Keeping with the University of Michigan’s commitment to integrate and strengthen engagement efforts in the city of Detroit, the university recently established the Detroit Advisory Group and named a new special adviser on Detroit engagement.
The new position and advisory group — consisting of faculty and staff from all three U-M campuses — are charged with supporting the university’s mission of research, education and service in partnership with Detroit communities.
“The university is creating structures to be more organized and intentional in our engagement in Detroit,” said Dr. James Holloway, vice provost for global engagement and interdisciplinary academic affairs who also chairs the group. “We are formally bringing together faculty and staff who are highly engaged in Detroit who will strengthen and deepen our networks of knowledge across the institution.”
The Detroit Advisory Group will advise university leaders on Detroit-related matters, emphasizing strategic direction, engagement, programming and infrastructure.
This includes providing strategic guidance for the Detroit Center — a gateway for university and urban communities to mutually enrich each other through service, education, research and cultural exchange — and the Rackham Detroit building located at 100 Farnsworth St., near Woodward Avenue, in Detroit’s Cultural Center.
It also will facilitate outreach and focus events to seek input from U-M partners and other stakeholders in Detroit and advise on specific events, workshops and other work to build coordination and coherence in U-M Detroit engagement, including the annual research and teaching conference um3detroit.
Mr. Nicholas Tobier, professor of art and design in the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, and a member of the Detroit Advisory Board, said the creation of the group also will enhance internal and external transparency, foster collaboration and promote best practices.
“This is an opportunity for us to think structurally about our collective impact,” said Mr. Tobier. “Not only will we help one another to have the most positive impact on the city and the university, but this also serves as an opportunity to be more mindful of the communities, neighborhoods, partners and interests that we interact with.”
Other Detroit advisory group members are:
Building on a pre-existing community engagement framework, members of the Detroit Advisory Committee are committed to fostering partnerships within the city that are ethical, sustainable and create mutual benefits.
The group agreed to adhere to: a principle of recognition for the expertise and knowledge within the community, a principle of respect for individuals, communities and to their resources, and a principle of equitable partnership focused on reciprocal relationships, transparency and accountability.
Adding to the university’s mechanisms that encourage more collaboration and even greater impact in Detroit, the Office of the Provost recently announced Ms. Sonia Harb as a new special adviser on Detroit engagement.
Ms. Harb will act as a leader and liaison among nonprofits, businesses, students, faculty and staff, fostering connection and understanding between U-M and the community for Detroit-focused projects, programs, and initiatives in the Office of the Provost.
“I see myself as an ambassador, building relationships with communities across the city and interconnecting Detroit-based work across the university,” Ms. Harb said. “I want Detroit to benefit from all the University has to offer, and I want the University to learn from the strengths and resiliency of Detroiters.”
Ms. Harb also is the Detroit engagement strategist for the School of Social Work and has been working to empower Detroit neighborhoods and other stakeholder groups on behalf of the school for the last six years.
To eliminate a potential barrier for engagement in Detroit, the U-M Transportation Research Institute launched a new study that will provide insights and understanding of patrons’ attitudes, perceptions and assessment of the Detroit Connector shuttle service.
According to the Office of the Provost the service remains underutilized for most of its trips and the reasons are not completely understood.
The study is being led by Dr. Robert Hampshire, research assistant professor, and Dr. Aditi Misra, assistant research scientist.