By Kevin Brown
Mariama Nagbe started an empowerment dance program for at-risk youth in Detroit’s Delray neighborhood.
Erica Andrews helped create an Emerging Leader Award program to promote Detroiters who demonstrate the potential for works of merit.
Mary Harrell is helping to guide Quicken Loans public relations strategy.
Lindsey Palar facilitates monthly Youth Nights and community outings in the Cody Rouge neighborhood.
These U-M Detroit interns were among 200 recognized at a July 23 reception with President Mary Sue Coleman at the m@adison building, 1555 Broadway St., Detroit. The event recognized the work of U-M interns in Detroit, and highlighted their role in some of the initiatives underway in the city.
“The financial challenges are deep and serious. But we all have a stake in Detroit’s turnaround and we can all play a role, including the young talent from our universities who can clearly see promise ahead,” Coleman said. “This city matters. And we share tremendous excitement about its future. The leaders of the University of Michigan believe in Detroit, and we want to partner with the city in ways that are good for all of us.”
The program also included a Q-and-A session, building tours and refreshments on the rooftop terrace overlooking Comerica Park and Ford Field. The event also was attended by business leaders.
Cynthia Wilbanks, vice president for government relations, said the event celebrates the work of students who seek a challenge and deeper exposure to the city.
“This is a way to reach out to those involved in the internship opportunities and get them together. We are also hoping to expand these exciting business partnership opportunities,” Wilbanks said, speaking prior to the event. She added that the internships expose students to work opportunities in Detroit and in Michigan.
Sam Hamburger, an acquisition associate with Bedrock Real Estate Services and a 2012 U-M graduate, said a number of his firm’s 24 interns downtown are from U-M.
“I think there’s a lot of interest at U-M in Detroit and establishing a network here. A lot of these students go back to Ann Arbor and share their experiences,” he said in an interview before the event. Hamburger added that while graduating students in the past would focus on New York City or Boston as likely sites to begin working, they now see Detroit as an option.
A Detroit internship became a good option for Nagbe — a child welfare certificate-track student and Detroit native — as she works toward a master of social work degree. “After reading through the mission statements of each of the provided field placements, the mission of the Detroit Initiative was the most appealing,” she said.
Nagbe’s activities included creating and implementing a social skills program through dance at Delray Neighborhood House, a Detroit partner agency for at-risk youth.
“I have been dancing professionally for 16 years, so when the opportunity of developing a youth empowerment dance program at Delray presented itself, I started working on it right away,” she said. “The arts have allowed me to rise in the face of adversity within my own life story, so to translate that concept into a dance program at Delray has really made my internship experience with the Detroit Initiative quite gratifying.”
Graduate student and Detroit native Andrews’ internship experience with the Arts of Citizenship program through Rackham Graduate School included creating an Emerging Leader Award. It was inspired by the annual Detroiter Hall of Fame selections to honor leaders and native Detroiters such as actor/comedian David Allen Grier and fashion critic Robin Givhan. Andrews’ job was to research U-M graduates from Detroit and talk to city leaders to identify award candidates.
“I also found a master of ceremonies for the event, Stephen Henderson, the Detroit Free Press editorial page editor who hosts the program “American Black Journal” (on Detroit Public Television). He’s great at asking questions,” she said.
The honoree was Detroit playwright and actress Dominique Morisseau. Andrews helped stage a reading of Morisseau’s play “Detroit ’67” at the award festivities, at which the playwright also received a Spirit of Detroit Award from a City Council member. Andrews also is working on an exhibit on the founding of U-M in Detroit, in time for the 2017 university bicentennial.
Emily Taylor, a Stephen M. Ross School of Business and School of Natural Resources and Environment graduate student from Rochester, N.Y., is interning this summer with McKinsey & Co., a management consulting firm with offices around the world and in downtown Detroit.
“I’m trying to develop a big data strategy for an agriculture company,” said Taylor, who hopes to launch her career in the city. “There is so much vitality and energy with the revitalization efforts and I definitely want to get more involved outside of work.”
Harrell, a communications and international studies major from Kalamazoo who graduated this spring, has been working as an intern with the Quicken Loans public relations team downtown.
“My parents were a little worried at first, but it’s been really great. There’s so many activities going on downtown, it’s really blown me away,” she said, adding continuing with the company would be a great first job experience.
In reviewing field placement sites for her internship, Palar, an MSW candidate from Kalamazoo, said the U-M Technical Assistance Center stood out, as she was interested in community organizing and working on youth anti-violence efforts. She was referred to Kenyetta Campbell, executive director of the Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance.
“I work closely with the Youth Council in their efforts of leading by example and engaging with the community as change-makers,” she said. Palar facilitates monthly Youth Nights open to neighborhood youth ages 13-18, and tailors activities to their interests.
“I have an exceptional opportunity to practice social work at a pivotal point for this city,” she said.