Combining humanities and engineering in Detroit
For the past seven years, David Sheridan, associate professor in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities — along with colleagues Vincent Delgado, assistant dean for civic engagement at RCAH, and Timothy Hinds, from the College of Engineering — has been running Cultures of Creativity, a two-course sequence for RCAH and engineering majors.
It begins with Freshman Seminar Away in Detroit every summer.
“It’s a fun class where students develop a strong sense of community,” Sheridan said. “As the students are all incoming freshmen, it helps build a community and gives them a way to meet new friends in both a social and academic setting.”
The weeklong program in Detroit is open to freshmen from RCAH and the College of Engineering. It focuses on the way professionals from seemingly unrelated fields collaborate on creative projects. In the program, students engage with Detroit organizations both downtown and in the neighborhoods.
“For example, we tour an office space at the top of the Renaissance Center where a company actually spent $1 million installing a staircase between the two floors they occupy so employees could access both floors without ever leaving the office,” Sheridan said. “We also tour ‘makerspaces,’ which are places where community members work on projects with shared tools. We examine collaboration in many different contexts: large, small, downtown, neighborhood, for-profit, nonprofit, etc.”
He said Cultures of Creativity allows students a cheaper alternative to most study abroad programs.
The study away program is followed by a course in the fall in which students continue to study the theme of collaboration, but with a more hands-on approach.
“In the fall class, engineering and RCAH students collaborate on a community-based project,” Sheridan said.
Community-based projects are possible thanks to support from Ford Fund. This year, the project will include collaboration with students from Detroit’s Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy.
“I grew up in the Detroit area and I feel like I have a personal connection to the city,” Sheridan said. “Most people who have an interest in Detroit agree that the city is underappreciated. There are so many negative associations, and I want to expose students to a different side of the city.”