The University of Michigan offers dozens of courses that have a Detroit focus or component. Course topics are wide-ranging, including sociocultural anthropology, history of art and culture, and real estate. For example, the Topics in Sociocultural Anthropology course offered through the College of Literature, Sciences and the Arts, students will look at Detroit from the perspectives of music, social and architectural history, cultural anthropology, literature and film and learn how to make films.
Here’s a sampling of courses offered during the Fall and Winter terms:
This course focuses on the histories, urban patterns, and shared imaginations of the future that link Detroit and China. As two sites for thinking about local and global politics at different geographic sales, China and Detroit are key locations for understanding architecture and building practices today. (Fall)
This course will introduce students to contemporary thinking around urban equity and access from the perspective of the design disciplines. In parallel we will develop technology based capacities through range of tools including the use GIS mapping tools to develop novel thick cartographies. These artifacts, layered descriptions of a world that exists as well as a world that is in a state of becoming, will be the creative focus of the course across the duration of the term. Learning structured within the classroom will be enhanced by GIS workshops, expert engagement, and extracurricular community engagement. (Winter)
This course will offer an introduction to the history and potential future of urban and regional planning in Detroit and in its metropolitan area. It will start by discussing earliest efforts to plan for a better future for the city of Detroit by creating low-cost housing in the 1930s, proceed through several decades to describe comprehensive planning, the urban renewal era, and more recent redevelopment; review barriers to effect planning in the future; and then describe recent efforts to create an updated and well-planned future for the city and its neighborhoods. The course will also discuss the origins and evolution of metropolitan planning, and discuss why efforts to plan the region as a whole have faltered, because of political fragmentation, weak state laws, and a history of racial and socio-economic segregation. The course will provide at least one field trip to the city of Detroit. (Winter)
A one term capstone experience involving second-year students working with community-based organizations or with agencies concerned with neighborhood issues in Detroit and occasionally in Flint. Following general introduction and orientation to the planning topic and the neighborhood, students work intensively in collaboration with neighborhood leaders and residents in improving their situation. Students produce a plan to deal with the community-identified need. Plans often address strengthening housing, reinforcing neighborhoods, revitalizing commercial districts, relieving transportation difficulties, dealing with contaminated sites, reinforcing industrial areas. Students will make presentations at community or agency meetings throughout the semester. (Winter)
Detroit planning and evaluation consultant, Jane Fran Morgan, will lead a four-day (two-weekend) workshop that connects students with the organizations and businesses that are making an impact in Detroit. Working in partnership with Detroit-based organizations and small business, student teams will compete to develop impactful engagement strategies and solutions that contribute to a thriving and equitable community. (Winter)
The first studio applies selected issues, ideas, and theories to the design and development of a new community—typically on a greenfield site in metropolitan Detroit. Compact, mixed-use, mixed-income, walkable, and transit-oriented development will be emphasized within a socio-cultural, economic, and environmental context. (Fall)
Interdisciplinary student team participate in the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) Plaza & Midtown Cultural Connections International Student Design Competition and Summit. Students registered for this unique course will have the extraordinary opportunity to engage in a design competition already attracting well-regarded design professionals representing over ten countries and 22 cities from around the world. (Fall)
In this course students teach a weekly art class to elementary age children in a Detroit public school. To prepare and contextualize this work, readings that address issues of urban education and the perceptual and artistic developments that occur in childhood are assigned. (Fall and Winter)
Change by Design works together to create social impact through design & entrepreneurship. Together with Detroit Community Schools, students emphasize problem identification to prototype ideas, build objects, develop innovations and processes, and refine these through field work, validation, and testing. These are real world challenges that students tackle together as they acknowledge the need for the design world to stop talking big and start doing good; to put problem-solving skills to work on some of the biggest global issues; and to design for creativity, innovation, health, poverty, homelessness, education, and more. (Fall)
As part of an interdisciplinary project assisting neighborhood-based small businesses in Detroit, students work with entrepreneurs to solve problems and address barriers to growth. Students learn skills for working in collaborative teams, interacting with clients, and thinking critically to define design opportunities, propose and implement solutions. (Fall)
The course gives students tools to help develop cities with vitality, including lively, transit-oriented downtowns and livable neighborhoods through real estate development and investment. This is an interdisciplinary course oriented towards students in business administration, urban and regional planning, urban design, public policy, law, landscape architecture, natural resources and environment, and others. The course uses surrounding villages, Detroit and national case studies as teaching tools. (Fall)
Growing food in the city is an expanding practice in communities with and without food security. Heralded by some as a viable and sustainable supplement to conventional food systems, urban agriculture has many challenges to implementation. This course explores the motivations, benefits and difficulties of farming within the city. The focus will be on temperate North American cities with special emphasis on Detroit. Throughout the semester we will return to this question: Can urban agriculture can be a durable component of the long-term vision for Detroit and other post-industrial cities? (Fall)
This new course offers a unique opportunity for students to gain an interdisciplinary introduction to food system issues through a weekly seminar series bringing high profile speakers to campus from diverse sectors: policy, academia, grassroots movements, public health, conservation, and more. Students will integrate theory and practice through this partnership course that connects campus and community, led by a UM faculty member together with a community partner working to develop urban agriculture and enhance food justice and food sovereignty in Detroit. (Winter)
The course asks you to consider the possibilities for design intervention in an urban place dynamic in which the landscape is constantly and simultaneously changing at different scales that have different but related drivers. Third year MLA students in this course will work with student colleagues in complementary disciplines to use urban ecology as a basis for analysis and to conceive design interventions in the Warrendale neighborhood of Detroit, MI, USA. (Fall, Winter)
This course aims to create information tools that support 21st-century citizenship. This is a project-based, experiential learning course where students apply their skills to create information products in partnership with a Michigan community. Students will work in teams, travel to the partner community, and have support of administrative staff to manage projects. (Winter)
“Interdisciplinary Problem Solving” is a course offered at the Law School through the Problem Solving Initiative (PSI). Through a team-based, experiential, and interdisciplinary learning model, small groups of U-M graduate and professional students work with faculty to explore and offer solutions to emerging, complex problems. (Fall, Winter)
Detroit Litigation Advocacy Workshop The Detroit Litigation Advocacy Workshop (“D LAW”) is a research-oriented course that provides students a unique opportunity to help shape the City of Detroit’s public-interest litigation program. Each student will be responsible for researching litigation options available to the City on one or more specified topics (for example, consumer protection; environmental justice; housing; nuisance abatement). The final product will be a “white paper” laying out, in detail, how the City might use litigation to tackle problems in those areas. These white papers will be used by the Detroit Mayor’s Office when formulating litigation strategies — and will serve as a cornerstone for future collaborations between the City of Detroit and the Law School.
This course is a research seminar on Detroit-based activists James and Grace Lee Boggs and the history of Detroit during the second half of the 20th century. As both activists and thinkers, the Boggses helped to shape the radical stream of the postwar black freedom movement. They also were pivotal figures in Detroit grassroots political struggles. We will explore their ideas and activism as a way to better understand Detroit’s recent history. (Winter)
This class analyzes and studies the history and evolution of cars and car cultures in the United States and its influence in Michigan. It uses the intersections of gender, class, race, and historicity as points of departure to understand the unique relationship that America has with cars, the car industry, and its developments. This class explores cars not just as transportation devices, but rather as a system of meanings and values, and as an everyday ubiquitous cultural product influenced by economic, political, and social forces. (Fall)
This course is an experiential field course involving one visit per week to an African-American, Arab-American or Latino community in Detroit. Students are assigned to work with community-based organizations on projects to improve the well-being of children and families. Projects involve such activities as tutoring, developing outreach activities, assisting in child care settings, and working in community education projects. (Fall, Winter, Summer)
This is an interdisciplinary course on the experience of Filipinos in America. We will interactively learn about Filipina/o Americans’ roles in historical events, contemporary issues, and how these affect community formation and life in America. The assigned texts, films, and guest speakers will focus on the different waves of Filipina/o migration to the U.S, and the historical experience of “Pinoys” & “Pinays” in education, labor, family, politics, entertainment, and other sectors of American society. A large focus will be on Filipina/os of the Midwest, with a special emphasis on Ann Arbor and the Metro Detroit area. (Winter)
This course comparatively addresses the social, economic, and demographic challenges that confront Detroit, MI and the regional cities/towns of northeastern Japan (Tohoku). Through classroom discussions and site visits, we trace the historical roots of these challenges, and engage with scholars and activists to study the grassroots initiatives that communities in Detroit and Tohoku are mounting to address them. Students will be evaluated through in-class engagement, reflective writing assignments, and participation in Detroit site visit activities. (Winter)
The history of the early twentieth century is, in many ways, a history of manufacturing. From the automobile to the airplane, the refrigerator to the toaster, the United States was a country that produced things. And the “Rust Belt” cities like Detroit, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati were at the heart of this economic and social progress. So what is the Rust Belt narrative today? What stories are being told about this place? And what can they show us about ourselves? (Winter)
What is a city? The question of how urban spaces have shaped human experience and vice versa will inspire our discussions throughout the semester. We will immerse ourselves in different kinds of cities—cities both actual and imagined—in diverse geography and through various periods. Delhi, Rome, Paris, Freiburg, London, Edo (Tokyo), Berlin, Chicago, and Detroit are among the places we will visit this semester. Our travels will allow us to locate urbanism in history at the intersection of the built world and social behavior. (Winter)
This course focuses on the city of Detroit as a contested urban locale—contested visually, spatially, and historically. Indeed by probing current representations and understanding of this city as well as delving into its fascinating history, this course will give students the opportunity to think of the problems and possibilities of urban development in this and all major cities in new ways. They will, for example, have to consider what issues drove conflict and compromise in this large metropolis and how politics and power shaped outcomes there. They will think about the way in which Detroit is represented to the rest of the nation and the world, and they will consider how Detroit might be re-envisioned and rebuilt as we proceed through the 21st century. (Winter)
This research seminar is a HistoryLab course that will investigate unsolved or un-prosecuted cases of racial violence and police misconduct in the city of Detroit from the early 1970s through the early 1990s. Members of the seminar will work in teams, conduct archival and database research, interview historical participants, and collaborate in creating an online museum-style digital exhibit that combines historical narratives with interactive maps and reproductions of key documents, photographs, and audiovisual recordings. (Fall)
This course will take up the current tensions around gentrification and redevelopment in the city of Detroit. It will be divided into three sections. The first will take a deep dive into the history of the city and scholarship on race and racialization in the city. The second will be a review of contemporary scholarly and popular thinking about gentrification in the 21st century. The third section of the course will be focused on a couple of case studies in gentrification and redevelopment in the city now. This part of the course will include guest speakers involved in the projects and multiple field trips. (Fall)
This course offers a unique opportunity for students to gain an interdisciplinary overview of crises and opportunities in today’s food system through a weekly lecture series bringing high-profile speakers to campus from diverse sectors: academia, grassroots movements, public health, farming, and more. Designed as an academic-community partnership, the course is led by a UM faculty member (Leung) with a leader in food justice in Detroit (Hebron), along with the program manager of the UM Sustainable Food Systems Initiative (Shapiro). (Winter)
An internship with a community and/or cultural arts organization is a core requirement of the Semester in Detroit experience. With the leadership of the Semester in Detroit Associate Director, students and organizations both participate in the process of making effective matches, thus providing a challenging academic experience for students while contributing toward the organization’s mission and community agenda. Students develop a work plan early in the semester in conjunction with their direct supervisors. (Fall, Spring)
All of the activities and assignments in this seminar contribute to the achievement of the four primary goals: 1) Strengthen students’ analytical framework for their internship experience in the Detroit community and deepen understanding of the subjective motivations for their interest in this work; 2) Draw intellectual connections among a diverse array of student internship experiences that builds our classroom community as well as enhances opportunities for organizational collaboration; 3) Deepen understanding of the contemporary context that underpins student internship experiences in Detroit — i.e., the social, economic, cultural and political; 4) Share student internship experiences and accumulated knowledge with the wider world through public forums such as community blogging, presentations, and other mediums. (Fall, Spring)
The objective of this service-learning course is to offer advanced students of French an opportunity to engage in experiential learning related to community service work. It provides French students with unique service learning opportunities by connecting them with partnered community organizations outside of the University setting which deal with French-speaking immigrant communities. Currently, students volunteer at Freedom House in Detroit, an organization which offers shelter and legal help to victims of persecution seeking asylum in the US, many of whom come from French-speaking Africa. (Fall, Winter)
This course will explore the role the arts have played in resisting systemic inequalities, fighting injustice, and giving voice to those on the margins. We will consider both the strengths and limitations of art, particularly creative writing, as a force for social change as well as art’s effectiveness in engaging communities. Further, we will use the study and practice of creative writing to deepen our understandings of and relationships to the city of Detroit. (Fall, Spring)
This course looks at movements, resistance, resilience, and liberation. Community organizing is one of the most popular areas of specialization to the School of Social Work. A growing body of evidence reveals that people of color and low-income persons have borne greater environmental and health risks than the society at large in their neighborhood, workplace, and playgrounds. Over the last decade grassroots activists have attempted to change the way governments implement environmental and health laws. (Fall, Spring)
This course examines the role of the artist throughout Detroit history, as they reflect the changes of the built environment, economic development and the future of the real estate market. The goal of this course is to offer students a clear understanding of the relationship between the creative economy and urban identity, neighborhood composition and long-term urbanization implications. The purpose of this course is to identify the main forces and patterns of change in Detroit’s past that have shaped the contemporary city. (Spring)
How can the arts affect change in communities? This Engaged Learning course challenges the understanding of what it means to be empowered and how to be an agent of empowerment. Open to all U-M students, this class explores what it means to be empowered and to how to collaborate across communities through participation in arts-based programs in Washtenaw County and Wayne County. (Fall, Winter)
In this 8-week course, Detroiters Speak, students will learn about the city’s history and culture from its people. A free university shuttle will bring students to the Cass Corridor Commons, where they will attend public discussions with Detroiters moderated by University of Michigan faculty. (Fall, Winter)
The Spanish Language Internship Program aims to connect Spanish-speaking students with partnered community based organizations to provide unique service learning opportunities with the Latino community in Washtenaw County and Southwest Detroit area. (Fall, Winter)
This course will explore the history of Detroit and the southeast Michigan region during the twentieth century. We will track important social, economic, and political transformations in the city’s history: the persistence and impact of racial and ethnic conflicts; the ways in which class conflicts have shaped the urban landscape and the workplace; the impact of immigration on Detroit’s social and political development; the interplay between the auto industry and the urban environment; the ongoing struggles over political power and for control of the city; and the changing ways the city is represented, both among its citizens and in the broader American consciousness. (Fall, Spring)
SOC 225 is an experiential course that is designed to help students participate in and reflect on community-engaged learning experiences through a sociological lens. Students are able to gain new perspectives on social inequalities through their experiences at a variety of sites, including elementary schools, afterschool programs, health clinics, correctional facilities, social services agencies, advocacy centers, and other community organizations in Southeast Michigan. (Fall, Winter)
The Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) trains students to facilitate arts workshops in prisons, juvenile detention centers, Detroit high schools, and community settings which bring together crime victims, former prisoners, and their families. Ultimately the course seeks to identify the best strategies for using performance to address the criminal justice system and those most affected by it. (Winter)
Detroit was the nation’s most important city in the Twentieth Century because of the auto industry, the emergence of the blue collar middle class and development of the New Deal. Now it is the most negatively stereotyped city in the nation. The course describes changes in Detroit and emphasizes policy developments in Rust Belt metropolises as they cope with the restructuring of employment. (Fall, Winter)
This interdisciplinary course explores the political, social, and cultural history of Detroit by examining ways various groups and classes have interacted with and been shaped by structures of power and influence. This course highlights trade and commerce, newcomers, and the influence of organizations and institutions within the contexts of labor, race, ethnic, and religious histories and current affairs, and examines how these fit into the evolution of Detroit from the 19th century to the present. Where pertinent the influence of national and international movements are included.
In our post-9/11 world, Islamophobia, literally fear of Islam, has gained an increasingly visible presence in the United States media, our laws and policies. But what is Islamophobia and where does it come from. How is it experienced by Muslims in everyday life? How is it similar or different from racism or other kinds of anti-Semitism? What can we do about it? And finally, what is the term Islamophobia good for? This course explores Islamophobia from the perspective of sociocultural anthropology. Students will discuss the relationships between Islamophobia and orientalism, Islamophobia in the media, in literature, and in the everyday experience of Muslims in the United States and Europe. The course ends with an examination of the Arab immigrant experience of Islamophobia in Metro Detroit. (Fall)
This course explores contemporary life in the Middle East using an anthropological lens. Topics discussed include the geography and diversity of the Middle East; gender, the veil, and Orientalism; Islam, ritual, and everyday family life; and ethics and politics. The course ends with an examination of the Arab immigrant experience in Metro Detroit.
This course explores the field of public humanities work while providing a topical focus on metro-Detroit based Arab American history and culture. Roughly half of the course will be used to explore different approaches to public humanities work undertaken by scholars. The second half of the course will provide the historical and social context for understanding a particular research question to be examined jointly by the instructor, students, and a local cultural institution. Students will engage in intensive research and work with a cultural institution to represent their findings to the public.
This course is an attempt to define a modern cultural history of Detroit. Taught by two faculty members, the emphasis of the course will vary but the following aspects of the city’s cultural history will be covered is some detail: its literature, arts, music and architecture; its social conditions and broader American cultural context.
This interdisciplinary course explores the modern and contemporary cultural history of Detroit, examining the ways in which various population groups have been creative from the nineteenth century to the present. The course highlights the work of architects, designers, photographers, visual artists, poets, and musicians, and situates them in the broader cultural context of American art and history.
This entrepreneurship class addresses innovation, creativity, and the commercialization process to explore the implementation and feasibility of new business ideas. Topics include opportunity recognition, creativity and design thinking, market assessment, strategic and financial planning. Students will be exposed to resources from urban areas including speakers with experience and expertise in the entrepreneurial community. Students will use events and organizations like Detroit SOUP or Start Garden to understand urban business needs and idea generation.
This service-learning course focuses on environmental justice and law. Environmental Justice is defined as the fair treatment of all people with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws. In the classroom, students learn the theory, history, and enforcement of environmental laws and regulations in Detroit, Michigan, and nationwide. In a required civic engagement project, students apply their substantive knowledge to solve local environmental problems. Through classroom learning and projects with community organizations, students connect law and justice concerns to Detroit’s environmental problems.
The seminar is modeled after New Detroit’s Multicultural Leadership Series. The format offers a highly innovative approach to building competences to address (ethnic, racial, gender, and sexual orientation) topics relevant to the metropolitan Detroit region. Students attend off-campus sessions where they spend the day immersed in that culture. Each session offers an in-depth look at (but not limited to) the history, culture, and socioeconomic issues that are germane but also transcend regional barriers.
Using the Detroit Metropolitan region as a case study, students will examine the local history of different types of community organization-grassroots citizen action groups, non-profit social service agencies, issue coalitions, and government-sponsored councils-as a way of understanding the concepts of self-interest, power, institutional change, community control, and leadership. The class will examine how history, ecology, culture, economics and individuals working in groups shape communities including Detroit. Through this examination, students will develop the understanding and skills needed to act as collaborators and leaders in the community working with different organizations to help empower citizens and affect social change.
This community-based course partners with a community organization to produce media projects that serve the needs of the organization. Students will build skills in intermediate aspects of media production including concept development, research, proposals and pitching, scriptwriting, producing, shooting, editing, and sound design, as well as professional and organizational communication skills. Students will also develop a broader understanding of community engagement, citizenship, and issues impacting the Detroit Metro community.
This course focuses on health and human service provision and the impacts of these professions within the metropolitan Detroit area. The course addresses working with multiple populations and multiple service providers. A significant component of the course consists of significant guest speakers who have experience working in this area. The class will often meet off-campus at various social service agencies; students will be responsible for their own transportation.
Community organizing is a process by which communities and organizations work together to identify common problems and objectives, acquire and mobilize resources, and create and implement actions to achieve their goals. Community organizing is of interest to sociologists, organization theorists, political scientists, health educators, and social psychologists, among others, as scholars who contribute to our knowledge of working in and with communities. A primary component of this course is the field experience, in which students are partnered with community-based organizations to identify, apply, and reflect on course concepts, while contributing to local community building efforts related to various health issues in the Detroit Metropolitan region.
This course focuses on social service provision and the social work profession within the city of Detroit. The course addresses working with multiple populations and multiple service providers. A significant component of the course consists of guest speakers who have experience working in the city. The class will often meet off-campus at various social service agencies; students will be responsible for their own transportation.
Explores the use of museums as educational resources by elementary and secondary teachers. Various museums in the greater Detroit metropolitan area will be visited and studied. Students will review how to plan educational trips and how to use museum resources in meeting their own particular individual needs.
This course serves as the core course for the Semester in Detroit (SiD) program. It examines the transformation of Detroit from the late 19th, through the 20th and into the 21st Centuries. Our goal is to identify the main forces and patterns of change in Detroit’s past that have shaped the contemporary city you encounter today. Thus, the course is organized chronologically, but we will be exploring the city’s history alongside consideration of contemporary social issues, challenges, and debates. Course material will include a range of readings, films, and excursions. Through discussion of this material and in written assignments, the course encourages you to develop your own interpretation of the circumstances, challenges and opportunities currently facing the city. Students must apply to, and be accepted by, UM-Ann Arbor’s Semester in Detroit program to enroll in this course.
This course serves as an elective course for the Semester in Detroit (SiD) program. This course looks at movements, resistance, resilience, and liberation as it pertains to environmental justice. A growing body of evidence reveals that people of color and low-income persons have borne greater environmental and health risks than the society at large in their neighborhood, workplace, and playgrounds. We will connect history, current events, and real-life experiences to local organizing and movement struggles that build power for our communities.
This course serves as a field internship course for the Semester in Detroit (SiD) program. Students in this course work for 200 hours in an internship with a community-based organization in Detroit over 12 weeks (average of 16 hours per week).
This course serves as a core course for the Semester in Detroit (SiD) program. The primary purpose of this class is to provide a supportive, yet challenging learning space for reflecting on your Detroit internship experiences this semester. There are three main sources of material for this class: you, the internship, and Detroit. While, in theory, each is distinct, in practice, all three are interwined and interact and affect one another. Your challenge will be learning to see more clearly the interactions among these domains.
This course serves as an elective course for the Semester in Detroit (SiD) program. It is devoted to short fiction in search of a creative rendering of the people in Detroit, a city which offers rich opportunities to explore the theme of the “other”. Students will develop short narratives that capture their impressions of the city through its people. Each student will find Detroiters to “study” and creatively report on. Class discussions will help direct students.