by Kristina Beatty

In 2017, with support from the Neighborhood Student Success Collaborative and the Gilbert Family Foundation, MSU started the Detroit M.A.D.E. (Mastering Academics Demonstrating Excellence) Scholars Program. This Program supports MSU students who have graduated from Detroit public and charter high schools with transitioning to MSU, as well as academic, personal and career development. Through involvement in the program, Detroit M.A.D.E. Scholars participate in a variety of high-impact practices like service learning, internships, seminars and mentorship, all in an effort to prepare them to give back to and shape the Detroit communities they came from.

The Program focuses heavily on offering high-impact opportunities, like learning communities or small cohorts of students with similar academic and goals, as well as community-based experiences, to Detroit graduates who come to MSU. “We work to engage these students in high-impact practices and innovative services,” says Joy Hannibal, assistant director for the Detroit M.A.D.E. Scholars Program. “These practices are often not as accessible to students, so we work to help them learn about and navigate those opportunities once they’re at MSU.”

Service learning is one high impact practice the Program targets, with a specific focus on partnering with organizations in Detroit. One of the Program’s key partners is Rescue MI Nature Now, a Michigan-based nonprofit that develops green spaces within Detroit and provides nature-based educational programs. In 2018, Detroit M.A.D.E. began urban farming service-learning experiences with the help of Keep Growing Detroit, and in 2019 started the important partnership with Rescue MI Nature Now. These types of experiences teach students about the transformational value of revitalizing land and facilitating access to organic foods and vegetables in Detroit while helping students stay connected with their communities.

In addition to service learning, students in the Program also have several paths available for personal and professional growth. Currently the Program partners with Accenture, a worldwide company with a hub in Detroit that provides consulting, strategy, technology and operations services for various organization types. Internships are available to students in addition to learning and development courses in client consulting. For some students, involvement in these development courses and internships have led to job opportunities after graduation.

Another large aspect to the Detroit M.A.D.E. Scholars Program is preparing students for their transition to MSU and their first year on campus. After joining the Program, students are invited to campus over the summer before starting their first year to familiarize themselves with campus. Students can also participate in a first-year seminar course during their first semester at MSU. “We want to help students best understand how to use the resources available to them and what it means to seek help. Through these courses we are able to teach them how to find resources and seek the help they need,” says Hannibal. These courses also provide valuable information on the overall transition to higher education including developing important study and time management skills. To further support the first-year student transition, the Program also utilizes peer-mentors who assist with monthly programs that are focused on both academic and personal professional development.

Currently, there are about 200 students in the Detroit M.A.D.E. Scholars Program, with approximately 60 to 75 students taken in each year. Admissions for the Program is on a rolling basis, an important change that took place during the pandemic. “Some students find out a little later than others about the Program, and they realize that Detroit M.A.D.E. could provide them with the help they need, so we do rolling admissions. There may be a current Program student who connects other students to us, and we want to be able to bring those students in and support them during their time at MSU,” Hannibal explains.

Looking ahead, there is more on the horizon for Detroit M.A.D.E. “We’re really hoping to do more with the alumni of the Program. We’ve got more students who are graduating and going back to Detroit, so we would like to engage more with that new network and bring them back to campus to speak with current students and show them what is possible with their involvement. Building a formal mentorship program would be a great way to continue to involve our alumni,” explains Hannibal. “We really want to maximize as much as possible the opportunities for students here on MSU’s campus and the support we receive from the Gilbert Family Foundation.”

There is no shortage of support for Detroit M.A.D.E. Program Scholars—beyond the service-learning, internship and first-year learning programs, students are offered research, advising and study abroad and away experiences to further expand their academic and professional development, and ultimately, succeed and graduate. And bringing that skill and know-how back to the Detroit communities that shaped them will leave a lasting impact on the students there into the future.

Learn more about Detroit M.A.D.E. here, and look ahead to next month’s Student Success Newsletter to hear directly from a Detroit M.A.D.E. Scholar and the impact of this valuable program.