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University of Michigan School of Information


Civic engagement

Civic engagement in Lansing

Now more than ever, societal membership depends on access to and participation in creating information. Information tools help community members engage with their cities and government constructively and effectively. Information tools also allow local governments to enable better civic interaction.

In cities across Michigan, UMSI students have designed information tools to address various community challenges. Through a variety of civic-oriented programs, UMSI students are partnered with Michigan communities to create information tools for twenty-first-century citizens.

SI 538: Citizen Interaction Design 

Students work with partners in Michigan communities to deliver information tools and services that foster an engaged citizenry. Students work in teams, travel to the partner community and work with community members on real community issues.

When: Winter semester

Eligibility: All U-M undergraduate and graduate students

Past projects:

Learn more

“SI 538 allowed me to creatively solve real-life solutions without having a rubric to think of because our only rubric was being effective and solving the client's problem. This experience will help the Ferndale Fire Department use a digital form to collect data on businesses' hazardous chemicals. The existing physical form was not effective as it required manpower, time and educating the businesses on its importance. It was the best experience with client work in all of my time at SI.”

Lizbeth Guerrero, MSI ‘22 

“The project with the Ferndale fire department allows me to practice what I learned in the real world: we talked to residents face to face, we walk in the community to understand the context, and we delivered our project to the residents. The project results in simplifying the data collection process of chemical information for fire department. And the improvement makes it easier for the business to fill out the online form, instead of an 18-page paper form.”

Xinyi Wang, MSI ‘22

SI 350: UX Field Research in the Public Sector

An intensive three-week studio in which students work with governmental departments and nonprofit agencies to conduct user research around an information need determined by their partner organization. Students work in teams to collect direct user data using multiple UX research methods.

When: Three weeks in May

Eligibility: Undergraduates, with a preference for UMSI students and new admits

Learn more 

"I took SI 350 this past spring, a three-week field research course in user experience design. There were no lectures, no problem sets, only a team and a challenge. For the first time, I found myself using the tools I was taught and was surprised by how much learning there was still to do about them. All the courses and disciplines that felt so discrete were intersecting in a way that felt like a discipline of its own. SI 350 was a pivotal experience in my education."

Verity Sturm, BSI ’20

Field research
UMSI students interview residents in their home as part of user research for the city of Ann Arbor.

Citizen User Testing (CUT Groups)

In partnership with city staff, small teams of 4-6 students work over three weeks to develop, proctor and report on user tests of government information tools with citizens of various local Michigan municipalities.

When: Offered twice each semester

Eligibility: UMSI students 

Learn more and apply in M-Compass: Information: Citizen User Testing (CUTgroup)

“I want[ed] to directly interact with people and communities, and that’s what CUTgroup is all about.” 

Matt Smallish, MSI ’20

Citizen Interaction Design Summer Fellows 

The Citizen Interaction Design (CID) Summer Fellows program is a nine-week experience supported by mentors from the information/tech industry, experts in civic tech, and a cohort of other fellows working in Michigan communities. CID summer fellows gain valuable experience working with public sector leaders to address pressing community issues.

When: Nine weeks in the summer

Eligibility: U-M graduate students 

Learn more and apply on MCompass.

Past Projects:

Interested in any of these programs?  Email [email protected]