Week 10 – Final Post – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Week 10 – Final Post

Just as everyone who has ever been part of anything they enjoyed, I am shocked how quickly this program passed by. It seems unbelievable to me that only ten weeks ago I was moving in to a room with five strangers who seemed more interested in Netflix than talking to one another. Now I can call the gentlemen of room 202 some of my finest friends. It is really paradoxical how it feels like so much has happened in what also feels like such a short time period.

My letter from week one was definitely a challenge to myself to make the most of my opportunities, to step out of my comfort zone, and to learn as much as possible. To some extent I think I succeeded. I think the biggest part of this for me was setting up informational interviews with leaders from many different sectors to talk about a pretty charged term…gentrification (so charged, in fact, that I learned that it was much easier to get meetings with development/economic leaders when I didn’t use the word in my interview ask, i.e. “I’d love to talk to you about economic development in the city, and how it can benefit current residents”). Everyone seemed to have a different perspective. A lot of people challenged my experiences, why I was asking these questions, and how I came to be the person I am. There were certainly some uncomfortable moments and some challenging moments. I learned a lot about myself and how to conduct myself in different situations.

I also just learned a lot about Detroit. I realize that because I didn’t grow up here and only lived in midtown for a few months, I definitely don’t have any where near the same level of understanding of the city and its people that many, many others do. But through my conversations, research, and our seminars I feel like I personally gained a deeper understanding of the city’s history and current challenges. Last summer I worked in New York City and I was the only student in my program from Michigan (and the whole Midwest, really). When the water shut-offs or other stories would come out about Detroit, people would ask me my thoughts or opinions. While I tried to provide intelligent insights, I really probably floundered around like an idiot with pretty much the same level of understanding of the city as everyone else on the east coast. I’d like to think that now I’d be able to actually provide some level of coherent thoughts…or at least be honest enough with myself and my friends to say that as an individual who grew up in the suburbs of a very divided metropolitan region, I don’t understand.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate in this program. I’ve learned a lot, made a lot of connections, seen a lot of new things, and had a lot of fun. I’ve also made a lot of new friends – the opportunity to meet, hangout with, and learn from each and every person in this program has been a privilege. If one of you by chance actually reads this, please know that I think you’re a pretty awesome, unique, and thoughtful person and that I’ve appreciated any time we’ve spent together.

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