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Board meets in Detroit to recognize 'U' partnerships

Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 17, 2011

DETROIT — Collaborations between the University and the Motor City was the main topic of discussion at the University’s Board of Regents meeting here yesterday.

Three University-affiliated groups made presentations to the Board regarding the importance of the University’s partnerships with Detroit organizations.

The presentations — made by Semester in Detroit participants, researchers working on the Healthy Environments Partnership and graduate students involved in Revitalization and Business: Focus Detroit — all stressed the University’s integral role in improving the city.

In her opening remarks, University President Mary Sue Coleman said it was important to meet in Detroit because many of the city’s leaders are University alumni.

“We are pleased to have so many engaged partners in metropolitan Detroit,” Coleman said. “Together we are all committed to a strong future for our state.”

Student participants of Semester in Detroit, a University program in which students live, take classes and intern in the city for a term, talked about their experiences to the regents. The students explained how their time in Detroit enriched their lives and strengthened their commitment to Michigan.

Charles Bright, faculty co-director of Semester in Detroit, said the program is operating on limited resources. He advised the regents to take a more active role in the program to ensure its sustainability over time.

Later in the meeting, Amy Schulz, an associate professor in the University’s School of Public Health, and Angela Reyes, executive director of the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation, discussed the Healthy Environments Partnership’s work promoting cardiovascular health in Detroit. The partnership is a collaboration between a number of Detroit groups, the University’s School of Public Health, the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion and the Henry Ford Health System.

Schulz said the group chose the topic of cardiovascular disease because it is more prevalent in Detroit than in the rest of the country. She explained that the disease’s high diagnosis rate can be attributed to factors that contribute to high blood pressure, such as air pollution, lack of exercise and food and environment stressors, which many Detroit residents face. For example, many people living in Detroit have difficulty finding places to exercise, she said.

“They need not only to do (exercise),” Schulz said, “but places where they can do it and do it safely.”

Schulz and Reyes have worked with community organizations to create walking groups and promote physical activity, Schulz said, the results have been encouraging.

“Based on the preliminary data, people have increased their number of steps,” she said. “And both their systolic and diastolic blood pressure is coming down significantly.”

The presentation by Schulz and Reyes was followed by Ross School of Business graduate students who discussed their involvement in the Revitalization and Business: Focus Detroit — an organization with the primary goal of helping to rejuvenate the city’s business market.

Last year, in an effort to launch the program and generate interest about working in Detroit, the organization hosted a two-day conference in Ann Arbor and Detroit, which hundreds of students attended.

Business School graduate student David McCarty said at the regents meeting that the response to last year’s conference was encouraging.

“I heard my classmates say things like … ‘Wouldn’t it be really great to start a business in Detroit instead of working for an investment bank?’” McCarty said.

The focus of the conference last year motivated people to think about Detroit and its possibilities.

“Everyone knows what the conversation has been about Detroit historically,” he said. “We didn’t want to rehash that.