MSUToday
Published: Sept. 12, 2016

Students experienced Detroit through DETxMSU pilot program

Contact(s): Pat Crawford Landscape Architecture office: (517) 432-1148 crawf203@msu.edu

This summer 60 Michigan State University students and faculty lived, worked, played and learned in Detroit as part of DETxMSU.

The pilot program immersed students from six colleges throughout the city where they were partnered with stakeholders to work on projects ranging from entrepreneurship and business to urban design to media production.

“The problems we are facing today cannot be solved by one discipline or one way of thinking. It takes bringing many different people together to create solutions that bridge ways of thinking and seeing the world,” said Pat Crawford, associate professor, School of Planning Design and Construction and DETxMSU coordinator. “By immersing the students in the realities of Detroit they were provided an opportune environment to practice and learn in collaboration with community partners.”

The program, made up of seven separate groups of students, worked on a variety of projects from different colleges and majors across Michigan State. This year’s programs included:

Cultures of Creativity involved Residential College of Arts and Letters students and focused on how professionals from different backgrounds work together to achieve creative solutions in both corporate and community-based settings.

Students from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences participated in Data Mining and Information Visualization, which conducted large-scale exploratory data collection and analysis. The goal was to assist Detroit’s urban planning by visualizing resident and commuter mobility and recommending infrastructure developments to enhance people’s experiences in Detroit.

DesignThinkmade up of students from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, School of Planning, Design and Construction, teamed up with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to create a plan for transforming Belle Isle’s landscape into a prominent feature for the city.

ShiftBiz involved students from the Broad College of Business who created a temporary “student consultancy” and worked with founders of businesses in the heart of Detroit with the intent of providing innovative and actionable plans to help enhance the probability of future success.

The Urban Studio experience was made up of students from the College of Arts and Letters who were paired with the talent, experience and commitment of Michigan citizens, organizations and entrepreneurs in a spirit of reciprocity and community engagement.

Student filmmakers from MSU’s Media Sandbox created short films that documented the work of the other DETxMSU programs. They captured an intellectual and emotional picture, uncovering the true meaning of participation, and the impact of the overall project on both Detroit and MSU. A film of the overall DETxMSU project will be released this fall.

Students from the College of Engineering experienced Detroit through internships with DTE, Meritor, BASF and other companies. The students also participated in discussion groups, networking opportunities, and several discovery events. The experience helped students narrow their career interests.

Students from across Michigan State participated in InnovateGov. They were embedded within Detroit’s core public or nonprofit policymaking institutions and involved in the design and implementation of innovative approaches to an intensely challenging public problem – the looming social and humanitarian crisis triggered by an estimated 60,000 property foreclosures.

"The MSU interns were critical to the substantial decrease in the number of foreclosed properties. On their first day, they hit the ground running and with their assistance, we were able to reach 8,000 taxpayers,” said Eric Sabree, treasurer, Wayne County. “These enthusiastic, creative and dedicated students also met with a variety of nonprofit and public entities to develop a ‘best practices’ plan for future foreclosure prevention communication. I greatly appreciate the partnership with MSU and the opportunity to work with this amazing group of future leaders.”

This summer’s DETxMSU was a collaborative effort. Students were housed in Wayne State University dorms, and the overall program received financial support from the Quicken Loans Family of Companies to introduce students to Detroit, in hopes they may consider working there one day.

“I truly learned and witnessed the adage ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’ When working in such a cohesive group, it is not your individual product that shines but the abilities and contributions of all the members,” said Rachel Wilke, a junior in the landscape architecture program. “My time in Detroit enhanced my education and allowed me to see solutions through multiple viewpoints and consider strategies I may not otherwise have in a traditional classroom.”

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