Given the current challenges faced by the city of Detroit, University of Detroit Mercy is addressing a critical question: What is the role of a private, Catholic university in Detroit in 2013? This is indeed a pivotal chapter in the city’s 312-year history as it reorganizes its financial operations and obligations; but it is also a time filled with hope as recommendations from the 2012 Detroit Future City Strategic Framework Plan are in the process of being implemented. Additionally, businesses, corporations and foundations are making significant investments in Detroit so that it can remain a strong city in the region. And, most importantly, University of Detroit Mercy is assuming its mission-focused and decades-long role as a private, Catholic university that will make a significant contribution to Detroit’s revitalization.
Because of UDM’s Jesuit and Mercy traditions, as well as its urban focus, commitment to service, social justice and educational excellence, the University’s involvement with the city now, as it was in the past, is not only consistent with our Mission, but also reflects the original goals of our founders. St. Ignatius Loyola, for example, founded Jesuit universities in cities because he believed that cities’ strength and well-being were directly tied to the educational preparation of their future leaders. Similarly, Catherine McAuley opened the first House of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland to serve and educate the poor women of that city.
Throughout a 136-year history, both University of Detroit and Mercy College of Detroit not only embraced, but also demonstrated their urban and Catholic Mission to many in the city. University of Detroit Mercy has provided educational opportunities to individuals of all religious traditions, ethnicities, races, women and men, and many who were the first to attend college. As Detroit grew and experienced great prosperity in its history, so did the University. And, when the city encountered economic difficulties, social and demographic changes, and civil unrest, the University held true to its Mission of higher education and, perhaps even more importantly, remained in the city.
UDM’s urban location is an excellent setting for the comprehensive education of our students. Because the city is a perfect “urban laboratory” for every major, students develop skills and practical solutions in Detroit that can be transferred to any city across the country and around the world. With this holistic education, UDM graduates in such fields as psychology, engineering, architecture, nursing, law, dentistry, business and education are well prepared to lead and serve in Detroit or any metropolitan area because of the academic and experiential learning they received in their respective degree programs. Moreover, many of our 83,300 alumni made the decision to work in communities close to where they were raised and educated, with about 60 percent of them living in metro Detroit and contributing to the economic viability of the region.
Today, UDM’s primary goals as a private Catholic University continue to be the preparation of exceptional leaders and the advancement of the common good in the community. As you will see in the “Economic and Community IMPACT on Metro Detroit” insert in the middle of this magazine, UDM faculty, staff and students serve the needs of more than 35,000 community residents each year through numerous outreach programs and community clinics in law, dental, psychology, counseling, nursing, as well as the Institute for Leadership and Service.
As a significant institution in Detroit, UDM also partners with foundations and government, community and civic organizations to enhance our community through residential and economic improvement. As you will see in a related story on page 7, over the past 18 months, UDM and our Detroit Collaborative Design Center have been actively assisting with retail and business creation and retention along Livernois.
As a Catholic university in Detroit in 2013, we recognize that it is imperative for us to go beyond our campuses and intensify our efforts to assist and strengthen our community. And our students, many of whom proudly say that they chose UDM because of our mission and values, expect to be very involved while they are students. At the Freshman Convocation in August, for example, one of our nearly 500 freshman students expressed UDM’s role in Detroit with the following statement: “UDM is about service to our community. We are going to be the generation that changes Detroit, and people are going to come into Detroit and not leave… Service makes you who you are… It says you are dedicated and want to make (Detroit) a better place.” Those are profound comments by a freshman who will be a future UDM leader and professional committed to the city of Detroit.
As you read this issue of Spiritus and reflect on ways UDM is making a positive impact on Detroit, I ask that you consider supporting our efforts so we can continue to provide excellent higher education opportunities in the Jesuit and Mercy traditions. As a private Catholic institution in Detroit in 2013, our role is the same as it has been over the last 13 decades. And with the assistance of alumni and friends like you, I am convinced that our University and city will be even stronger in the future.
Antoine M. Garibaldi, Ph.D.