Expanding on his ongoing push to strengthen ties between Wayne State University and surrounding Detroit neighborhoods, President M. Roy Wilson met last week with the East English Village Association to discuss a wide range of issues highlighting the university’s most recent accomplishments, its attempts to combat educational disparities and his vision for WSU’s ongoing community engagement efforts.
The July 10 meeting, which was held inside the St. Clare Montefalco Church on the Detroit/Grosse Pointe Park border, marked the latest in a string of appearances that Wilson and other cabinet-level administrators are making before community groups as part of an intensifying outreach campaign. Wayne State Provost Keith E. Whitfield recently spoke at the Gladstone Block Club in Detroit as part of this effort.
Following a rousing introduction from association Vice President Maureen Dritsan, President Wilson opened his talk in East English Village by discussing inequities in Detroit and broader urban America. He also reminded the audience of the critical role that higher education plays in improving lives and in continuing Detroit’s renaissance.
Dritsan later characterized Wilson’s visit as historic, as it marked the first time the association members could recall having a university president in attendance. “He was very well received and provided some clear insight as to his priorities for the students of Wayne State University as well as the much-anticipated expansion plans for the campus,” she said.
Speaking before about 60 East English Village residents, Wilson touted some of the university’s highest-profile construction projects, including the newly opened Mike Ilitch School of Business, Hilberry Gateway Performance Complex, the STEM Innovation Learning Center, the Anthony Wayne Drive Apartments and the recently announced $25 million basketball facility slated to be open by the start of the 2021-22 college hoops season. He also shared data that underscored the importance of Wayne State to improving the lives of economically disadvantaged students, noting that WSU accepts more students from the bottom income quintile than any other public university in Michigan.
“Wayne State is delivering on the promise of education: a promise of a better life,” said Wilson. He pointed out that Wayne State saw its graduation rate nearly double between 2011 and 2017 — the best graduation improvement rate in the nation.
Wilson noted the intractable imbalance between rich and poor in college degree attainment. He pointed out that, in 1970, only 6 percent of students from the bottom economic quartile of America had earned a baccalaureate degree. In 2010, that figure was a mere 8 percent.
College, Wilson added, “ought to be an option for kids of wealthy CEOs or of black or brown parents from the other side of the tracks.”
He also talked about the success of several key programs designed to create greater access to education for disadvantaged students, including the Warrior Way Back debt-forgiveness program and Wayne Med-Direct, an effort designed to educate and train academic medical leaders from socioeconomically challenged backgrounds.
“Wayne State has a unique mission in Detroit,” said Wilson, “and a compelling opportunity to serve this city.”