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Those who really know the city of Detroit and take the time to look beyond recent headlines of hardship are aware of its countless triumphs, big and small, and an enduring spirit that deserves to be celebrated. Though there are many accounts of adversity, there also are stories of renewal and resurgence as many—including Spartans—continue to invest in the city.

For decades, Michigan State University has been working with partners in Detroit to support economic development, advance the arts, transform schools, improve health, and sustain the environment. Like Detroit, MSU values resilience, hard work, and a commitment to solving problems and empowering people for better lives. These stories reflect just some of the many ways Spartans are working with the people of Detroit to ensure a stronger tomorrow.

Spartans Salute the Spirit of Detroit

Lou Anna K Simon

Detroit and Michigan State University have a long history together. Detroit accounts for a large share of our enrollment and our alumni base. And our involvement in the city reflects every facet of our mission—education, research, and service.

So the city’s long decline in population and prosperity has been a source of deep concern. But perhaps because of our on-the-ground involvement there, we see more clearly what positive possibilities the future can hold for what is still one of America’s most important cities.

In counterpoint to the singular image of decay that some would paint, Michigan State will celebrate the undaunted spirit of this unique city in an exhibition that opened last September at the MSU Museum and this past spring, in Detroit itself. Titled “Detroit Resurgent,” the series of photographic portraits and interviews documents many of the people who are remaking Detroit into an industrial, agricultural, and artistic community of vibrant renewal.

Detroit Center

MSU Detroit Center

Our sponsorship of the exhibit and accompanying book illustrates MSU’s continuing commitment in Detroit, but our engagement is far more than symbolic. The MSU Detroit Center, opened on Woodward Avenue in 2009, is a physical investment in the community that is home to our Community Music School-Detroit as well as several other programs and offices. Beyond our own quarters, we work in myriad ways across the city to promote prosperity.

On this page, you’ll find just a sampling of the many ways in which MSU works side by side with Detroit to spur innovation and improve quality of life. For even more, visit

Like the hardy sprouts emerging from its urban gardens, there are promising signs of revival for Detroit. There is investment from people like Spartan alumnus Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans. There are young people choosing to live in the city for its increasingly vibrant art and cultural scene. There are partners such as Michigan State and our sister universities of the University Research Corridor—University of Michigan and Wayne State University—working to help Detroiters dream bigger dreams and hone the tools to achieve them.

At MSU we like to say “Spartans Will” to capture our ethos of hardworking excellence. I’m confident we can say, “Detroit Will,” too.

Lou Anna K. Simon

Lou Anna K. Simon
President, Michigan State University

next generation of urban educators

Producing the Next Generation of Urban Educators

College of Education students in the Urban Educators Cohort Program gain the knowledge and skills they need to teach in urban schools through focused courses and guided teaching experiences in real classrooms from their first semester at MSU through the end of their 5th-year internship.

Hundreds of future teachers have participated in the College of Education’s Urban Immersion Fellowship in the past decade. MSU teaching students spend seven weeks teaching in Detroit Public Schools’ summer school program or in community programs serving youths.

MSU will offer the Master of Arts in K-12 Educational Administration in downtown Detroit for the first time starting in fall 2013. Classes will be held at the MSU Detroit Center, providing a convenient location for local educators who are aspiring to leadership positions in schools.

Pursuit of justice

Contributing expertise in the pursuit of justice

The Metropolitan Detroit Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Racial Inequality was formed in 2011 by a group of social justice organizations committed to exposing institutional or structural racism. Estrella Torrez, assistant professor in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, was named one of the commissioners, integrating her work with Michigan’s Latino and urban Indigenous families to support the project.

Coaching programs

Developing coaching programs that inspire

MSU’s Institute for the Study of Youth Sports has been a partner in a unique, long-term program with Think Detroit Police Athletic League, a youth development organization. The institute helped create the IMPACT Coach Leadership training program for Detroit PAL’s 1,500+ coaches and managers.

instilling teaching aspirations

Instilling high school students with teaching aspirations

The Summer High School Scholars program increases urban teenagers’ knowledge about higher education and acts as a successful “pipeline” to MSU academic programs and teacher education in particular.

curbing gang violence

Reducing gang violence

During the past two decades, MSU sociology professor Carl Taylor has conducted field research projects in Detroit aimed at understanding gangs and youth culture and reducing violence.

making music

Making music in the city

Faculty and staff from MSU’s Community Music School-Detroit are helping ensure that music education and its benefits are not only available, but also accessible, to Detroit residents of all ages, especially youths.

health care careers

Introducing young people to health-care careers

The Future DOcs program, a partnership between the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine and Detroit’s Benjamin Carson High School, is designed to inspire youths to pursue careers in the health-care field.

products made in Michigan

Promoting products made in Michigan

The first Meijer store to open in the city of Detroit is the latest to highlight Michigan-made grocery items through the retailer’s Made in Michigan initiative with MSU’s Product Center for Food-Ag-Bio.


Mentoring young men

MSU Residential College in the Arts and Humanities assistant professor Austin Jackson works with My Brother’s Keeper, a mentor program for at-risk black males attending Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy in Detroit.

out on the great lakes

Introducing students to the wonders of the Great Lakes

Now in its 23rd year, MSU Extension’s Great Lakes Education Program has introduced more than 92,000 students, teachers, and adult chaperones to the unique features of the Great Lakes and helped participants understand their role in protecting these vital resources.

produce from farmers market

Connecting families with farmers markets

MSU Extension educators work with farmers market managers in Detroit and around the state to help them develop systems to accept Bridge cards at their markets, ensuring families have access to fresh, local food. 

culture of creativity

Exploring Detroit’s culture of creativity

“Cultures of Creativity in Detroit” is a freshman seminar that explores culture and creativity in Detroit. MSU students spend a week immersed in the city working with artists, engineers, and musicians, exploring real-world cultures of creativity.

raquet sports

Supporting student success through athletics and service

Racquet Up Detroit uses the sport of squash in combination with academic and service activities to help students achieve success in their lives. The literacy curriculum for the program was created in close collaboration with scholars from the MSU College of Education.

food security

Providing food security

Detroit and MSU are working to develop a broad program of food system innovation—dubbed FoodPlus Detroit—to promote local economic development, land recovery, and food security.

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