Danielle Shields

Danielle Shields

Danielle Shields

MSW ‘18, Development and Program Coordinator at nonprofit Rebel Nell

From a young age, Danielle Shields knew she wanted to help people. She did her research and discovered that a degree in social work allows graduates to do just that, and in what better a place than an urban community to conduct humanities research?   

Warriors know that the Wayne State and Detroit experiences go hand in hand.

“Coming to Detroit opened so many doors for me and made me realize that there were other people out there like me” who value hard-work, sustainability, and community, she says. For Danielle, moving to the city to pursue a bachelor of social work felt like coming home, and she stayed to pursue a master of social work. 

The finer nuggets of education rarely find graduate students in the classroom.

During her academic career, Danielle worked with Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution, which delivers soap bars with the human trafficking hotline on them, and works to educate the public on how to recognize and deter human trafficking. She worked with the Community Homeless Interprofessional Program, which is comprised of Wayne State students in social work, medicine, and pharmacy; they “hold monthly check-ups [with] homeless individuals at St. Paul’s across Woodward.” She even strove to change legislation for Wayne County through research conducted during a policy class taught by Dr. Erin Comartin.   

“My group focused on how undocumented immigrants are not provided representation in Immigration Court because it’s considered Civil Court, and how that went against the values of due process and made this population specifically vulnerable,” Danielle says. With the help of Michigan United, “we were able to have a meeting with County Executive Warren Evans’ team to discuss our findings and propose a solution.” While ultimately a program was not adopted, it makes her hopeful for change, a vein she’s pursuing at Rebel Nell as the organization’s development and program coordinator.

The nonprofit seeks to employ, educate, and empower “women facing barriers to employment in Detroit.” These women are hired as creative designers who craft jewelry from fallen graffiti throughout the city.

“I originally heard about Rebel Nell back in 2015 at the Palmer Park Art Fair,” Danielle says. She fell in love with their passion for empowering women.

Danielle interned in their sales and marketing department. As graduation approached, she expressed interest in a permanent role. “Having a team full of business leaders, they needed someone with nonprofit experience.” When Danielle graduated this summer, she had a full-time position waiting. The gig involves organizational development, fundraising, and community outreach. All involve skills that she garnered while a Wayne State graduate student.

“I was never afraid to let my superiors around me know what I wanted to learn, and many of them made sure I had [those opportunities] to do so.” 

Her advice for current and prospective graduate students? Network! Your professors, mentors in the community, and academic advisors are all experts. Use them.