Community in the news

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As Michigan school librarians disappear, this program allows teachers to fill in

Amid a sharp decline in the number of Michigan school librarians, a new program was started this summer to use teachers to help fill those roles. The Experimental School Library Media Specialist program allows already certified teachers to be recognized by the state as school librarians after they’ve taken just five additional classes, or 15 credits, at Wayne State University. The number of full-time certified librarians in Michigan has dropped sharply in recent years. Only 8 percent of schools have a librarian today; the figure has declined roughly 73 percent since 2000. The number of people trained to be librarians has fallen sharply, too, so much so that librarians are on the state’s “critical shortage” list even as the number of available jobs shrinks. The program’s website says impending retirements among the remaining librarians will open up jobs to new librarians. The program was granted temporary permission from the Michigan Department of Education to allow teachers to add a new area of expertise in less time than usual. Teachers are typically required to take 20 credits in order to add a new area of expertise. This is not the state’s only effort to combat educator shortages by reducing credentialing requirements. With districts in some areas struggling to hire teachers, lawmakers allowed for new teachers to lead classrooms after taking 300 hours of online classes.
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A Wayne State University Theater Ensemble Performs Original Play in Scotland

Exploring topics such as race, gender, sexuality, and mental health, members of the Freedom Players — an ensemble formed out of Wayne State University’s Black Theater and Dance Program — went no holds barred this month when they performed their honest and original play, I Am, at the Scotland-based Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The trip marked the first time WSU students have attended the month-long, city-wide celebration, and their play was one of more than 50,000 performances showcased during the festival’s run. Following their experience across the Atlantic Ocean, Hour Detroit spoke with Billicia Hines, artistic director of the Black Theatre and Dance Collective at WSU, about the decision to attend this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, how it felt to bring their heartfelt work to an international audience, and the unforgettable impression this experience has had on the young Freedom Players.                                                    
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How to make sure your water filter really removes lead

A problem with high levels of lead in Newark’s drinking water led the city last year to distribute water filters to residents. But that plan hit a snag this week when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alerted the city that drinking water in two of three homes it tested still had high levels of lead, despite the filters. The EPA advised Newark residents to stop drinking tap water and urged the city to supply bottled water instead (though that solution also ran into problems when the city learned some of the water had passed its expiration date). Filters certified to remove lead must undergo rigorous testing by NSF or other labs. The Water Quality Association, for instance, tests the filters with water contaminated at 150 parts per billion—10 times higher than the EPA’s action level of 15 ppb. Researchers in Flint even pushed filters to the extreme, testing with water contaminated to 1,000 ppb, and found they still removed all lead from the water. The filters distributed in Newark were activated carbon filters certified to remove lead. But not all filters can do that. “Activated carbon has a lot of surface area with nooks and crannies where chemicals can stick,” says Shawn McElmurry, a Wayne State University professor who did extensive field research during the Flint water crisis. “But it’s not infinite.” To add to the chaos, McElmurry says there could be other contaminants in the water competing for those attachment sites. And if some of those contaminants have more mass or energy, they could knock some lead loose—like throwing softballs at your Velcro wall of tennis balls. Faucet-mount filters, like those used in Flint and Newark, typically cost $20 to $40 and require several installation steps that can go awry. “These filters are not easy to get onto the faucets,” McElmurry says. “We found that a lot of people in Flint with arthritis or poor motor function in their hands couldn’t attach them.” 
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DTE Energy Foundation awards $100k to Wayne State’s Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies

The DTE Energy Foundation has awarded a $100,000 grant to the Wayne State University Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies to support its Summer Enrichment Program (SEP). Designed to improve retention and graduation rates, SEP is a college-readiness program that helps incoming first-generation and underrepresented college students acquire the key “hard” and “soft” skills needed to smoothly transition to rigorous university-level coursework. Structured as an intensive, eight-week immersion in mathematics, English composition, oral communications and cultural studies, the SEP courses and complementary learning exercises are widely regarded as pivotal to a successful academic experience. The grant, which will enable the center to continue to offer SEP over the next four years, greatly advances the university’s strategic plans to recruit, retain and graduate a diverse pool of students who will become leaders in their professions and in local communities. The program has a demonstrated record of laying a solid foundation for their competitive performance in a wide array of courses, especially those in the STEM fields. “We are grateful for the vote of confidence that the foundation has deposited on our organization’s ability to continue to assist students pursuing a cutting-edge academic degree at Wayne State University,” said Jorge L. Chinea, director of the center.
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Wayne State looks to ‘reboot’ urban pediatrics program

Wayne State University has created a new practice plan called Wayne Pediatrics, according to Dr. Herman Gray, chair of the new Wayne Pediatrics department. Gray says the department is taking advantage of this opportunity to reimagine how care is delivered to children and their families in an urban setting. As part of that effort, Wayne Pediatrics has created the Urban Children’s Health Collaborative, an initiative to connect urban kids with better health care. Gray also talked about the wider health care disparities that exist, both in Detroit and around the country. “Certainly, poverty and racism are pretty much universally acknowledged as the foundational components of societal disparities,” says Gray. “We believe that being minimized, being disrespected, being uncertain of your place in society induces toxic stress.”
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Wayne State’s urban innovation district near New Center takes shape

Ever since a working group convened to discuss the matter in 2014, Wayne State University has been working to create an “Innovation District” near New Center. Those plans finally seem to be coming together. Last year, the university purchased the NextEnergy Center, now called the Industry Innovation Center (I2C), on Burroughs Street across from TechTown Detroit. Those three partners have teamed up to create Detroit Urban Solutions, which is taking a multidisciplinary approach to address issues facing cities. One block away, Wayne State opened the Integrative Biosciences Center (IBio) in 2015, which similarly takes a multidisciplinary approach to health research. TechTown was founded by Wayne State in 2000, and though it has since become an independent nonprofit, still works in close partnership with the university’s Office of Economic Development. Wayne State has also begun to release details of its master plan, and Emily Thompson, place-based initiatives manager at WSU’s Office of Economic Development, says this redesign aligns with the aims of that plan. “One goal of the master plan was to create better north-south connectivity across campus,” she says. “With more activity, it’s more likely to draw the university up that way. So whatever we do with I2C on will improve walkability as a whole.”
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Can Mike Duggan demolish his way to a safer Detroit? Studies say maybe

Two studies — one from researchers at the University of Michigan and Harvard University and the other from Wayne State University — suggest the nearly 19,000 building demolitions in Detroit since 2014 have reduced nearby gun-related crimes. The studies, though, aren’t conclusive, and come as federal funding for the demos, which have cost some $250 million, is winding down. Duggan plans to ask voters in 2020 to approve a $200 million bond issue to continue the demolitions, saying he wants the city to be blight-free by 2024. The most recent study – the U-M/Harvard review – found that neighborhoods with a larger proportion of non-Hispanic white residents had more demolitions. And the Wayne State authors late last year noted the possibility of “diminishing returns.” While “concentrated demolitions” are linked with crime reduction, “we still need to answer whether razing Detroit is actually raising Detroit,” authors wrote. The studies follow similar research by Wayne State University last year.  For every three demolitions, violent and property crimes fell by about 1 percent, the study found. Because most census block groups in the study saw nearly 11 demolitions in the time period, the demolition efforts drove down crime overall about 3 percent, the study concluded. Like the U-M and Harvard researchers, Wayne researchers found no significant change in drug crimes, though it’s unclear why.
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Can experts determine who might be a mass killer? 3 questions answered

Wayne State University Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Arash Javanbakht answered some questions about mental illness, mass murder and whether it’s possible to prevent horrific shootings. Is a person who commits mass murder mentally ill? What is the difference between extremism and mental illness? And, are there ‘red flag’ behaviors that can indicate risk? According to Javanbakht, the good news is that, to prevent a violent person from access to firearms, we do not need an established diagnosis of a mental illness. The history of unreasonable violence itself is enough. These measures may not prevent some of the mass shootings, but they can help with a lot of murders and deaths by suicide.”
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Michigan doctors reach out to LGBTQ community to narrow health disparities

Roughly 1 in 6 LBGTQ people nationwide report being discriminated against when visiting a doctor or health clinic, while 1 in 5 say they’ve avoided health care because of discrimination fears, according to a 2017 survey of  lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer adults. That, in turn, deepens health disparities over a lifetime as patients skip screenings and get less help for chronic conditions and poor health habits, according to an overview of health research by the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. From public health clinics to large hospital systems, Michigan’s health care industry is reaching out to close such disparities, from updating forms to accommodate genders beyond “male and female” to adding LGBTQ-specific services. Among the most tangible efforts is the Corktown Health Center in Detroit, which opened in 2017 as Michigan’s first nonprofit health center with a focus on LGBTQ patients. It’s also one of only a few dozen such centers nationwide. As vice chair of education at Wayne State University’s Department of Internal Medicine, which helped establish Corktown Health Center,  Dr. Diane Levine is helping Wayne State’s medical school incorporate coursework, clinical teaching, and even residency slots at Corktown so that medical students today are more aware of the needs of LGBTQ patients tomorrow. The curriculum will mean that new medical students will go from “about two hours” of focus on LGBTQ health in the classroom, to about two dozen hours, she said. Among her presentations, she said, is the genderbread person, to prompt discussion on the interplay of the mind, heart, and reproductive organs. Understanding these basics, she said, is a first step in understanding a patient, she said. “And that,” she said, “is really Doctoring 101.”
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Midwives and nurse-midwives may underestimate dangers of prenatal alcohol use

Alcohol use during pregnancy can have harmful consequences on the fetus including restricted growth, facial anomalies, and neurobehavioral problems. No amount of alcohol use during pregnancy has been proven safe. Yet a recent survey of midwives and nurses who provide prenatal care showed that 44% think one drink per occasion is acceptable while pregnant, and 38% think it is safe to drink alcohol during at least one trimester of pregnancy. "Many prenatal care providers remain inadequately informed of the risks of drinking during pregnancy," said John Hannigan, Ph.D., one of the study's authors and a professor of at Wayne State University's Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute. 
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Ethnic and minority media to play a key role in 2020 Census complete count

Hayg Oshagan, director of New Michigan Media (NMM) and professor of communications at Wayne State University, recently sat down with The Arab American News Publisher Osama Siblani for a discussion about the 2020 Census and the role of ethnic and minority media outlets in ensuring a complete and accurate count. NMM is a network of  more than 100 ethnic and minority media across Michigan. Organized eight years ago by Oshagan, it includes the “Big Five weekly” of The Arab American News, the Jewish News, the Michigan Chronicle, the Latino Press and the Korean Weekly. `Appointed by Gov. Whitmer to sit on state level committees to ensure an accurate and complete count, Oshagan also sits on other committees in Wayne County and Detroit for the 2020 Census. “New Michigan Media is a collaboration of the five largest ethnic and minority media in the region and it is the only such collaboration in the country,” Oshagan said. “It is not just a symbolic, it is a real collaboration where we get together to help the ethnic and minority communities in our region.” The reason why NMM is keen on ensuring a fair count for the 2020 Census is because, “traditionally, the people who are under-counted are minorities,” Oshagan said. “The reason is because they are usually the ones who do not respond. The Michigan Non-profit Association (MNA) has been trying to raise funds to spread awareness on the importance of the 2020 Census. It has reached out to New Michigan Media in order to reach the minority population across Michigan through the minority and ethnic press that serve them. In cooperation with MNA, NMM will hold three conferences across the state to engage ethnic and minority media and coordinate the efforts for a complete and accurate count 2020 Census. The first conference will be held at Wayne State University on Wednesday, July 24  from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Governor Whitmer will be the keynote speaker, along with Wayne County Executive Warren Evans among other local officials.
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Wayne State researchers look to curb nicotine, tobacco use

A new research division at Wayne State University will focus on ways to improve health by reducing the use of nicotine and tobacco. The unit at the School of Medicine's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences launched this month and it's called the Nicotine and Tobacco Research Division. It offers Wayne State researchers a hub to enhance research communication, collaboration and educational opportunities. Dr. David Ledgerwood, an associate professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, is director of the division. The division will encourage multidisciplinary collaboration among scientists who are studying nicotine and tobacco use as well as in the broader academic community. It also will seek to heighten the profile of nicotine and tobacco research by showcasing studies and scientific programs.
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Benton Harbor crisis a tipping point for Gretchen Whitmer, school takeovers

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s attempt to close the struggling high school in majority black Benton Harbor provoked a furious backlash from the city’s 10,000 residents. Her next move has implications for districts across the state. As Whitmer and the board continue negotiating, observers say the outcome could reshape how Michigan approaches struggling school districts far beyond Benton Harbor that are struggling with rising debts, low test scores, and declining enrollment. Even if Whitmer doesn’t manage to change the state’s emergency management law, Mike Addonizio, a professor of education at Wayne State University, said her next move in Benton Harbor has major implications for the future of state interventions. “It is kind of an inflection point,” he said. “What is the state going to do with school districts like this?” Still, solving Benton Harbor’s issues won’t solve the structural problems that have produced similar situations in districts across the state. “It could be Kalamazoo. Could be Battle Creek. Could be Muskegon,” said Tom Pedroni, an activist and education professor at Wayne State University. Pedroni says the struggles of urban districts have been worsened by state policies that allow students to leave for other districts, by a relentless focus on test scores, and by a funding system that doesn’t adequately account for the challenges of educating poor students. “The way that we label schools as failing creates an almost mathematical formula that yields the decimation of school districts of color across the state,” he said. “How do we, as a state, take seriously the mechanisms that cause things like this.”
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Wayne State University president Road Warrior bike tour stops in Ludington

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson will be visiting Ludington during his third annual Road Warrior bicycle tour that includes stops at four different cities in five days. Seven riders will be participating in the entire tour, including Wilson. Others will do segments, like one day, Wilson said. “This year we wanted to focus on and visit with alumni, donors and friends of the university,” said Wilson. Rob MacGregor, senior director of philanthropy at Wayne State Law School, said his daughter is riding a 100-mile segment. (Full access to article requires subscription)
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Wayne State president to ride through Midland, host reception

If there are any Wayne State University alumni or supporters in the area, July 24 will be your chance to reconnect and celebrate during a reception at Midland Center for the Arts, as part of the third annual Road Warrior bike tour. The tour begins Monday, July 22, and will end when the group of about seven cyclists makes their way back to the WSU campus during the afternoon of Friday, July 26. By the end of the tour, the cyclists will have biked 450 miles and visited four communities other than Detroit – Traverse City, Ludington, Midland and Rochester. Among the group will be WSU President M. Roy Wilson who is making the trip for the third year. Wilson, an avid cyclist, said the point of the trip is to get out into the community, gain new insights and network with the university’s supporters. “This idea came to me after the 2016 election because it’s apparent we’re becoming more polarized and I thought that there were segments of the community that we just weren’t reaching,” he said. “And since we’re a state institution we serve the state, we should be serving all communities, including rural communities and other communities that we don’t typically reach out to on a routine basis.” He said biking the state allows him to gain new perspectives and a better understanding of the people and their concerns. Regarding WSU, he said the main concerns he hears is surprisingly not tuition, but the value of attending a university. “With all the talk about tuition and the emphasis on trying to keep tuition down, I thought that would be a more important topic, and it’s not to say it’s unimportant, but really people were concerned about value,” he said. “And they don’t mind paying the tuition if they think they’re going to get good value for their money and they think it’s going to make a difference in their lives or in the lives of their sons and daughters.” And while the previous two years of the bike tour have focused on community outreach, this year’s theme is centered around celebrations with donors, alumni and friends of the university, Wilson said. “We want to make more of a focus on our alumni and donors and hear what they’re thinking and what their priorities are, and what their ambitions are for how the university can best serve them,” he said. Having a significant population of alumni and supporters in the area, Midland made the list of this year’s cities to visit, Wilson said. He added that he hopes once it’s over that the people who participated feel a greater connection to WSU. “I want them to know that we care about them and I hope that by making an effort to reach out and see them that they realize that,” he said. “… To be able to share time and gain some perspective from people who we don’t typically connect with, I think is going to be really important.”
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Detroit, U-M, MSU, and Wayne State Form Economic Analysis Partnership

The University of Michigan, Wayne State University and Michigan State University will partner to give economic data -- which will be used to evaluate local economic conditions and plan for an improvement in economic opportunities -- to Detroit through the City of Detroit University Economic Partnership. The project aims to accomplish three tasks: provide an economic forecast for Detroit each year; build an econometric forecasting model for Detroit's economy and the city's major tax revenues; and to develop local economic indicators, indices and reports. University of Michigan's Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics will lead the partnership, while Michigan State University will give revenue modeling and forecasting through its Center for Local Government Finance and Policy. Wayne State University's contribution will focus on providing data on housing and property tax modeling. Michigan State and Wayne State have previous experience creating economic analyses using local governments' internal data. Available data will also come from government agencies and initiatives including the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Internal Revenue Service and the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. "We'll combine the city's internal data with publicly available data to construct Detroit-specific estimates of building activity, measures of activity in residential and commercial real estate, total commerce and tourism activity," Allen Goodman, director of the master's program in economics at Wayne State, said in a press release.
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Road Warrior Bike Tour begins July 22

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson is about to set out on another bike tour of Michigan, and this year he's casting a wider net. Wilson will take the third annual Road Warrior bike tour farther north this summer, biking to four cities in five days. Beginning Monday, July 22 cyclists will bike 450 miles by the time they're done Friday, July 26. By the end of the tour, the cyclists will have biked 450 miles and visited four communities. This year's Road Warrior bike tour will differ from the previous two in terms of theme and focus. Whereas the theme of the first two tours was community outreach and telling the Wayne State story, this year's tour will focus more on celebrations with donors, alumni and friends of the university. Wilson dropped by the Fox2 News studios Saturday morning to talk about his trip and mission. The schedule for the Road Warrior tour stops: July 22 at Chateau Chantal Winery in Traverse City; July 23 at Ludington Bay Brewing Co. in Ludington, 6-8 p.m.; July 24 at the Midland Center for the Arts and Dow Garden in Midland, 6-8 p.m.; July 25 at Rochester Mills Beer Co. in Rochester, 6-8 p.m.; July 26 at Tony V's Tavern in Detroit, 2 p.m.
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Could dropouts be the solution to the education crisis?

The vice president for applied research at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), Julie Ajinkya explained many of the underlying causes students dropout or face difficulty coming back to school have to do with the lack of affordable education. “The reasons students drop out are almost always financially related,” Ajinkya says. “Even the personal reasons people cite are financially related, like not being able to find affordable childcare, or transportation to actually be able to take your classes.” In addition to overseeing Degrees When Due, a free program designed to help institutions build their own capacity to help bring dropouts back, Ajinkya and IHEP have also analyzed another program for dropouts, Warrior Way Back, an initiative out of Wayne State University, that uses incremental debt forgiveness as incentive for dropouts. 
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New arena approved for WSU basketball and Pistons’ G League affiliate

In May of this year, Wayne State’s board of governors approved plans for the construction of an arena that will host Wayne State men’s and women’s basketball games, as well as contests for the Pistons’ G League affiliate. Rob Fournier, Wayne State director of athletics, expects the arena — which he said will have a seating capacity of about 3,000 — to be completed in July of 2021 on the campus of Wayne State, near the intersection of Warren and Trumbull avenues in Detroit. “Anytime your athletic program can be associated directly with a professional team, there’s no downside to it,” Fournier said. “Can you imagine showing a recruit around the facility and say, ‘Oh, by the way, we have a partnership with the Detroit Pistons of the NBA.’ How does that hurt your recruiting? Those are the kind of intangibles that separate you from other institutions.” The projected cost for the arena is $25 million. “The basic formula is we’re putting the money upfront, and then they’re paying us back money over a number of years to cover that cost,” Fournier said of the lease agreement with the Pistons.