’12 MA in English, Co-Founder & CEO Bamboo Detroit

Alumnae Amanda Lewan ’12 M.A. English is an acclaimed writer and the co-founder and CEO of Bamboo Detroit, a co-working space in downtown Detroit.

An English degree is a versatile degree, despite what popular opinion might say.

From a young age, Amanda knew she wanted to tell stories. Pursuing an English degree was the method by which she’d put her creative prowess to the test. But as a creative writer, she found the prospect of writing a thesis daunting.

“Halfway through my program at Wayne State, I knew I was avoiding what I really wanted to do. So, I made the leap and moved to a creative writing thesis.”

That summer, she dedicated herself to the writing. It was the push she needed, she says, “to develop a regular and more professional writing practice.”

Finishing that 150-page thesis is the thing she’s most proud to have accomplished while in graduate school.

Acknowledging that it’s a feat she couldn’t have managed alone, she credits her teachers and the university’s small class sizes with helping her to keep that momentum going once classes were back in session.

“It felt like a safe and diverse space to create.”

It was the creative community off campus that persuaded her to stay in Detroit after graduation.

Working as a freelance writer, Amanda “hated working from home in the suburbs and wanted to be around community.”

Bamboo Detroit started as a humble venture between friends.

“At the time, we wanted a space to work together,” she says. “We started as a small-scale space at 2,000 square feet and slowly grew it over the years to 25,000.”

Now a community all its own, Bamboo not only supplies turnkey offices, but provides workshops, other inclusive support for businesses both big and small, and an array of memberships that fit entrepreneurs’ unique needs.

It’s an endeavor that helps feed the city’s economy and its revitalization.

“Right now, we need to transition into a post-industrial economy where we have a diverse amount of jobs for Detroiters,” she says. “I think entrepreneurs are the job creators. They are also the small business owners adding vibrancy to our…neighborhoods.” 

Her influence in that entrepreneurial community isn’t limited to Bamboo Detroit.

In 2012, she launched Michipreneur—now a retired venture—"Michigan’s only statewide publication on entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Outside Michipreneur, Amanda’s writing has been recognized and featured in “NPR, Entrepreneur Magazine, The Nation, Rust Belt Magazine, Belt Publishing, The Journal of Americana, and has been anthologized twice,” and she’s been a nominee for the Pushcart and Best of the Net prizes.   

Currently, she’s working on a novel and an essay-memoire hybrid narrative that explores privilege.

Building narratives relies on community, storytelling, and critical thinking. The skills Amanda gleaned as an English student have always stayed relevant to her work.

Her advice to students to make the most of graduate school in the city?

“Take time to try new things. Don't be afraid to sign up for the 150-page thesis. Get connected into the greater Detroit creative community. We have a vibrant and growing scene here that's exciting to be a part of.”

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