University of Michigan—Ann Arbor

What People Are Saying

"I’ve never been in a class before that has put so much emphasis on learning about the community we are working with and I feel that in the future it would be difficult for me to go back to the “regular” way of engineering. Learning about the community and people we are engaging with gives a whole different feeling of the project and has definitely changed the amount of passion I had for the project."

Ford Community Corps Member, University of Michigan—Ann Arbor

"The opportunities this class provided were so completely different than many of the other classes at the university. Each class period was something fresh, something engaging, and something new."

Ford Community Corps Member, University of Michigan—Ann Arbor

"I claimed that “research is the only way one can actually help,” but I have come to realize that research cannot accomplish anything if it is not done in the right frame of mind—an open, willing, and aware mind … I think this class has made me more humble."

Ford Community Corps Member, University of Michigan—Ann Arbor

Tackling Urban Planning in Southeast Michigan

The Program

University of Michigan—Ann Arbor Ford Community Corps program is a course that any student can enroll in to earn credits toward a Multidisciplinary Design Minor. As part of the Community Corps program, students harnessed their talent in order to find solutions for community partners in Southeastern Michigan. 2013 was the pilot year for this design sequence and Focus: HOPE served as the community partner.

Goal: The new curriculum combines service learning, social theory and human-centered design in a service project with a community partner.

Program Scope

  • 16 Students
  • 286 Volunteer Hours
  • 4 Projects


16 undergraduate students worked in the classroom to build their capacity in the non-profit arena in the following ways:

  • Examine internal intentions and motivations to develop a link to the members of the community in need.
  • Examine social identities and biases to develop understanding and empathy.
  • Utilize skills, including like listening, observation, interviewing, surveying and data synthesis in order to develop new skills with which to identify community-centered design opportunities.


Students interned with a community partner for 10 weeks. They became familiar with the day-to-day business of the partner, observing the organization and community. In order to determine one or more engineering opportunities of mutal interest, the students conducted research and investigated proposed project scope.


The interns return to the classroom to lead a multi-disciplinary design team, acting as an advocate for the community partner. The final designs will be implemented at the community partner’s site.

Further, students will be encouraged to utilize sustainable engineering design solutions that reduce environmental and social concerns without creating new issues.