Students registering for winter term classes have a range of options for learning about the city of Detroit through culture and history classes, or through community service programs.
Rebecca Zurier, an associate professor of art history, who teaches Made in Detroit: A History of Art and Culture in the Motor City, said Detroit has changed so much recently she felt it was important to offer this course and have a discussion about the city with students. Her course gives students insight to trends in modern art, architecture and history by seeing how they were stressed on a world stage.
“The arts are playing a bigger and bigger role in this Detroit that is kind of growing informally,” she said. “The arts are an important insight into the city and they have something to do with its growth, so that’s a good thing to think about in a classroom with a group of really committed and interesting students.”
In the course, which is cross-listed in art history and American culture, students will discuss specific pieces of art and architecture along with more general topics including the story of the Detroit Institute of Arts during the Detroit bankruptcy trials.
For students interested in taking classes in Detroit, Detroiters Speak is a six-week public mini-course aiming to give students and the public a better understanding of historic and contemporary topics in Detroit. Students listen to a panel of Detroiters and experts talk about various topics.
Semester in Detroit and the University’s Detroit Center are co-sponsors of the series that is held weekly at the UM Detroit Center. Transportation is provided through the UM Detroit-Center Connector.
LSA senior Tangela Woodley wrote in an e-mail she was able to learn about issues the city is currently facing by taking this course.
“So many times have I been able to strike up deep and meaningful conversations with strangers about the things I had learned about in this class,” she wrote. “I would always leave hungry for more knowledge and information around the matter. I think this is what classes are supposed to be. They should make our mind curious, make us ask questions, and make us really think about our role as members of society.”
Other Semester in Detroit classes will also be open to students, including Detroit: Beyond the Other, a creative writing course.
For students with a background in Spanish interested in doing community service in Detroit, The Spanish Language Internship Program provides students with transportation to do community service in Ann Arbor and Detroit, said program coordinator Teresa Sanchez-Snell, who has been with the program for 11 years. Students receive one credit for doing three hours of community service a week and attending discussion
“In the City of Detroit, there are so many possibilities to learn and do community service work,” she said. “I strongly believe in giving your time and giving your special skills whatever they are in order to help someone else. I think that’s very rewarding in itself and you can learn so much as an undergraduate.”
Sanchez-Snell said the program is currently partnered with Western International High School and Justice for Our Neighbors, a faith-based ministry providing free legal services and education for immigrants in Detroit.
“Justice for our Neighbors hosts clinics in Southwest Detroit, so we partner with them, but our students meet both with the staff attorney at one of the local churches and with clients twice a month,” she said. “They’re in communication with the clients and that’s what they will be doing this semester as well.”
LSA sophomore Maria Lopez, who is going into her second semester with the Spanish Language Internship Program working at Western International High School, said she worked with students on various skills including their confidence and the college application process.
“I remember when I was in high school, I was really shy when I did presentations or anything upfront,” said Lopez, who is a Western International High School alum. “So when I went inside a classroom for the first time, I went and told them that I was there too. I was sitting in those same seats that you are, but now look at all the things I have accomplished because I really want to do something for myself and not depend on my parents or end up in a low-paying job.”
Students of all levels of Spanish can participate in the program, but those who wish to register must first meet with Sanchez-Snell and receive permission.
Students who are advanced in French can volunteer at Freedom House through the Residential College. The house offers shelter and legal help to victims of persecution seeking asylum in the U.S., many of whom come from French-speaking West Africa said Program Director Dominique Butler-Borruat, a lecturer and head of the French program in the RC.
Butler-Borruat said students spend three hours on-site per week to help the residents develop their skills in English, gain a better understanding of American culture, and socialize with the residents during their evening meal. Students also learn more about the social and historical contexts of Francophone West African countries.