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
U-M Activity in (and with) Detroit
Here’s a partial list of current partnerships and initiatives involving U-M and members of the Detroit community:
- A Mentors Summit: Paving the Path to College
- African Americans and Social Mobility in Detroit
- America Reads
- Best Classroom Project
- Community Action Against Asthma
- Crowd 313
- Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center
- Detroit Connections
- Detroit Entrepreneurship Network
- The Detroit Initiative
- The Detroit Partnership
- Detroit Revitalization and Business Initiative
- Detroiters Speak
- Gear Up
- Genesis III Project
- Healthy Environments Partnership
- Intellectual Minds Making a Difference
- Leadership and Public Service Fellowship
- Local Artists Under 10
- Memory and Aging Project
- Michigan Architecture Prep (ArcPrep)
- Michigan Engineering Zone
- M Is 4 U
- Project Healthy Schools
- REACH Detroit Partnership
- School of Social Work Technical Assistance Center
- Semester in Detroit
- Teach for America Certification Program
- U-M Library’s Detroit Center Program
- Understanding Race Project
- Walk Your Heart to Health
- We Support Detroit Schools
Syllabus: PubHealth 600
Cross-Disciplinary Approaches to Public Health Challenges
Professor Eden Wells, Clinical Associate Professor, Epidemiology
Course description: Students are introduced to basic principles and perspectives across three disciplines (environmental health sciences, health behavior and health education, health management and policy) and learn to integrate and apply these resources to address complex public health problems. Case studies in the winter 2015 term are drawn primarily from the city of Detroit.
Topics include: Environmental health issues (including asthma and access to healthy foods), principles of community-based participatory research, health impact assessments; public health advocacy, the regulatory environment; health literacy, cardiovascular health inequities.
Semester-long assignment: Working in interdisciplinary groups, students define a public health challenge in Detroit; identify key issues and stakeholders; develop potential interventions; and determine how to engage governmental leaders, community residents, and other stakeholders.
Says the professor: I chose Detroit as a focus of the class because I want students to see that in Detroit, like any urban area, public health issues are more apparent. But I also want them to see the great collaborations and innovative interventions that are going on in Detroit, which they can add to. The students learn not only to understand specific public health issues and the factors that determine those issues, but also to think of novel points or types of intervention.