Detroit Fellowship

Diego Rivera's "Detroit Industry" mural at the Detroit Institute of Arts; photo by Thomas Hawk, 2010

Applications for the 2018 Humanity in Action Fellowships are now closed. Register here to be notified when applications for the Humanity in Action Fellowship in Detroit will open.


The 2018 Humanity in Action Fellowship in Detroit will take place from July 10 through August 5, 2018, in Detroit, Michigan. The Detroit Fellowship offers 22 American and European young professionals and university students the opportunity to study civic engagement in Detroit.

The Detroit Fellowship explores the biography of Detroit — a city deeply emblematic of the tensions of massive economic and cultural change in 20th and 21st century America. The program places special emphasis on democratic inclusion, equitable development, social entrepreneurship and public health.  

Applications are now open. The deadline to submit applications for the 2018 Detroit Fellowship will be January 8th, 2018. All complete applications must include the following:

  • A completed application form
  • A resume/CV
  • A college transcript
  • A response essay
  • A personal statement
  • A brief commentary on program themes 
  • Contact information for two references.



Practical Guide to the Detroit Fellowship

The Humanity in Action Fellowship in Detroit is a four-week intensive educational program. The cohort of 22 Fellows consists of young professionals and students primarily from Detroit and elsewhere in the state of Michigan, the U.S., Europe and the Humanity in Action Senior Fellow network. 

Part I – Challenges in Detroit: The first part of the Detroit Fellowship focuses on the history and contemporary concerns of urban, economic and cultural change in Detroit and the surrounding metropolitan region. The 22 Fellows learn in a collective and collaborative setting with local scholars, journalists and community leaders. They visit neighborhoods across Detroit and Southeast Michigan as well as the region's landmark cultural institutions, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn. 

Part II – Action and Solutions: In the second part of the program, the Fellows turn toward solutions, action and civic engagement. They meet with social entrepreneurs, activist and innovators. Humanity in Action highlights models of action and innovation, and the Fellows develop written essays and practical project plans to tackle the issues they have learned about. 

Part III – Action Projects: After completing the program, Fellows have one year to initiate Action Projects on important issues within their own communities. These Action Projects enable Fellows to apply the knowledge and skills they gained from their Fellowship experiences  

The Detroit Fellowship's Curriculum

Detroit is often misunderstood as an exceptional and isolated case of U.S. economic and urban decline. The Humanity in Action Fellowship in Detroit seeks to challenge this narrative by exploring Detroit as one of many postindustrial cities in the United States that face serious social, economic, political and cultural challenges. Our program places Detroit's history and contemporary issues within the larger national context of the transformation of urban and regional economies at time of profound inequality in the United States. 

Detroit is a critical place to explore fundamental questions of democratic inclusion of marginalized groups, equitable development, social entrepreneurship and public health. By investigating the city's biography, the Fellows gain insight into a wide range of forces that shaped Detroit, along with so many other American cities. These forces include:

  • The city's industrialization and emergence as a major economic center;
  • The automobile and the American Dream;
  • Waves of immigration and religious diversity;
  • The Great Migration to northern cities and the development of an African American middle class;
  • The culture and music of Detroit;
  • The rise of organized labor. Socioeconomic stratification;
  • Racial tensions and the uprisings of the 1940s and 1960s;
  • White flight to the suburbs and disinvestment in the city;
  • Changing American attitudes toward cities;
  • Urban sprawl and the formation of enclaves;
  • Infrastructural decay and municipal bankruptcy;
  • Economic development in greater Southeast Michigan;
  • National philanthropies' "Grand Bargain" for Detroit;
  • Health disparities and the water crisis in nearby Flint;
  • Social entrepreneurship;
  • And the perseverance of community organizations that seek a stronger future. 

While the Detroit Fellowship begins by examining the city's important history, the program places particular emphasis on using civic engagement to generate solutions to longstanding challenges. 

The Humanity in Action Model

Educate: Like all Humanity in Action programs, the Detroit Fellowship is highly interdisciplinary and features lectures and discussions with renowned academics, journalists, politicians, entrepreneurs and activists, as well as site visits to municipal agencies, non-profit and community organizations, museums and memorials. The program seeks to highlight different models of action to remedy injustice and inequality. It also aims to instill a responsibility among Fellows to recognize and address the need to protect minorities and promote human rights—in their own communities and around the world.

Connect: The objective of the Detroit Fellowship is to facilitate a collective exploration of the social and political roots of discrimination and inequality, as well as to create a forum where potential solutions can be considered and discussed. Within this forum, Fellows from diverse backgrounds connect with one another and with established leaders who serve as program speakers. Additionally, Senior Fellows, the alumni of the Humanity in Action Fellowship, participate in Humanity in Action's international network. Fellows have access to HIA Connect, an online platform where Humanity in Action's network of more than 1,700 Fellows and Senior Fellows connect, share information and remain active in the issues addressed during the Fellowship.  

Inspire: After completing the program, Fellows have one year to initiate Action Projects on important issues within their own communities. These Action Projects enable Fellows to apply the knowledge and skills they gained from their Fellowship experiences. To support the professional growth of its Fellows beyond their program experience, Humanity in Action also offers ongoing opportunities, including international conferences and professional fellowships in the U.S. Congress, the European Parliament and with organizations such as the NAACP and the ACLU.


Humanity in Action sponsors the costs of participation, programming, accommodations, group meals, and local transportation during the Detroit Fellowship. However, all Fellows are responsible for financing the cost of round-trip airfare to and from Detroit. Humanity in Action covers this cost for Fellows with documented need.

Fellows should also plan to bring spending money of approximately $450 for some food and social activities during the fellowship program. If these expenses are prohibitive, Fellows should contact Humanity in Action for support.