Michael Joseph Peterson receives posthumous baccalaureate degree


Picture of Michael PetersonMichael Peterson was a WSU student from Sterling Heights, Michigan. He entered Wayne State University in fall 2009 as a transfer student from Macomb Community College and successfully completed 115 overall semester hours. Peterson finished all but two courses required for his degree.

Peterson passed away on Aug. 29, 2019, at age 34. He had not enrolled at Wayne State since 2014 but was in contact with both the undergraduate director, Professor Brad Roth, and his academic advisor, Ryan Ferrante, about finishing his degree in the years prior to his passing.

Peterson had a passionate interest in African politics. He traveled to Botswana in 2011 as part of former Wayne State University President Irvin D. Reid’s African Democracy Project, which had a major impact on his outlook. Peterson’s writings from the study abroad course highlight how concerned he was about environmental degradation, HIV/AIDS, human rights and the day-to-day experience of marginalized communities. In one of his last blog posts from the study abroad course, he proposed: “One would like to believe that it is enough to be fair in one’s daily interactions to maintain a clean conscience. It should be about what we do. But what about what we don’t do? What about what we don’t know?”

As a true advocate for human rights and democracy, Peterson believed that we must continue asking questions, even when the answers are elusive, and continue to push ourselves in our concern for the disempowered, both at home and abroad. Even after he stopped taking courses in 2014, he emailed his professors at Wayne State about African political developments because of the importance that he assigned to these social and political issues.

Faculty and academic staff in the Department of Political Science wished to recognize Peterson for his considerable achievements at Wayne State. His inquisitiveness, thoughtfulness and commitment to a community-engaged perspective represented a model for all students to emulate. At the behest of Roth and Ferrante, the Department of Political Science and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences petitioned the Board of Governors to award a posthumous baccalaureate degree to Michael Peterson. The request was granted in fall 2020.

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