A group of University faculty and staff traveling last week to participate in a series of seminars across the state showed that college road trips aren’t just for students.

This is the 14th “seminar on wheels” hosted by the Michigan Road Scholars. The first stop in Lansing on May 6th was followed by five other stops before the final seminar in Detroit on Friday.

The trip was designed to allow professors to gain familiarity with Michigan businesses and the state while also creating mutually beneficial partnerships between the University and smaller businesses.

Coordinator of the Michigan Road Scholars Program Dana Sitzler said the seminars are a two-way street, where University faculty can learn about businesses while also offering resources through the University.

“They might talk about the talent they need,” Sitzler said. “They might talk about, ‘We’re trying to do ‘X’ and it would really help if you have a study to see if this is the most effective way to do it.’ ”

University faculty and staff applied from all three University campuses and were selected based on how the trip would benefit their teaching and how they would contribute to the seminars.

As the faculty and staff begin to build bridges across the state, it can open the door for students to get involved as well, Sitzler said.

“Sometimes our faculty will discover that they can do a project with their students with some local non-profit that’s nearby or some business,” Sitzler said, “They will actually work with that company to set up some kind of a project during the semester with their students that they hadn’t thought of before.”

Psychology prof. Luke Hyde said the trip was a success, having secured connections with development programs in Detroit.

He said he was particularly struck by Angela Reyes, director and founder of the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation, a non-profit organization helping youth in Detroit.

“Her model and the way she does meetings, her community and the community in Detroit in general is admirable and a good model for kind of the same things we need to get more involved in at the University and in the community,” Hyde said.

He said though no future plans are established yet, he anticipates partnerships with firms like DHDC will lead to internship and research opportunities for his students.

Social Work prof. Lawrence Root said increasing “state awareness” for the University was another major goal of the seminars, which serve to reinforce the connection between the state and the University.

“I think it’s really good to let people know what we’re doing internally and how it really could connect with the state.” Root said. “I think there really is sort of a ‘getting to know you’ aspect of the trip.”

Root compared the University’s level of outreach to that of Michigan State University, noting the school’s success in reaching out to communities through agricultural and other programs.

He said it was important for the University to similarly find ways to fit its programs with the needs of the state and expand its possibilities.

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