LSA Semester in Detroit Program

by | Jan 26, 2018


For students wishing to become further engaged with the city of Detroit, the University of Michigan offers the LSA Semester in Detroit program, a semester-long residence in the city of Detroit with academic study and a community-based internship. The program provides a vast curriculum on topics such as Detroit history, urban planning, creative writing, and more. This experience allows students to learn about Detroit in a way that expands far beyond the capabilities of a single classroom course.

Semester in Detroit was originally created by four U-M undergraduate students in 2006 who wanted to create an off-site program that focused on applied education, community engagement, and social justice. Under the guidance of Assistant Professor Stephen Ward and members of both the U-M and Detroit communities, students drafted and proposed the SiD program.


In 2008, the U-M Office of the Provost approved the program and provided three years of funding. The first Semester in Detroit class began in winter of 2009, with 14 students participating in various Detroit organizations such as Alternatives for Girls and the Detroit Eastside Community Collaborative.

Since its founding, the program has hosted over 175 students and collaborated with over 50 non-profit organizations within Detroit. Previous participants have accomplished great feats such as assisting community organizing efforts in southwest Detroit that focused on increasing parental involvement in local school community organizations; learning skills in radio journalism while contributing to the community-based mission of a Detroit public radio station; and promoting collaboration between Detroit’s newest art museum and neighborhood-based community arts organizations.

Within the program, students are given the opportunity to explore their own passions and interests while finding innovative ways to support the Detroit community.

The mission of Semester in Detroit is to, “engage U-M undergraduates in substantive, sustained and reciprocal relationships with the people and communities of the City of Detroit.”

The goal is that SiD students will become deeply invested in the city’s ongoing challenges and uncover it’s true potential to improve the lives of Detroit natives. When students complete the program, they are eligible to propose a project with a community organization and UM faculty member, allowing them to continue their engagement even after their immersion is over.