Pontiac, Oakland University partnership prosperous for all


By working with Pontiac, students and faculty will gain work experience and research opportunities while helping Pontiac.

A mutually beneficial partnership between OU and Pontiac will pick up speed with the new school year.

OU students and faculty will have work experience and research opportunities while pumping resources into the city.

“Both sides have needs,” said Kevin Corcoran, dean of the college of arts and sciences. “The issue became, can we find ways that our needs complement one another.”

While Pontiac recently balanced its budget, said Garry Gilbert, director of journalism, it had to sell its golf courses and the Silverdome to do so. Its police force and fire department are contracted out, and Mayor Deirdre Waterman has less than 30 people working for the city of about 60,000 people.

Interns from OU have helped to fill in the gaps.

“This gives our students this terrific opportunity … to do meaningful work in helping the mayor,” Gilbert said of journalism interns who work directly with Waterman.

Waterman was elected mayor in 2013, after the city no longer needed an emergency manager, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“That creates a very rich opportunity for students to see local government work,” David Dulio, professor and chair of political science, said. “They are rebuilding city government, basically, from the ground up.”

Intern and political science major Mikaela Strech worked for Pontiac this summer. She and other interns worked with city officials to analyze voter demographics and try to get a millage passed so Pontiac schools could get more money. The millage didn’t pass, but Strech said she learned a lot.

“I learned how to communicate in a professional environment,” she said. “I learned how to make theory into practice and make it useful.”

Strech also got to network with professionals and help update the city’s website.

Journalism and writing and rhetoric major Paige Brockway is an intern for the journalism end of things. She helped write a newsletter for residents that talked about the positive things happening in Pontiac. She said the internship helped build her people and interviewing skills.

“After launching the first edition of the Spirit of Pontiac newsletter, we’ve received a tremendous response from Mayor Waterman, residents and business owners throughout the city,” said Kaniqua Daniel-Welch, an instructor at OU who oversees the journalism interns with Gilbert, in an email. “Now, we are helping the City of Pontiac share its successes and tell more positive stories.”

Strech and Brockway both said they will continue their internships into the school year.

This isn’t the first time OU and Pontiac have worked together, said Corcoran, but with the partnership, OU can synchronize the programs and put new ones in place.

Corcoran said he thinks that the partnership will work out because both sides benefit and are therefore enthusiastic.

This partnership goes hand-in-hand with part of OU’s mission statement, which says that OU is an “active community partner providing thriving civic, cultural, and recreational opportunities and valuable public service.”

The mission statement also defines OU as a “metropolitan university” – one that both educates people and researches, Corcoran said.