Poverty Solutions has engaged more than 650 students in research assistantships, projects, courses, and events representing all 19 schools and colleges. In addition, Poverty Solutions’ faculty partnerships encapsulate the full range of expertise represented across U-M departments and campuses.
Supporting Faculty Research with Real-World Impact
Supporting faculty research that explores and develops strategies to address poverty from a broad range of disciplinary perspectives is a central tenet of Poverty Solutions’ mission. We prioritize action-based research that focuses on effective, real-world solutions. This past year we launched a Confronting and Combating Racism Faculty Grant Program in partnership with U-M’s Center for Social Solutions to support research addressing challenges such as systemic oppression, organizational exclusion, institutional discrimination, neglectful policy, and violence against the minds, bodies, and cultures of people of color.
Detroit River Story Lab
David Porter, a professor in U-M’s English Department, partnered with regional leaders to develop a three-pronged approach to amplifying the history and ongoing importance of the Detroit River from an anti-racist perspective. The first part entailed co-creating a curriculum for middle and high school students on the history and enduring effects of the Detroit River’s role in the Underground Railroad from an angle that emphasized Black Americans’ history of resilience, agency, and liberation. The second component of this project entailed a partnership with Bridge Detroit to promote public discussion of the place and Black history in recent efforts to redevelop the waterfront and claim it as a site of cultural heritage. Finally, Porter used this grant to advance an ongoing bid to secure a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site designation for the Detroit River. This included a congressional resolution, introduced by U.S. Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Brenda Lawrence, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the International Underground Railroad Memorial Monument, calling for the addition of the Detroit River to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, and the creation of an International Gateway to Freedom National Heritage Corridor.
Poverty Solutions facilitated many conversations with different stakeholders and helped disseminate our findings. As a junior faculty, I am really grateful for the opportunities Poverty Solutions has given me to establish myself as a researcher in this field.
Roshanak Mehdipanah, assistant professor, public health
Beyond Rhetoric: Confronting and Combating Racism in Genesee County, Michigan
On June 10, 2020, the Genesee County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis. Lisa M. Lapeyrouse, associate professor in UM-Flint’s Department of Public Health and Health Sciences, aims to ensure this resolution has a meaningful impact on the health and well-being of residents of color, extending beyond mere rhetoric. To accomplish that, Lapeyrouse is leading efforts to develop a decision-making Community Action Council that is responsible for developing an evidence-based strategic plan to eliminate racist policies and practices impacting the health and well-being of Genesee County residents of color. She is also cultivating opportunities for public input on the strategic plan at virtual town hall meetings, and reaching out to key stakeholders for their insights. Finally, Lapeyrouse is developing a website of resources for anti-racist policies and practices to assist other local, state, and national organizations to assess their current policies and practices, and adopt anti-racist policies and practices that impact the health and well-being of people of color.
If you’re not looking at racism as a systemic problem, then it becomes a lot easier to ignore.
— Lisa M. Lapeyrouse
Speaker Series and Other Campus Events
Over the past five years, Poverty Solutions and partners across campus hosted more than 100 events and talks, including the annual Real-World Perspectives on Poverty Solutions Speaker Series that featured experts in policy and practice from across the nation.
Engaging Students to Find New Poverty Solutions
Since its inception, Poverty Solutions has sought to equip the next generation of leaders with the skills they need to prevent and alleviate poverty. This has included offering courses that help students unpack the factors that lead to and exacerbate poverty as well as analyze proposed remedies. In addition, Poverty Solutions provides students with experiential learning opportunities in which they can support community partners or assist faculty developing research that impacts real-time policy challenges.
Katlin Brantley, of Oxford, Michigan, connected with Poverty Solutions as an undergraduate student in 2019 through the Sociology Opportunities for Undergraduate Leadership program for first-generation college students. They have continued their work as a research assistant with Poverty Solutions while pursuing their Master’s of Social Work, contributing to the Understanding Communities of Deep Disadvantage research, Detroit Metro Area Communities Study, Prosecutor Transparency Project, and various projects for the Detroit Partnership on Economic Mobility. They also completed the Real-World Perspectives on Poverty Solutions course.
My involvement with Poverty Solutions has allowed me to develop a more robust understanding of poverty and the various failed systems involved. Additionally, I have gained valuable skills related to academic writing, data analysis, interview facilitation, and stakeholder engagement, among others. This experience will undoubtedly shape my future practice as a social worker, particularly in how I engage with clients, communities, and systems.
— Katlin Brantley
Christopher LeFlore, a Detroit native, was a graduate student research assistant with Poverty Solutions while earning his Master’s of Urban Planning and Public Policy at U-M. He graduated in May 2021 and now works as special assistant to the president of the Kresge Foundation. LeFlore is a cofounder of BankBlackUSA, a grassroots nonprofit that works to promote financial inclusion and wealth building through research and advocacy. LeFlore worked with Poverty Solutions to manage a team of students who developed a data dashboard and interactive map for BankBlackUSA that makes it easier for people to identify Black-owned financial institutions across the country, review their financial products, and compare their lending practices to large banks. Poverty Solutions also supported LeFlore’s work with the City of Detroit developing the Detroit Department of Transportation COVID-19 Safe Workplace Plan and new land use policies in partnership with the Detroit Land Bank.
Poverty Solutions is an invaluable resource at the University of Michigan that empowered my work for the communities I care about, pushing it to greater heights. There are not enough entities like Poverty Solutions that can provide the resources, acumen, and passion to create change.
— Christopher LeFlore