DCBRP: Existential Crisis

As I sit down to write this blog post, I realize that my experience this summer is almost over. While a small part of me is sad, a larger part of me is feeling relief. Feeling relief that in a little over two weeks I will be spending my days on the bay of Lake Michigan enjoying family and friends and trying to soak up the last minutes of summer that I have before I have to head back to Ann Arbor. Because I am nearing the end of my experience here in Detroit I am starting to reflect on my time here. Asking myself questions like, do I feel like my time was well spent this summer? Do I feel like I contributed anything to my organization this summer, and most importantly what have I gained? When I do leave Detroit and this program, what am I taking with me back home to my friends and family, as well as my community at Michigan? That being said, I really am enjoying Detroit and learning about the unique issues it faces as a city, meeting and making new friends as well as all of the lessons that this placement has taught me. Those things are what I will be leaving this internship with and taking back with me to the University in the fall as I navigate my next year of academics and my eventual career.

The program that I am in this summer is all about conducting research at a community level, so much so that it is literally in the name of the program. What that research looks like, can take many different forms and more specifically what Community Based Research is can take many different forms.

Something that I am realizing through the program this summer is that I care about research. In fact, I care about research a lot. Consequently, I don’t only care about the act of doing research for the sake of knowledge accumulation, but I care about the issues of research, how research is done and more importantly the potential of research. Because I believe that research has the potential to change the world, I know this because it changed my world. Yet when we look around there is little evidence of it actually changing anything. I did this program because I wanted an experience with research that was not the ensconced ivory tower of the Academy. I wanted to see research do things and change things, and have a chance to be apart of that.

So I thought that research in the Non-Profit sector would be the perfect answer for my frustration. Well it has been six weeks and I am still frustrated. This time I see the work being done, yet still no results. As the summer progressed and I learned more about my placement and the Non-Profit sector in general and the constraints it faces I am growing more sympathetic while at the same time, really questioning if the constraints of a non-profit are constrains that I could build a future career out of.

So now you see my current predicament. While I was ensconced in the Ivory Tower I could not wait to get out in the field and actually do research that would do something, that would actually create change. But now that I am here in the community doing research and not experiencing any results I find myself catching glimpses of the Ivory. So I guess that leaves me somewhere between the Academic Complex and Community Development?​

2 thoughts on “DCBRP: Existential Crisis

  • July 31, 2018 at 11:48 am

    Kia, as your internship experience is barreling toward the end (this week, right?), I want to thank you for your thoughtful and honest reflections. Your last one and this one in particular are incredibly introspective, vulnerable, and honest.

    As for the conversation regarding your own racism with your colleague, having been confronted with a similar message, I know how hard that can be. Especially when you’re “doing the work.” When you care deeply, when you’re studying, demonstrating, and personally working for social justice. I also know, looking many years back to those moments (also during my time at U-M), what a gift it is. To have a colleague of color care about you enough to name the dynamic, and then be willing to be in dialogue with you. If you’re anything like me, you will carry that moment with you for the rest of your life.

    Regarding your observations about research, I think your questions are important ones. I can say, that whether it is the non-profit or for profit sector, change takes time. I think the research is important, and can make an impact. Sometimes it’s the only thing, because it’s harder for people to argue with logic and fact. It just might take longer than your internship allows you to see. But, too, of course non-profits do not have as much cash to help make their research findings well-known, to lobby, etc. We do have a staff member who specializes in the Hub on social impact work who meets with students. If it might be helpful to meet with her when you return as you process through this experience, her name is Kelly Day.

  • July 31, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    Thank you for your comments on my blog and I am so glad that you enjoyed it! and yes my internship will be done the end of the week, hard to believe. This summer was definitely an experience and one of lessons that I am going to take back and still processing through. And I know that my moment of being challenged by a colleague on my racism was definitely a formative experience, one that I hope shapes me into the future social change agent that I aspire to be.


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