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January 10, 2018

Detroit Mercy Master of Community Development student Eric Lofquist is a Challenge Detroit Fellow.Detroit Mercy Master of Community Development (MCD) student Eric Lofquist likes a good challenge, so what better way to challenge himself than becoming a Challenge Detroit fellow?

“A friend of mine from the MCD program, Caroline Dobbins, works for Challenge Detroit, and she had been a fellow herself, so she told me about it,” Lofquist said. “I went to check it out, and I felt it not only went along with my degree but also some of the things I’m really interested in doing.”

Challenge Detroit is a leadership and professional development program that invites fellows to live, work, play, give and lead in the greater Detroit area for one year.

There is nearly 30 different fellows and the goal is for them to gain new insights about the city and hopefully be motivated to stay in Detroit.

“The Challenge Detroit program is really committed to their fellows living, working, playing and giving back to Detroit,” said Virginia Stanard, director of the MCD program. “Their concept of service fits very well with the MCD’s mission to serve communities in Detroit, so that’s always been a great fit. We have found over the years that there’s a great synergy between the Challenge Detroit Fellowship program and our master’s program. The vision and mission of the two programs align well.”

Fellows work with a host company four days a week and then come together every Friday to work on community development projects.

“We take six-week challenges and work with another nonprofit organization to either develop capacity, programming or build something for them, that sort of thing,” Lofquist said. “At the end, we give presentation and hand off the work to them. They are the ones who implement it and they continue that relationship with Challenge Detroit as an organization.”

As part of the fellowship, Lofquist works for Detroit Parent Network, which is a non-profit parent advocacy organization.

“Detroit Parent Network aligned well with my own personal values, thinking about what expertise, experience or knowledge that parents might already have and how we can leverage that,” Lofquist said. “I think the fact that the organization follows through with that so well has been really meaningful to me. In addition, I think just the relationships I build with my co-workers and some of the outstanding parents who volunteer has been really impactful to me.”

Getting the chance to interact with the other fellows has also allowed Lofquist to grow both professionally and as a person.

“I think it’s been really great to have the group of fellows,” Lofquist said. “The sessions we’ve had as a group have been super intense, some really challenging topics that we’ve had to deal with. And it’s brought us together as a group, which I think is really powerful to talk about those things freely. Hearing those other perspectives and being able to check in with people about how they’re feeling about a speaker or a topic is all holistic.

“I bring that back to Detroit Mercy, I bring that back to my work at Detroit Parent Network, where I’m thinking about these things constantly. It definitely guides my thought process and it’s reflected in the work I do.”

Lofquist recently moved to Detroit’s Old North End neighborhood and said one of his short-term goals is to meet all his neighbors so he can be involved in the community.

Lofquist, who earned a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations from Michigan State University, said long-term, he wants to work on an international level.

“I want to do international development from a very grassroots and human-centric point,” Lofquist said. “I’ve also thought about how we can make Detroit an international city and have an international demand, and what those models might look like. I think the MCD program is super complimentary to my undergrad degree and to my passions in life. That’s really how I ended up at Detroit Mercy.”

Lofquist is confident choosing the MCD program at Detroit Mercy has him on the career path he wants to pursue, and he’s enjoyed the relationships he’s made within the program.

“I love the MCD program,” Lofquist said. “I think the skills are applicable in a lot of places. It’s got the elements of design and urban planning, social service and social justice that are really attractive. It’s been a really good experience for me.

“I’ve bonded with my classmates in the program; we’re really close. We’re able to relate to each other if we hear a speaker say something problematic or a speaker say something really empowering and we can capture it, ‘This idea is fantastic.’ It is a really close-knit program.”

To learn more about the Challenge Detroit program, please visit www.challengedetroit.org. For more about Detroit Mercy’s MCD program, visit http://architecture.udmercy.edu/programs/mcd.
 
— By Dave Pemberton. Follow Detroit Mercy on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Have a story idea? Let us know by submitting your idea.

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