Students come out on top in Wayne State community partnership initiative

Rivera Court in the Detroit Institute of Arts
Rivera Court in the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Wayne State University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) is forging new paths to expand experiences and career opportunities for its students.

A bold new community partnership initiative will create internship opportunities for 100% of students in CLAS. In addition to the existing internships through academic departments and WSU Career Services, students now have the opportunity to collaborate with renowned institutions such as the Detroit Institute of Arts, Motown Museum, the Detroit Historical Society, among others.

"We cannot underscore the importance of internships at both the undergraduate and graduate levels," said CLAS Dean Steffi Hartwell. "Beyond the obvious benefits of networking and experience, these opportunities teach our students what they want to do - and what they don't want to do - when they finish their degree. They offer a glimpse of how to operate and thrive in a real workplace. You can't always teach those things in a classroom."

CLAS Dean Steffi Hartwell signs an internship agreement with
Hamtramck Historical Museum Director Greg Kowalski.

If Hartwell has it her way, every WSU student will have an internship before they graduate. Since joining the university in 2018, she's made community partnerships and student internships one of her top priorities. In just this past year, Hartwell has had partnership discussions and developed memorandums of understanding with cultural and community organizations across the city.

"These institutions are part of what brought me to Detroit," she said. "The cultural depth of this city is like nothing I've seen."

Through archaeological digs and artifact preservation, WSU's Department of Anthropology has had a longstanding relationship with the Hamtramck Historical Museum. Now, a formal internship agreement will allow CLAS students to gain experience in museum programming, research and exhibit preparation at the museum.

At the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, a new fellows program is being developed specifically for undergraduate students in CLAS. Those interested in museum studies will get first-hand experience in exhibit development, archival work, and even educational programming at the celebrated Midtown Detroit museum.

A new partnership with the Michigan Science Center will create new job opportunities for students. In addition, CLAS faculty and the college's museums will collaborate with the center on new exhibits and guest lectures.

WSU student Hamza Taj started an internship in Detroit's Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship (ACE) in 2020. He learned of the opportunity through his academic advisor in public health. "I jumped at the chance as soon as I heard about it."

Through Detroit ACE, Taj is helping to promote the city's already legendary arts and culture scene in new ways. "We're all about maximizing the creative expression of Detroit," he said. "I've been researching how different cities set up their arts councils and even helped develop a virtual art exhibit."

While an internship in the arts may seem like an unlikely choice for a public health major and aspiring physician, Taj said the two areas are more connected than one might think. "I'm looking at things like urbanism, population dynamics, city trends and dealing with communities as a whole. When you think about it, that's really the first step toward applied public health."

What's more, this opportunity has moved Taj, a "proud introvert," out of his comfort zone and into new territories socially. "We've had to contact and pitch Detroit ACE to a large number of people, so this has really allowed me to develop my social skills. I think that's incredibly important for a career in medicine. It's that human aspect of medicine that I truly want to develop and this will help me."

Student Annika Christiani
Student Annika Christiani recently started an
internship at The Woodward Review.

Annika Christiani's internship has been a crash course in two worlds: publishing and startups. With the help of WSU English Lecturer Jared Grogan, she landed a job at The Woodward Review, a budding literary journal that aims to publish poetry, prose, art and criticism when it launches this year.

Christiani admits that she was a little nervous when she started her internship search, but having a mentor like Grogan to guide her through the process was a tremendous help. "He has been amazing," she beamed. "He helped fast-track the interview process and gave invaluable feedback on my resume." And when one internship opportunity didn't work out, Grogan quickly connected Christiani with The Woodward Review because he knew she would be a great fit.

Then there are the bonus benefits. Christiani ultimately wants to become a sociology professor, but would love to write fiction on the side. She said her position at TWR has granted her an inside look at how literary magazines vet their submissions. "It's been really interesting to see how it all works."

I'm a firm believer that the greatest cities in the world have an equally great university partner. Without a doubt, Wayne State is that partner in Detroit.

These opportunities aren't just for undergrads. WSU's Humanities Clinic connects graduate students in the social sciences and humanities with Detroit non-profits and small businesses. Interns are matched with projects that align with their scholarly interests while supporting community partners in need of help. Students sharpen their skills in grant writing, editing and data analysis, among other areas. Just this academic year, the clinic has connected students with organizations as varied as Henry Ford Health System and Detroit Sound Conservancy.

In the coming weeks, Hartwell will continue to find new and dynamic spaces where WSU students can get their hands dirty and make a difference. Conversations are already planned with a half dozen additional community and cultural partners.

"I'm a firm believer that the greatest cities in the world have an equally great university partner, said Hartwell. "Without a doubt, Wayne State is that partner in Detroit and it only makes sense that our students are front and center in that relationship."

Students interested in internship opportunities should connect with their academic advisor to get started.

← Back to listing