Every summer, the Detroit Community-Based Research Program (DCBRP) places 24 U-M undergraduates in Michigan’s largest city to work side by side with local nonprofits. The students’ goal? To listen and learn about the nonprofits’ challenges and to follow that up with suggestions for research projects that address their needs. Past projects have touched on social and environmental justice, food security, human rights, urban development, public health, youth development and sustainability.
Once a project has been agreed upon, each student spends at least 35 hours a week working toward its completion. Meredith Burke devoted her summer to the Neighborhood Service Organization (NSO), which helps the chronically homeless population of Detroit. During the 10-week term of the project, she studied urban farming efforts in the city and brought that knowledge back to NSO to enhance its own gardening and landscaping efforts. She also found time to form friendships with many of the agency’s clients and organize arts-and-crafts events for their children. “I could not have asked for a better placement,” she noted. “There was never a dull moment.”
On their off time, DCBRP students—who live together at Wayne State University—attend seminars, meetings and other events that help develop a strong sense of community among them. They also blog about their experiences in the hopes that other U-M students will be encouraged to spend their summers, and share their talents, in Detroit.
Past nonprofit placement sites have included the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation, EcoWorks, Food and Water Watch and Voices for Earth Justice.