Source: Michigan News

Valeria Bertacco, vice provost for engaged learning

More than a dozen projects awarded with Engage Detroit Workshops grants in 2022 and 2023 were shared Friday at the U-M Detroit Center.

The grants, which were announced this week, come from the Office of the Vice Provost for Engaged Learning. Valeria Bertacco, the vice provost for engaged learning, shared her excitement to fund the second round of these projects that emphasize impact in neighborhoods across the city and include a focus on the university’s principles off civic and community engagement: recognition, respect and equitable partnership.

The projects range from one that helps parents become more involved in their children’s education to another that explores the range of fatherhood experiences.

“One of the things we wanted to address is the content concerns that some families have,” said LaShorage Shaffer, associate professor of education at UM-Dearborn, about The Best Classroom Project. The project teamed up with the Detroit Parent Network and Best Classroom Project. 

LaShorage Shaffer, associate professor of education at UM-Dearborn, and Dara Hill, professor of education operations at UM-Dearborn.

This project seeks to assist families in Detroit in making informed school choices for their children and to provide support to local youth with college admissions. The program is designed to target specific populations and will offer a series of workshops and lectures this summer and fall covering various aspects of school choice in Detroit, including application processes, different grade levels, and college admissions.

The next project started off with the opening music to Papa Was a Rolling Stone.

The Papa Was Project has its roots in the song and the story it tells of growing up with an absent father. With the program partners, over 60 interviews were recorded in which participants recalled their own fathers, and their own experiences as fathers.

Participants include Nazim Fakir, “a Motown baby” and son of Abdul “Duke” Fakir, an original member of the Four Tops. “Those lyrics reminded of how my dad was always on the road. He was a rolling stone,” Fakir said during the interview. “Just because there were some gaps because of my father’s job and what he had to do… he took care of us. He wasn’t always physically there. I’ve tried to be physically there for my children.”

The project is lead by:  Richard M. Tolman, professor of social work, School of Social Work; Sonia Harb, Detroit engagement strategist, School of Social Work; Feodies Shipp III, associate director, UM Detroit Center. Community partners are Sam Donald, Detroit Musix; Marcus Hille, Parent Think Thank; Willie Bell, Family Assistance for Renaissance Men; John Miles, Children’s Center; and Bomani Gray, Metro Detroit Father Policy Group.

The project aims to conduct interactive workshops in Detroit that are geared toward fathers. Through the use of arts, entertainment, and popular culture, the project hopes to promote positive paternal involvement and spark discussions on the role of fathers in Detroit families.

“The community will be strengthened by the fathers acknowledging their place firmly and then becoming better fathers to their children and in the community,” Sam Donald of Detroit Musix said. “I know because that is what happened to me.”

Tolman said that this year’s grant will build on that work with workshops that will include a documentary preview, a conversation on the impact of TV dads, an exploration of how advertising portrays fatherhood, and a stand-up comedy showcase featuring Detroit comedians who will incorporate their fatherhood experiences.

“It’s the intergenerational transition of positive parenting. Push against the negative stereotypes people have about dad, using entertainment as the prompts and entry points,” Tolman said.

The other projects for the coming academic year are:

Studying Movement and Place-keeping in the West Village

  • Project leads: Damani Partridge, professor of anthropology, professor of Afro-American and African studies, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; Malika Stuerznickel, graduate student research assistant, graduate student instructor, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; Faith Bailey, graduate student, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
  • Community partners: Ajara Alghali, Temate Institute for Black Dance and Culture
  • Description: The project is dedicated to studying the changes happening in the West Village neighborhood of Detroit. The focus is on how economic investment and demographic shifts are affecting long-time residents, particularly the predominantly Black community. It intends to record the community’s history and experiences through public installations, an oral history archive, and an analysis of movement patterns.

Detroit River Education

  • Project leads:  David Porter, professor of English and Comparative Literature, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; Kim Lijana, director, Center for Educational Outreach; Ebony Thomas, co-chair of the Joint Program in English and Education, associate professor, College of Marsal Family School of Education
  • Community partners: Detroit Historical Society, the Wright Museum, the DNR’s Outdoor Adventure Center, Michigan Underground Railroad Exploratory Collective, the Green Door Initiative, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, and the Belle Isle Conservancy
  • Description: The project aims to utilize the Detroit River for experiential learning, strengthening partnerships, and expanding narrative-based river education. Currently, the Detroit River Skiff & Schooner Program has provided hands-on learning experiences for over 600 students. The project seeks funding to organize three gatherings that will learn from other water-based experiential learning programs, advance long-term planning, and provide experiential learning opportunities for adult partners.

Detroit Land Lab

  • Project leads: Lisa DuRussel, associate professor of practice, School for Environment and Sustainability; Melanie Manos, lecturer IV in art and design, Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design; Nana Temple, graduate student, School for Environment and Sustainability
  • Community partners: Tanya Stephens, Vacant Land Detroit, Community Development Corporation
  • Description: The Detroit Land Lab initiative strives to assist residents in tackling the difficulties they encounter when dealing with government programs to acquire vacant land in Detroit. Its objective is to equip locals with resources and guidance on how to obtain and convert vacant land using established procedures by the Detroit Land Bank. This involves aiding with design methods, plot plan development, and brainstorming innovative land use projects. The ultimate aim is to empower community members, promote lasting transformation, and restore land ownership to Detroit residents through cooperative initiatives and community empowerment

Financial Coaching for Detroit Small Businesses

  • Project leads: Cathy Shakespeare, associate dean for Teaching and Learning, Arthur Andersen professor of accounting, associate professor of accounting, College of Stephen M. Ross School of Business; Christie Baer, assistant executive director, Center on Finance, Law & Policy, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; Paul Steih, retired senior global client service partner with Ernst & Young.
  • Community partners: Grandmont Rosedale Development Corp., TechTown, Jefferson East, Inc., Eastside Community Network
  • Description: The Detroit Neighborhood Entrepreneurs Project is teaming up with the Ross School of Business, U-M alumni, and Detroit-based business service organizations to create two two-hour workshops for small businesses in Detroit. These workshops are designed to help improve financial management skills and increase access to capital. After the workshops, business owners will have the opportunity to receive individual consultations with student accounting consultants to provide further assistance

Taking it to the Street – Art, Agency, and Community 

  • Project leads: Anna Muller, associate professor of history, Department of Social Sciences, UM-Dearborn College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters; Paul Draus, professor of sociology and anthropology, Department of Behavioral Sciences, UM-Dearborn College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters; Kristin Palm, assistant director of communications, UM-Dearborn Office of Communications
  • Community partners: InsideOut Literary Arts, Youth Justice Fund
  • Description: The “Art & Agency from the Inside Out” workshop series will be expanded to community venues in Detroit during the fall and winter. The workshops are an extension of the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, bringing together UM-Dearborn students, staff, faculty, previously incarcerated individuals, and community members. Led by practicing artists, these workshops use various art forms to encourage introspection, discussion, sharing, and collaboration. The aim is to establish a deeper presence in Detroit, broaden the audience, and increase the workshops’ impact.

Visualizing Migration – Translating Detroit 

  • Project leads: Kristin Dickinson, associate professor of Germanic languages and literatures, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; Yopie Prins, professor of English language and literature, professor of comparative literature, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; Michael Pifer, professor of Armenian language and literature, assistant professor of middle east studies, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.
  • Community partners: Arab American National Museum
  • Description: This project intends to enhance the mission of Translating Michigan website by concentrating on two particular areas in Detroit. The first area focuses on creating a project page named “The Middle East in Metro Detroit” that will record the histories of Middle Eastern migrant communities and develop an interactive story map on the website.. The second area involves working with muralist Elton Monroy Durán in Southwest Detroit to curate a virtual tour of his murals, with the inclusion of archival materials and community interviews.

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