we are all dependent on the city’s well-being.” 
—Amy Gu

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