Semester in Detroit is an initiative created and driven by U-M students. Based on their passion for the city, four undergraduate students set out to create a program that would fulfill their vision of applied education, community engagement and social justice.
Synthesized under the guidance of Assistant Professor Stephen Ward, who teaches in the Residential College and Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, Semester in Detroit began developing in the fall of 2006 during his course, “Urban and Community Studies.” U-M had recently begun a Semester in Washington program, adding to a number of off-site university programs, which made students ask, “Why not have a Semester in Detroit?”
Rachael Tanner, Aditi Sagdeo, Molly McCullagh and Jaime Nelson drafted a proposal and sought guidance from people in both the U-M and Detroit communities. As word of the program spread, other students were eager to get involved and became part of the Semester in Detroit Student Planning Team.
With support from students, faculty, staff and administrators, they continued working diligently to bring in new partners and interest. In July 2008, the U-M Office of the Provost provided funding for the initial three years of the program.
The inaugural Semester in Detroit took place in Winter 2009 with 14 participants, partnering with organizations such as Alternatives for Girls, Detroit Eastside Community Collaborative, and the Urban League of Southeastern Michigan.