The History of Detroit: A Case Study of Resilience & Urban Sustainability-Study Away Program

Travel to Detroit during Spring Break  2024 to experience resilience and sustainably in action.  In the classroom you'll explore the social, cultural, political, economic, urban, and  environmental histories of Detroit from the era before European contact through the present. You will analyze primary and secondary evidence during the first half of the semester.

Then, during  spring break, apply your historical and geographical knowledge on-the-ground, researching and developing ArcGIS StoryMaps on the history and geography of the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood. Work with historians for the City of  Detroit’s Historic Designation Advisory Board to develop StoryMaps that interpret the various  eras of the neighborhood’s geography from Native American inhabitants to the present. You'll work with Camp Restore, whose mission is to support organizations to support  local communities in Detroit rebound from the adverse impacts of deindustrialization, population  loss, and environmental and racial injustices. Your StoryMaps will be shared with City historians and current residents of the  Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood.  

You'll work as an active historian interpreting Detroit’s past while living within it. You'll conduct historical research in the City’s Historic  Designation Advisory Board Office, as well as the Detroit Historical Society and Detroit Public  Library. Visit the Detroit Abloom Farm & Wellness Garden within the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood to understand how current residents are revitalizing their community  through sustainable urban land reuse.  

  • Travel Dates:  February 23- March 3, 2024
  • Course Dates: January 8 – April 19, 2024
  • Application Deadline: November 1, 2023
  • Deposit Deadline:  December 1, 2023
  • Earn 3.0 credits (3 in HASS)


Students will earn 3.0 HASS credits—SS3542 History of Detroit (3.0 credits) or SS4530 Deindustrialization and the Urban Environment (3.0 credits).

SS3542 History of Detroit (3 Credits)

An exploration of the social, cultural, political, and economic history of Detroit from the era before European contact through the present. The course will combine lectures, discussion, activities, examinations and an analytical essay in order to investigate the history of Detroit from a variety of perspectives.

Restrictions: May not be enrolled in the Freshman class. Instructor approval required to register.

Pre-Requisite: UN 1015 and (UN 1025 or Modern Language - 3000 level or higher)

SS4530/SS5530 Deindustrialization and the Urban Environment (3 Credits)

This course examines economic, environmental, and social problems associated with deindustrialization in postwar North American cities and the strategies adopted to ameliorate them. Major topics include segregation and housing, environmental regulation, environmental justice, industrial heritage, and economic and urban development policy.

Restrictions: May not be enrolled in the Freshman or Sophomore class.

Pre-Requisite: UN 1015 and (UN 1025 or Modern Language - 3000 level or higher)


We will leave Houghton on the morning of February 23rd via motor coach, and return to Houghton/MTU on March 3rd. 

Day Activities
February 23 Depart Houghton and Arrive in Detroit
February 24 Detroit Historical Museum and Wright Museum
February 25 Preservation Detroit and tour significant historical sites in the city 
Visit Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood 
February 26 Meet Rebecca Binno Savage and Janese Chapman at  City of Detroit offices and tour downtown with Rebecca
February 27

Morning at discussion at the Fisher Building with Ron Staley (’77, ’80)

Historical project research at the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library Red Wings Hockey Game

February 28

Research day at City of  Detroit  Historical Designation Board offices

Tour of Detroit Institute of Arts

February 29 Tour of River Rouge plant 
Tour of Third Man Records Pressing Plant 
March 1

Belle Isle 

Motown Museum 
Detroit Athletic Club dinner hosted by Ron Staley (’77, ’80)

March 2 Morning research at Wayne State University Library 
Afternoon visit to Detroit Bloom garden in Jefferson Chalmers
March 3 Depart Detroit and Arrive Houghton


The total cost to students will be $600 dollars (a $300 deposit is due Dec. 1). The total cost covers all activity expenses, tips, program administration, travel insurance, and an average of two meals a day.


This course will take you out of your comfort zone and into situations which are new and exciting! You should be prepared to walk several miles a day, be outside in the rain, and interact respectfully with people of different cultures. You should also come to the program with an open mind and a flexible, positive attitude – which will yield unexpected encounters and rewards while traveling!

Study Away Information

Have more questions about studying away? Study abroad staff can help you with your pre-departure. Here are some other resources that will help you with your visit: