Ph.D. candidate in sociology, KCP Fellow
Admitted as a master’s student in sociology in 2009, Jenny Lendrum has witnessed significant changes in Detroit and on Wayne State’s campus over the last nine years. While Detroit’s revitalization has already made leaps and bounds, she says it’s a work in progress—one that many neighborhoods outside Downtown and Midtown have yet to witness.
“Many living in a cash-poor city like Detroit face economic, social, and spatial challenges in engaging in day-to-day activities with society,” Jenny says.
Her doctoral research explores one such neighborhood.
“My current research examines the ways in which Detroiters are getting by—with few good jobs, without public transportation, and with a legacy of systemic racism.”
Starting in 2014, she interviewed Detroit residents, had hundreds of informal conversations, and “spent approximately 300 hours observing the neighborhood and changes over time,” she says, within a three-year span.
Cultivating such trust takes time.
To build it, Jenny attended block club meetings, neighborhood functions, city-level meetings, attended mass at multiple churches, and volunteered at pantries and community events.
“As a white middle-class woman, gaining trust and building rapport has been one of the most challenging but also the most rewarding components of this research.”
For her master’s thesis, Jenny explored women’s motivations in participating in sports, primarily running in marathons.
It was this training as a feminist scholar and ethnographer that enabled her to “keep power imbalances in mind when conducting and sharing (doctoral) research,” but also, with time, helped her shed that “outsider” status in the neighborhood she’s studying now.
Her doctoral research has appeared on WDET, in Detroit News, and Next City. Opportunities Jenny is grateful for, because they bring “much needed visibility to Detroit communities” that aren't always otherwise featured in mainstream media.
As is true of many graduate students, the transition from classroom to field research has proven difficult but rewarding. For Jenny, it’s been her most significant area of growth.
The King-Chavez-Parks Future Faculty Fellowship Program has afforded her further opportunities to connect with other Detroit scholars. The workshops “provide unique insight into teaching strategies, skills, and hacks,” she says. Teaching as a graduate assistant has been a gift. “Being a part, albeit a small part, of the production and exchange of knowledge—I am humbled by the opportunity to be able to share a discipline that I am most impassioned about.”
Her advice on how others can glean the most from their graduate school experience?
“Trust your intellectual instincts. Foster and maintain networks of support in and out of the academy.”