Semester in Detroit offers inclusive and immersive educational experiences

Source: Michigan News

Semester in Detroit cohort at the Boggs Center. Pictured are Briana Hurt and Jordan Jones from UM-Dearborn; Taliyah Wright, center, with Sam Aupperlee upper-right, from U-M; and Natalie Lambert far right from GVSU. Photo by Bryanda Washington

The Semester in Detroit program, conceived originally by U-M students and launched in 2009, brings undergraduate students from the Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Flint campuses together at the University of Michigan’s Detroit Center. The program has also included students from Grand Valley State University since 2016.

Within the program, students live, learn and work within the city for one semester. The program, with its blend of academic study and hands-on community work, is unique.

“It really molds the class into one unit, a class that transcends geographical divisions. It makes sense that all of that comes together in Detroit,” said Jamon Jordan, or Baba Jamon to his students, history lecturer and Historian for the city of Detroit.

“All those different campuses become one class, become one University of Michigan.”

Part of the program involves students interning at local nonprofits.

Jeimy Lopez, a student majoring in organizational studies with a minor in education originally from southwest Detroit, interned at 482 Forward. It’s an organization that advocates for a community-driven approach to improving education.

In the fall 2023 semester, Lopez took part in the Literacy for Liberation campaign, which aimed at enhancing reading scores in Detroit Public Schools while promoting literacy at home. A significant part of Lopez’s contribution included a children’s holiday book drive. Boxes were placed in various Detroit locations, including TechTown where 482 Forward is located.

“I believe this initiative is integral to Detroit’s educational development, especially since Detroit’s $94 million ‘right-to-read’ lawsuit settlement is coming through,” Lopez said. “Oftentimes, withholding reading skills has historically been used to oppress people.”

Swayamleen Kaur, an international student who studied psychology at UM-Flint, gained a valuable perspective on gender equality through her internship at Alternatives for Girls. It is an organization committed to uplifting women and providing resources that support their educational journey and help them secure a meaningful role in society.

Seeing her role at Alternatives for Girls as a turning point in her own perspective, Kaur said, “Being in this organization is rewiring my brain into seeing how women are treated. This internship has become a turning point of my own in the way I see myself.”

Kaur spoke of her appreciation of the engaging methodologies of the Semester in Detroit program. “It offers a more open approach to how teachers conduct their classes, their routine. They go about it in an interactive way.”

Craig Regester, adjunct lecturer and associate director of Semester in Detroit, said the boundary between the school and community is something the program pushes against.

“All of our classes and the curriculum are publicly oriented. Any course in the program is open to the supervisors with whom the students are interning,” he said.

Briana Hurt, a senior from UM-Dearborn and a Detroit native, contributed to Detroit through her involvement with Keep Growing Detroit. Keep Growing Detroit is an urban farming organization that emphasizes food sovereignty and entrepreneurship among Detroit residents.

“They promote the notion of citizens being in control of the types of food they eat and cultivate, really encouraging autonomy when it comes to diet,” said Hurt.

The program is now accepting applications for both the upcoming spring and future fall semesters. For more information, visit

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