2020 Humanities Clinic supports community partners battling COVID-19

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Now in its fourth summer, the Wayne State University Humanities Clinic is turning its focus and support toward Detroit's community organizations fighting the effects of COVID-19. 

The clinic is an innovative, interdisciplinary internship program that pays humanities and social science graduate students to work with non-profits and small businesses in Detroit. 

It began in 2017 with five interns from four academic departments that worked with seven community partners, but has rapidly expanded over the last year to become a national model for graduate internship programs. 

This summer, thanks to generous support from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School, the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Office of the Provost, and the Department of History, the clinic will hire twenty interns from fourteen academic departments, to work with approximately twenty community partners on projects related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Interns will collaborate with one another on projects for the clinic’s community partners in an effort to foster cross-institutional collaboration and strengthen the support provided to Detroit communities. Interns will provide a range of skills including data collection and analysis, grant writing, community outreach, marketing and educational programming. 

Interns will work with faculty and staff at the Wayne State School of Medicine and Karmanos Cancer Institute to conduct interviews with cancer patients for a study on the impact of COVID-19 and social distancing on cancer prevention, control and management in Michigan.

Humanities Clinic interns will also collaborate with the Legal Advocacy for People with Cancer Clinic (LAPC) at Wayne Law to develop and implement new methods for preparing legal documents for its vulnerable clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, interns will help generate and analyze data on ‘no foreclosure’ and ‘no evictions’ orders, and identify food security programs for LAPC clients.

For another project with the Wayne State College of Nursing, interns will analyze data from a study on how news impacts risk and protective behaviors of individuals in regions of the United States that have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic including Detroit, Albany, New York, Georgia, Southeastern Louisiana, and seventeen counties in the Midwest with meat or poultry-packing plants and high rates of COVID-19.

Interns will also develop new, virtual ways for CLEARCorpsDetroit and the Southeastern Michigan Health Association to conduct in-home assessments for health risks, like asthma and lead exposure, for low-income families with children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In yet another project, interns will work with researchers in Wayne State's Department of Communication to document media coverage on the impact of water shutoffs in Detroit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the Wayne State School of Social Work and Institute of Gerontology, interns will recruit participants for a survey on the behavioral and emotional experiences of seniors during the pandemic; interns will also analyze data, conduct archival research, and develop an exhibition on the survey’s findings.

For InsideOut Literary Arts Project, interns will to create literary arts experiences and curriculum for Detroit-area school children, and conduct a research project on how the written word can help support the social and emotional well-being of students during school closures as a result of COVID-19.

"There has been an absolute outpouring of proposals from non-profits as a result of this pandemic," says Humanities Center Coordinator Lillian Wilson. "We have also had triple the number of intern applications from last year. I think this is a testament to how humanities and social science students can provide skills and expertise during a health crisis." 

To Wilson, the Humanities Clinic's success has been twofold. "In addition to helping so many critical community organizations, we're grateful that the clinic has been able to provide graduate students with professional skills that will prepare them for a range of careers." 

For questions about Humanities Clinic internships or becoming a community partner, contact Lillian Wilson lillian.wilson@wayne.edu.

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