Two Geography Majors Participate in Pilot Cohort in Detroit for U-M Program

Two Geography Majors Participate in Pilot Cohort in Detroit for U-M Program

Six Grand Valley students are spending their fall semester in Detroit, immersed in a program that focuses on the city's history, culture and community activism.

They are part of an 18-member cohort enrolled in the Semester in Detroit (SID) program, operated by the University of Michigan. This is the first year Grand Valley has participated. Anne Hiskes, dean of the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies, said the opportunity offers students a unique, place-based experience.

The SID cohort is housed in two houses in the Cass Corridor and Woodbridge neighborhoods. Students take most classes together and are required to serve internships with Detroit organizations.

Hiskes said she hopes students develop a deep understanding of challenges that face urban communities and develop skills for addressing issues like race and class. "I hope they are inspired by the community resilience and sustainability initiatives they observe," she said. "As an immersive, cohort experience, the program is structured to be absolutely transformative.”

Liberal studies major Dana Eardley said living and learning with a small group of people lends itself to this type of community-based program.

"Living together enriches our learning experience because we are able to continue our discussions outside of the classroom," said Eardley. "Members of our cohort are passionate about a variety of social issues. I appreciate that our program encourages us to gain an understanding of how these issues intersect." 

Eardley's internship is at D-Town Farm, a program of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. 

Angela Paget, a geography and sustainable planning major, has an internship with the Greening of Detroit, an organization dedicated to promoting healthy urban communities through green spaces, education and job training. Paget is developing a composting system for use by neighborhood residents, and helping to plan field trips for K-12 students.

Paget said she's enjoyed learning more about Detroit's history through seminar-style lectures and readings. "There is more individual preparation before class, and more interactive learning in the classroom," she said.

Craig Regester, associate director and on-site coordinator for SID, said the Grand Valley students have enhanced the program's diversity with their experiences and perspective. Grand Valley students who are participating are Eardley, Paget, Kelsey Stephenson, Stephanie Balke, Mary Eakins and Ryan Samosiuk.

This is a pilot year for the partnership; Hiskes and Regester both said they hope it continues next fall. More information is available online at

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Page last modified November 17, 2016