Warriors logo
Race Matters typography
As social justice
issues drive
throughout the
country, President
M. Roy Wilson sits
down for a frank
discussion about equity,
education and ensuring
access for all.
As social justice issues drive conversations throughout the country, President M. Roy Wilson sits down for a frank discussion about equity, education and ensuring access for all.
summer 2021
At a glance: A unique peek inside WSU
Ph.D. student Trejha Whitfield leads the “My Kinky Hair is Beautiful Project,” a research effort that examines how Black women negotiate their identities through hair.
News Briefs
Students/faculty assist with Detroit vaccination effort; new dean takes helm at Graduate School; NPR host Michele Norris shares her journalistic journey.
Cover story: RACE MATTERS
WSU President M. Roy Wilson talks frankly about how racial issues impact the city, the campus and our ongoing collective conversation.
call of the wild
Wayne State alumnus Michael Reed builds a rich legacy of science, social outreach and community engagement.
Every Picture Tells a Story
Wayne State alumna Desiree Kelly draws inspiration from her Detroit roots and earns high praise along the way.
access provider
Post Baccaulareate Program continues half-century legacy of equity and excellence in education.
trauma and trust
Department of Psychology professor Jennifer M. Gómez is noticed for her groundbreaking studies of the unique harm of cultural betrayal.
Continental rise
A decade in the making, African Democracy: Hopes and Challenges makes its cinematic debut.
The Engaged Q&A: A Conversation with …Sheryl Kubiak, Dean of the Wayne State School of Social Work
The dynamic dean of WSU’s School of Social Work talks about her commitment to social justice, her biggest challenges and the pioneering work of her brainchild, WSU’s Center for Behavioral Health and Justice.
Call of the Wild article snapshot
About this publication
Darrell Dawsey, editor-in-chief
Katie McMillan
Shawn Wright

Matthew Balcer
Joseph Bowles

Paul Hitzelberger

As the publication devoted to covering Wayne State’s community involvement, we encourage readers to share stories about the work the university does in and around Detroit.

Have an idea for Warriors magazine?
Contact us at engaged@wayne.edu.

Wayne State University Board of Governors
Marilyn Kelly, chair
Mark Gaffney, vice chair
Bryan C. Barnhill II
Michael Busuito
Anil Kumar
Terri Lynn Land
Shirley Stancato
Dana Thompson
M. Roy Wilson, ex officio

WSU Icon

Letter From Dr. Chamblee

Letter from Dr. Chamblee typography
Normally, this space is reserved for President M. Roy Wilson and his overview of the latest edition of Warriors.

But as you can see by our cover, we’ve asked President Wilson to weigh in even more than usual this time around, with an extensive interview about an issue that has dominated conversation around the country — and our campus — the past year perhaps more than any other, save COVID-19: race. In a moment when racially charged matters such as health disparities, voting rights and police accountability continue to animate our national dialogue, his perspective couldn’t be timelier (Page 6).

At Wayne State, we center diversity and inclusion as key values in our institution and vital objectives in our organizing and planning efforts. As the university’s chief diversity officer, I’m often tasked with finding ways to express those values and promote those objectives.

And collectively — from administrators and instructors to staff and students — the university community continues to strive to ensure that equity, inclusion and diversity remain embedded in all that we do.

Marquita Chamblee stands at a podium, mid speech
At a Glance: A unique peek inside WSU

‘My Kinky Hair is Beautiful’

Research explores how Black women negotiate their identities
Trejha Whitfield Smiling
Meaningful research has broad impact — and in some cases, a personal connection to a scholar. For Trejha Whitfield, a Ph.D. student and graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Communication, research has become an avenue of personal growth and an opportunity to help empower Black women. As a Black feminist scholar, Whitfield also thrives in educating others on the nuanced ways Black women develop and adapt their cultural identities through their hairstyles. Her most recent project is titled “My Kinky Hair is Beautiful: An Autoethnography of a Black Woman’s Identity Negotiation through Hair.”

Whitfield’s work, which was presented at the annual Graduate Research Symposium, is based in part on interviews with other Black women about their experiences with their hair. The present study takes an autoethnographic approach that reflects on Whitfield’s own experiences deciding how to wear her hair to her first national conference.

“As a Black woman, whether I choose to wear my hair natural in an afro, or style it in locs, braids, or wear a weave, I’m sending a message to the world about my identity,” she said. “That choice can be conscious or unconscious and can also be a political statement or an act of empowerment. There are lots of cultural generalizations for Black women that can be made from this choice.”

news briefs


Students, faculty assist Detroit’s vaccination effort

Vaccinating the majority of the population against COVID-19 is a historic challenge. It’s also proving to be a significant learning experience and service opportunity for nearly 400 students and faculty members from Wayne State University’s Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, College of Nursing, and School of Medicine.

In partnership with the Detroit Health Department and Henry Ford Health System, Wayne State students spent several weeks volunteering more than 2,100 hours to administer COVID-19 vaccines directly to Detroit’s most vulnerable populations, including the residents and staffs at homeless shelters, nursing homes and senior apartment complexes.

“We are providing vaccines to the community of people we serve, which is vital to build a community between providers and patients,” said medical student Samantha Katz. “This is affecting me because I am able to remember how much I enjoy patient care, and it reminds me of why I decided to become a physician in the first place.”

cover story

Race Matters

Title of article
While issues such as voting rights, police brutality and health disparities continue to drive conversations about race throughout Detroit and the country, President M. Roy Wilson sits down for a frank, but hopeful, discussion about diversity on campus, misperceptions about WSU’s relationship to Detroit, and his very personal commitment to improving access — and success — for Black and brown students

Let’s start broadly. Generally speaking, how would you describe the racial climate on campus, especially as it pertains to students of color and — given the university’s place in the heart of a majority Black city — African American students in particular?

Wayne State University has been a place of opportunity for marginalized populations ever since its founding in 1868. We have striven to cultivate a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere, and the first step, I think, toward building that kind of climate is listening to what members of the campus have to say about it.

To this end, I asked the Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Marquita T. Chamblee to conduct a broad campuswide climate survey. In 2018, the survey was sent to all faculty, staff and students at Wayne State, and the results were published and shared in a town hall a year later. Overall, people felt very positive about the climate: People chose to come to Wayne State because of the diversity here, and they value our diverse community. They also indicated a feeling of belonging to the campus community and expressed being happy to be a student, staff or faculty member here. People also felt it was very important that we are committed to building a diverse community and generally felt like we are doing a good job with that.

Call of the Wild

Call of the Wild
Wayne State alumnus Michael Reed builds rich legacy of environmental and animal science outreach, education and engagement through the Detroit Zoological Society
he way zoologist Michael Reed remembers it, it was the birds who called to him first.

As a kid growing up in Detroit, he would join his classmates for regular outings with his teacher at Courville Elementary School, the group strolling through the neighborhood and scanning the treetops as they listened intently to a chorus of chirps.

“I loved that, when we would go outside and listen for the sounds of the different birds,” Reed recalled recently. “We would try to figure out which bird made which sound. I can remember that being one of the first places I really began to take an interest in animals. My mother spent some of her hard-earned dollars to buy my sister, my brother and I a set of encyclopedias that was the top education support material back then — there was no internet.”

Michael Reed giving a tour at the zoo
pepsi sponsored Detroit inspired Mural
Numerous brands have approached Desiree Kelly about using her artwork to promote their products. The WSU alumna was recently tapped by Pepsi for a mural that was featured in a marketing campaign capturing the unique feel of Detroit.

Every picture tells a story

Wayne State alumna Desiree Kelly draws inspiration from her Detroit roots

rowing up on Detroit’s east side, Desiree Kelly watched countless buildings be remodeled during her walks to school. Seeing each structure be torn down only made her want to preserve it — and the history — even more.

Her Islandview neighborhood on Beals Street is also where the renowned local artist and Wayne State University alumna’s love of portraiture was inspired, with the city’s backdrop serving as a major source of inspiration. For Kelly, everything that comes out of her head and leaves through her fingers is Detroit.

“It has truly been a long journey,” said Kelly, 31. “A very authentic, Detroit journey — from growing up on the east side and wondering how I would make it out of that neighborhood. Everything I do is inspired by that environment.”

Access Provider

School of Medicine’s Post Baccalaureate Program continues half-century legacy of diversity, excellence

win brothers Jerry and Lewis Graham have spent their entire lives taking steps together. But when the native Detroiters began their journey into professional medical careers, it seemed at first that the two men might finally be heading in different directions.

After both earned their bachelor’s, Jerry Graham Jr. took a job as a clinical researcher at the Head and Neck Oncology Clinic for the Rogel Cancer Center at Michigan Medicine.

Meanwhile, Lewis — who had also worked at Michigan Medicine as a hearing aid technician for its Pediatric Audiology and Otolaryngology Clinic — found himself on the fast track to medical school.

A chance conversation with an alumna of the Wayne State University School of Medicine had inspired Lewis to check out a new opportunity, one that would connect him to the medical school and the resources that he’d need at no cost. Not only did Lewis leap at the opportunity, but he also encouraged brother Jerry to follow him into the program a year later.

The Graham twins made their way into the School of Medicine’s Post Baccalaureate Program, a specialized, non-degree-granting curriculum that, for more than 50 years, has helped guide hundreds of African American and other traditionally underrepresented students through the School of Medicine and into successful careers as doctors.

Trauma and Trust

Article title
Professor studies the unique harm of cultural betrayal
Jennifer M. Gómez, Ph.D.
When she was a teenager, Jennifer M. Gómez, Ph.D., vowed to herself that if she lived long enough, she would be an adult who addressed childhood violence.

“Interpersonal violence — including child sexual abuse, bullying, domestic violence and rape — happens to and around kids, at points in their lives that are fundamental to shaping who they are, who they will become and what they believe the world to be,” said Gómez, a trauma psychologist and assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child & Family Development (MPSI). “On a societal level, the protection of children and adolescents is lacking, as evidenced by the United States’ refusal to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.” The United States is the only member of the United Nations that has not ratified the treaty.

Now, Gómez is fulfilling her childhood promise by teaching students in the classroom about interpersonal violence and trauma and conducting research as the principal investigator in the HOPE Lab at MPSI. The lab conducts research within the framework of Gómez’s cultural betrayal trauma theory, in which she proposes that the outcomes of within-group violence is compounded by inequality in many ways.

African Democracy: Hopes and Challenges graphic

Continental rise

A decade in the making, African Democracy: Hopes and Challenges documentary makes its debut

fter more than a decade of interviews and research, the documentary film African Democracy: Hopes and Challenges — an expansive examination of the foundations and development of democratic rule on the world’s second-largest continent — recently made its debut.

The culmination of an 11-year journey across Africa by former Wayne State University President Irvin D. Reid, Ph.D., and various teams of WSU student researchers, the documentary revolves around extensive conversations with nearly a dozen current and former African leaders regarding the struggle to establish democratic norms in areas such as human rights, economic sustainability and environmental policy.

The film also scrutinizes the issue of democracy through the eyes of many of the students who worked with Reid on the project, forcing them to confront stereotypical American views and expectations of African governments.

Sheryl Kubiak wearing blue jewelry and a suit jacket, smiling at the camera

EngageD Q&A

A conversation with …
Sheryl Kubiak,
dean of the Wayne State School of Social Work
The impact of the WSU School of Social Work has resonated throughout Detroit for decades. From hands-on work with senior citizens and prison outreach programs to a network that includes the likes of business titan William F. Pickard and the late Detroit City Council icon Maryann Mahaffey, the School of Social Work has established a legacy that extends from the city’s streets to its C-suites.

Now, Sheryl Kubiak, who took over as the school’s dean in 2018, has plans to build on that legacy even further. Kubiak, who established the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice — a programmatic effort to facilitate conversation and decision-making in areas such as mental health, substance use disorders and criminal justice — has leaned with full force into the school’s long-standing social justice mission, tackling health disparities, challenging the school-to-prison pipeline, fostering healthy families in disadvantaged communities and confronting many other hurdles facing the city’s underserved populations. Recently, Kubiak shared some thoughts about her mission, goals and most recent triumphs.

What brought you to Wayne State?

I was born in Detroit and have lived and/or worked in the city off and on since — including a stint with Maryann Mahaffey when she was on the Detroit City Council. Wayne State was my first job post Ph.D., and the only place I applied as an assistant professor. I was at WSU from 2002 to 2006, and left in search of some additional research opportunities. My goal was always to come back — this is home!
Highlighting Wayne State University's Community Engagement
Thanks for reading our Summer 2021 issue!