Wayne State connects incoming students with Detroit attractions, events and small businesses
The start of the fall 2023 semester was an extraordinary one for Wayne State University. The university recently welcomed one of its largest and most diverse incoming undergraduate classes. And, for the first time, the university hosted a three-day Fall Opening event on Aug. 25-27.
Open to students, parents, faculty and staff, Fall Opening was an opportunity for all Warriors to come together, explore and prepare for the start of a new academic year. A campus-wide effort, Fall Opening was led by grassroots volunteer committees of dedicated faculty and staff, committed to helping celebrate the start of the semester and setting up students early for success.
“There was an enormous response from volunteers across campus and in our community who were eager to come together in support of our students, and to celebrate the beginning of the new academic year,” Ahmad Ezzeddine, vice president for academic student affairs and global engagement, said in a Today @ Wayne piece last month. “We’ve invested a lot of thought, time and resources because we know those first few weeks on campus are crucial to students’ sense of belonging and academic success.”
Emily Thompson, director of economic and community development, chaired the 18-member Community Involvement committee. This committee was charged with helping connect Warriors with Detroit businesses, attractions and events during Fall Opening. Committee members included representatives from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Libraries, Human Resources, Facilities Planning and Management, Office of International Students and Scholars, Division of Government and Community Affairs, as well as TechTown Detroit, among others.
The Community Involvement committee created a print resource guide with information on the many unique attractions, events and businesses that Detroit has to offer. Committee members also shared their perspectives and experiences in campus news features and more than a dozen events throughout Fall Opening.
Events spearheaded by committee members included guided MoGo, DDOT and QLine rides. The DDOT and QLine rides were led by Brianna Bacon, a fourth-year student, committee member and campus Transportation Ambassador. Bacon kicked off these rides by helping participating students sign up to unlock their free Dart passes through WayneRides and provided trip planning and riding tips along the way. WSU partner MoGo offered similar events for students interested in riding that system.
Working to support Detroit-based organizations and businesses through their programming and events for Fall Opening was another priority for the Community Involvement committee. Palmer Printing, located nearby campus on Cass Avenue, printed the resource guide that the committee distributed to students and their families. The Red Hook — which has four cafe locations across Detroit including one in Midtown — catered an employee coffee hour and Discover Detroit pop-ups outside the Welcome Center.
Detroit Yoga Lab offered free mini-meditation sessions around the McGregor Reflecting Pools, while Treat Dreams served up custom scoops of ice cream at the Fountain Court. The Detroit Food Academy, a nonprofit that works to inspire young Detroiters through culinary arts and food entrepreneurship, provided “Mitten Bites” granola bars and popsicles. And the City Institute, and organization that leads walking and virtual tours around institutions and neighborhoods around Detroit, offered resources all three days and led four 60-minute tours of Midtown on Saturday, Aug. 26. The tours included a stop at the North Cass Neighborhood Summer Sidewalk Sale, which was held just south of campus.
“We were excited to partner with Wayne State on Fall Opening,” says Naomi Gold, founder and CEO of Detroit Yoga Lab. “Midtown has been quiet without all the Wayne State students, faculty and staff, and the mini-meditation sessions we led were a great way for us to reconnect with them.”
The Committee directed approximately $17,500 in university spending to these small business partners during Fall Opening and developed relationships that are guaranteed to continue beyond those three days. This is part of a larger effort by the Office of Economic Development to leverage WSU’s purchasing power to invest in Detroit.
“Wayne State spends millions of dollars on supplies and services, as well as in research and development, each year,” said Thompson. “WSU Procurement and Strategic Sourcing is intentional about supporting diverse and local businesses, but many of us at WSU also purchase goods and services directly — both for work and in our personal lives and we can be intentional about supporting these businesses too.”
Wayne State’s inaugural three-day Fall Opening proved to be a success. Both the Office of Economic Development and Wayne State look forward to supporting students and connecting them to opportunities in Detroit throughout the rest of the academic year.