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February 23, 2012 - Image 30

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-02-23

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Guest Column


WSU Aims To Secure
Diversity, Graduations


The Motor City Moishe House, which last summer played host to Chasidic reggae singer
Matisyahu (center), is helping to redefine Jewish Detroit.

What Is Jewish Detroit?


e need to talk.
In the last year, many Jewish national orga-
In 2011, compelled by visions for
nizations, such as Repair the World, Moishe
a more just society, members of a
House and Jewish Funds for Social Justice/
newly invigorated global community asserted
Progressive Jewish Alliance, have brought
their desire for government and community
people and money to Detroit to initiate projects
change. But before the Arab Spring and Occupy
and participate in community-building efforts.
Wall Street, a similar movement had begun with- Local organizations such as the Isaac Agree
in Detroit and its metropolitan region.
Downtown Synagogue and CommunityNEXT
This movement contin-
have revved up their own
ues as an array of organi-
efforts to build a constitu-
zations, citywide initiatives
ency in the region in sup-
and business entities
port of this revitalization.
persistently stake claim to
Though all these orga-
headlining the efforts of
nizations exist under the
what is commonly referred
same Jewish umbrella,
to as "the revitalization of
they work independently
and are often in tension
Within these compet-
with one another in their
ing forces lies a deep and
respective approaches to
Ariel Pear I-Jacobvitz
heavy history of inter-
building community.
and liana Sc human-Stoler
group relations within
As members of a
the city of Detroit and its
cohort of students in
surrounding suburbs. It is
the Jewish Communal
clear that the Jewish com-
Leadership Program
munity has invested in Detroit.
(JCLP) at the University of Michigan, we
This vested interest is evidenced by ardent
have been working to create "What Is Jewish
Jewish support for the city that seems to be
Detroit?" — an event that will bring together
embedded into the very fabric of this commu-
a diverse group of Jewish community leaders,
activists and historians to discuss the rela-
But in what ways will the Jewish community
tionship between the Jewish community and
be a part of the continued vibrancy of Detroit?
the city of Detroit.
That, friends, is the jackpot question of the day
The program will be structured as a commu-
— a question worthy of communal consider-
nal conversation. It will focus on:
ation. On April 1, we invite you to talk about it.
• The historical relationship of Detroit's
This is a critical moment for redefining the
Jewish community to the city over the course
Jewish community's relationship to the city of
of the 20th century and the relative presence
Detroit. With growing national attention on the
and/or absence of Jews in Detroit throughout
movement toward revitalizing the city, efforts
the city's history.
to build programs in the city and to recruit
• Reflections from community members of
fresh, young talent have gained momentum.
different ages on their individual experiences

Jewish Detroit on page 31


February 23 • 2012

he idea is to streamline admission to Wayne State
University through a menu of opportunities to sus-
tain a diverse mix of students and achieve a greater
chance of student success. New guidelines, effective in 2013,
will provide a creative admissions structure for this urban
campus committed to drawing from Detroit, its suburbs and
Now, each application will be evaluated on its own merit;
GPAs and test scores will be among the preparedness fac-
tors, but not the sole ones. Applicants will be assigned to one
of three admissions categories, ranging from regular admis-
sion to programs that offer a chance to acquire the skills
required to later succeed at a competitive research univer-
sity of 32,000 students.
It's an exciting, sobering moment in the history of Wayne, a
state university since 1956.
Graduation and retention rates remain at the core of mea-
suring student success. Just comparing Wayne's six-year
graduation rate with similar universities is shortsighted.
Many Wayne students have limited financial means, work and
have families. It's not unusual for them to spend much longer
than six years earning a degree.
"Over the past five years," Eugene Driker,
a nine-year member of the WSU Board of
Governors, told the JN, "we've put vari-
ous strategies in place, such as Learning
Communities, where students learn how
to learn from their peers. These strategies
have gradually improved retention rates."
Trends are encouraging. Between 2005
and 2010, the percentage of freshmen
Eugene Driker
returning for their sophomore years has
increased from 69 to 77 percent, sixth-best
among the 15 Michigan public higher-education campuses.
A better, expanded process of awarding financial aid is on
course to improve not just retention rates, but also,
ultimately, graduation rates.
Admitting students with a reasonable chance of succeed-
ing is harder at a school with an urban mission. In scrapping
just numbers, Wayne's new admissions policy will be much
more individualized.
Applicants ready for higher education's rigors will be
Students with promise will go into a subsidized, intensive
bridge program the summer before their freshman year. If
they do well, they'll be accepted as regular students come
fall and receive continuing support from a greatly expanded
advisory staff.
Students who don't "cross" the bridge on first pass will be
directed toward a community college with the proviso that if
they finish two years there in good standing, they can return
to Wayne.
The intent is to give students every chance at succeeding,
not create an elitist environment. The university, its students
and the larger community all stand to benefit.
In the process, Wayne not only is upholding its longstand-
ing commitment to Detroit students, but also helping assure
it attracts, retains and graduates as many of them as pos-
Their local roots are likely to prompt many of these local
graduates to stay in Metro Detroit if the region's job pros-
pects – buoyed by TechTown, the 12-block Wayne State
University Research & Technology Park – pick up. E

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