Duke’s Entrepreneurial Spirit
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DukeEngage Students Explore Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Detroit

Photo essay by Katherine Black

No American city faces greater challenges than Detroit. Through a new DukeEngage program, eight Duke undergraduates spent the summer working with local organizations to tackle some of the city’s greatest challenges, from economic development to food security.

The program included a professional development and enrichment program that introduced the students to the basic concepts and tools of social entrepreneurship and its application in finding new solutions to problems. The program also provided an in-depth look at the culture, history, economics and legacy of an urban center working to reclaim its greatness.

Here is some of what the DukeEngage students saw and did in the Motor City:

Students participating in DukeEngage Detroit pause on the riverfront in front of the GM Building.

An orientation tour of Detroit included a scavenger hunt through the downtown area and this stop on the riverfront, in front of the General Motors Building. The bridge in the background connects to Canada. Pictured from left are DukeEngage students Ying Qi, Ta’Chelle Morris, Billy Silk, Brianna Whitfield, Shashi Masireddy, Kiran Jones, Peter Shi and Jimmy Zhang.

The DukeEngage Detroit cohort listens to the mayor’s announcement regarding the establishment of the “innovation district.”

Ying Qi, left, and Peter Shi, back right, listen at an event where the mayor’s office announced Detroit’s new innovation district and economic development strategy to promote job growth and entrepreneurship.

DukeEngage Detroit participants take a close look at one of the 3D printers located in TechTown.

Brianna Whitfield, Shashi Masireddy and Kiran Jones examine a 3D printer at Manulith LLC, one of several innovative companies the students learned about during their time in Detroit.

Duke student Brianna Whitfield represents her community partner, the Detroit Food Academy, at Detroit’s Tuesday Eastern Market.

Brianna Whitfield represents the Detroit Food Academy (DFA) at Detroit’s Tuesday Eastern Market. She and Kiran Jones helped create DFA’s Small Batch Program, which seeks to distribute DFA students’ handcrafted food products, such as the Mitten Bites shown here, to retail outlets throughout the region.

Participants get productive in DFA’s commercial kitchen.

DFA executive director, Jen Rusciano, Kiran Jones, DFA volunteer Rhyn Jameson and Brianna Whitfield, pictured left to right, work in the academy’s commercial kitchen to prepare batches of Mitten Bites, the first DFA student recipe being sold out of their Small Batch Program.

A Duke student helps one of the Detroit Food Academy summer fellows with her business plan presentation.

Kiran Jones works with Detroit Food Academy high school summer student Heavenlea McDaniel on the business pitch for her own “triple bottom line” food business idea.

Duke student Peter Shi speaks with one of the students in Focus Hope’s Machinist Training Program.

Peter Shi, left, speaks with Flenord Dykes, a student in a machinist training program run by Focus: Hope. The group offers a variety of job training programs for underrepresented minorities in the Detroit area. Shi also met with a classroom of students who shared with him their personal struggles and ideas on vocational development and employment in Detroit.

Duke student Ying Qi collects data on the commercial properties in Detroit’s Osborn neighborhood.

Ying Qi snaps a photo of a commercial property in Detroit’s Osborn neighborhood. She and Jimmy Zhang carried out a complex survey of commercial corridors in the Osborn and Grandmont-Rosedale neighborhoods. They developed feasibility plans and identified properties that might be developed through different ownership models.

Duke student Shashi Masireddy presents to her community partner, D: Hive.

Shashi Masireddy along with student Billy Silk (out of photo frame) present to their supervisors at their community partner, D: Hive. They worked with D: Hive’s “BUILD” program, an eight-week business and project planning class for both aspiring and established entrepreneurs. Part of their project this summer was to present recommendations on how to improve the curriculum to make the program as effective as possible.

The DukeEngage Detroit group participates in ShopTalk, The Social Grooming Club’s event series.

ShopTalk is a unique Detroit event started by Sebastian Jackson, owner of the Social Grooming Club. Diverse guest panelists receive a haircut while discussing issues affecting the city’s future. Photographer Piper Carter was one of the panelists leading a conversation on social entrepreneurship and business innovation. DukeEngage Detroit participants moderated the session along with a group of Harvard Business School students.

DukeEngage Detroit students take a careful stroll in the Packard Plant.

Peter Shi and friends take a careful stroll in the Packard Plant, the country’s largest abandoned building. This was among the many visits the students made during a summer in which they learned how a city once famous for innovation now seeks to revive that spirit.

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