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University of Michigan School of Information


Community-based opportunities

UMSI students have the opportunity to use their information skills for the betterment of society, in keeping with UMSI’s commitment to public service. Through community-based projects and service activities, students deepen their understanding of complex societal issues and how information can be used to address them. 

The Engaged Learning Office (ELO) maintains long-term, reciprocal relationships with community organizations in Michigan and nationwide, as well as with other units at the University of Michigan (U-M). These relationships result in opportunities for students to make an impact within communities facing information challenges, while centering ethical engagement and sustainable outcomes.


The ELO manages the following community-based programs:

Civic User Testing Group (CUTgroup)

The CUTgroup program applies user testing to public apps in order to make them more accessible and useful for city residents. These include government forms, issue reporting systems, mapping tools and more. The CUTgroup model aims to include citizens in the creation of the tools designed for their use by applying a “build-with” approach. CUTgroup’s motto is, “If it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work!”

  • Eligibility: UMSI undergraduate and graduate students
  • When: Applications accepted at the beginning of each semester; four-week sessions run multiple times per semester
  • Learn more and apply in M-Compass: Information: Citizen User Testing (CUTgroup)

Student Organization - Engaged Learning Leaders (SO-ELL)

The SO-ELL program provides an opportunity for students to engage in real-world information projects with community-based organizations. The program also provides students with opportunities to develop and practice consultancy, project management and leadership skills while employing knowledge management, user experience design, data science and other information-related methods. Students join participating student organizations’ project teams and are matched with semester-long projects.

Four students in University of Michigan gear stand on the second floor of a green house looking down on the trees
Through the SO-ELL program, a team of students selected the best database software to house the Matthaei Botanical Gardens’ vast collections.

Alternative Spring Break (ASB)

Through the annual ASB program, which takes place during UMSI’s spring break, students have the opportunity to take part in a professionally-oriented experience while providing capacity-building services to nonprofit, cultural, governmental and educational institutions. ASB enables students to engage in service-oriented learning, connects public sector organizations to the knowledge and skills of UMSI students, and strengthens the relationship between U-M and organizations nationwide.


The ELO facilitates the following community-based events: 

A2 (Ann Arbor) Data Dive

Founded by UMSI students in 2011, A2 Data Dive is an annual data hackathon for good, run by student coordinators with support from the ELO. The annual service event brings together students, faculty and data professionals to help local nonprofit and civic organizations analyze data and develop solutions. A2 Data Dive welcomes people of all skill levels.

  • Eligibility: All members of the UMSI, U-M and local community
  • When: Winter semester
Four students standing together under a projected sign that says "Ann Arbor Data Dive"
A2 Data Dive student coordinators Valeria Fraga, Charlotte Parent, Suchitra Pudipedi and Prem Ganesan

UMSI Service Day

UMSI Service Day is a one-day event dedicated to participating in general service projects in Ann Arbor and surrounding communities. The entire UMSI community joins together to engage with local community partners by working on organized group service projects. This event provides an opportunity for incoming students to get to know fellow UMSI students and appreciate the many ways to get involved in community engagement. 

  • Eligibility: UMSI students, faculty, and staff
  • When: Orientation week during the fall semester
People stacks cans on a shelf full of similar cans

U-M opportunities

As part of the broader U-M community, UMSI students have many additional opportunities to develop their skills through engaged learning. The ELO continually updates a repository of cross-campus opportunities, accessible to students at the link below:

Discover engaged learning across campus 

Interested in learning more about these programs and events? Email [email protected].

Interested in seeing examples of community-based opportunities?