Humanities Clinic connects student interns with Detroit community organizations

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From left to right: Lindsay Toman (Sociology), Erik Noren (History), Erin Matusiewicz (Classical & Modern Languages), three of the twelve Humanities Clinic interns and Wayne State Ph.D. students that have gained transferrable job skills while working with Detroit non-profits this summer.

Wayne State Ph.D. students in the humanities are lending their expertise to Detroit community organizations through a unique partnership. Now in its third year, the university’s Humanities Clinic pairs students with community partners to help with everything from grant writing and archival research to program evaluation — free of charge.

From startups such as Rebel Dogs Detroit to historic institutions like Pewabic Pottery, Humanities Clinic interns have a direct impact on the mission and success of these vital organizations.

Lindsay Toman, a doctoral candidate in sociology, is working as a support group coordinator for Stand with Trans, a nonprofit that advocates for and supports transgendered youth. She’s in charge of the program’s networking and outreach initiatives — a welcome, but new role. “I’ve been involved in the beginning of programs and starting non-profits, but I have gained a new understanding and appreciation for working towards program growth,” she said of the experience.

The benefit for Toman is twofold. Her research focuses on LGBTQ health and she is currently writing her dissertation on the medicalization of transgender youth. “As a feminist researcher, I wanted to make sure that I got to know the community and gave back to the community throughout the research process,” she said. “It’s nice to experience the hands-on work that comes with making sure a program will remain successful and that it is serving the community to the best of its ability.”

The dual function of the Humanities Clinic is to provide free services to its community partners and to help prepare graduate students for meaningful careers beyond academia. Student interns are enrolled in graduate programs in history, communications, sociology, anthropology, English, classical and modern languages, and political science at Wayne State.

Lillian Wilson Szlaga, a doctoral candidate in history and coordinator of the Humanities Clinic, has worked to expand the Clinic this summer by building more community partnerships with local organizations. “As increasing numbers of Ph.D. students consider careers outside of academia, they need opportunities to build transferrable job skills before graduation,” she said. “The Humanities Clinic makes that possible, while also benefitting local organizations.”

Additional community partners include the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Arab American National Museum, the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute, the Public Humanities Working Group, the Walter P. Reuther Library and Auntie Na’s Village among others.

The 2019 clinic runs until Aug. 31. Organizations interested in a partnership can visit the Humanities Clinic for more information.

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