For many years, Michigan State University has been engaged with communities and partners in the City of Detroit to align efforts and make a lasting positive change. Within the Broad College specifically, efforts have centered on offering new educational experiences and delivering a social impact, with faculty members like Forrest Carter, associate professor of marketing, leading the way.
“I personally have been involved with the Detroit entrepreneurial community for pretty much the course of my career,” Carter said. “My research and interest in macro-marketing — marketing’s role in terms of societal and community development — has put me right at the forefront of interacting with entrepreneurs.”
Over his 43-year career at MSU, Carter has been one of the pioneers for the university’s entrepreneurship program. He helped it grow from a specialization for business majors to a top 15 nationally ranked minor open to all students, and he continues to serve as the faculty director of the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Every step of the way, he has worked to foster strong partnerships with communities and stakeholders.
Notably, Carter has been a champion for efforts in Detroit alongside a diverse set of community organizations, neighborhood associations and community advocates as well as colleagues across the university to envision initiatives that would benefit MSU and the city’s neighborhoods and community members.
“The general framework has been to merge what’s called a collective impact model with our traditional MSU Extension model,” Carter said. “Extension brings full knowledge transfer — the force of the university, faculty, students to the fingertips of farmers as they address issues at the farm. Collective impact is looking at all components of the socioeconomic spectrum of a community like Detroit and addressing each one of them collectively.”
His incredible work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Carter was recently designated as an advisor for MSU Provost Teresa Woodruff to guide the university’s long-term engagement strategy with Detroit.
“The work undertaken by Dr. Carter in the coming months will serve as a springboard to help advance MSU’s academic presence across Detroit, incorporating both existing and emerging efforts,” Woodruff said. “Our outreach efforts in Detroit will require deliberate attention, and I am grateful to Dr. Carter for his commitment in this area for the remainder of the semester.”
Carter noted how Detroit’s revitalization has brought many new developments while also causing unintended foreclosures and negative feelings for many community members who have not felt the trickle-down of the economic impact. Knowing that, he has made sure to hear the voices and concerns of neighborhoods to ensure that MSU is part of the conversation to unite communities.
“It was important to ask people what they wanted. My grandmom used to say, ‘Even when you’re coming to help people, you still knock on the door and ask permission to come in,’” Carter said.
“We spent over a year speaking to a fairly broad cross-section of agendas and constituencies across the city, and we asked them, ‘What would you want from any major development from MSU or otherwise?’ This essentially gave community members a seat at the decision-making table.”
As he takes on this advisory role and continues his important work connecting MSU with Detroit, Carter is excited about the opportunities that lay ahead for Spartans.
“The Broad College has always been heavily involved at the corporate level, but now this gives us a platform for faculty to do research in a way that impacts a community,” he said. “Looking at the mission of the College, this also gives an opportunity to fulfill aspects of that mission in a way that it wasn’t able to before. In addition, Detroit is a major source of any kind of diversity, in terms of both students and faculty, and this allows us to have a visible presence in a way that includes racial equity and openness along with economic impact.”