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CASC Minor Leads to Extraordinary Education

Mary Naoum

University of Michigan senior Mary Naoum is completing her Bachelor of Theatre Arts degree with a twist. Not only has she added a concentration in performing arts management, she’s also enhancing her education with the U-M School of Social Work’s undergraduate CASC minor. 

Four years ago, the Community Action and Social Change (CASC) minor was created by the U-M School of Social Work for students interested in developing knowledge, skills and experiences in community action and social change. Since then, CASC has graduated nearly 200 students from the program. There are currently more than 250 students enrolled in the minor from nine schools and colleges across the university. 

The CASC minor led Naoum to the Semester in Detroit program last spring where she attended classes and interned with the Matrix Theater Company in southwest Detroit. 

Semester in Detroit was hands-down, the best thing I’ve ever done at the University of Michigan. It was the perfect way to not just be a guest in the city, but really become a part of a community.

“Semester in Detroit was hands-down the best thing I’ve ever done at the University of Michigan,” Naoum said. “It was the perfect way to not just be a guest in the city, but really become a part of a community.” A year and a half later, she still interns at Matrix, strengthening her connection with the community

The CASC program allowed her to work more on a management level while she assisted with a production, and planned a year-end event to help inform young people about environmental sustainability and safe environmental practices in their community.

 “I love community empowerment through the arts combined with the balance of community action and community service,” Naoum said. “These programs are such inviting entry points for positive change.” 

Naoum’s love of theater arts combined with community outreach extends to her extracurricular activities too. As co-president of the Michigan Performance Outreach Workshop (MPOW), Naoum works with fifth- and sixth-grade students from Detroit Public Schools.

“The students come to U-M to see a performance, and then engage in arts workshops with the performers afterward,” Naoum explained. “Teachers are blown away with the feedback they have from their students. The Beat-Box workshop is really popular, and the kids experience it as a real confidence builder.” 

Mary has added programming to MPOW to ensure that Detroit students maintain that confidence. 

“I manage MPOW’s outreach puppet troupe that goes into Detroit elementary schools to educate kids about Shakespeare. We also just added our first weekly theatre workshop with high school students at Detroit School of the Arts.” 

What’s next for this high-achieving senior? 

“I’m thrilled I was accepted into the U-M MSW program,” Naoum smiled, “but I’m deferring my enrollment for a year to live and work in Detroit. It’s important to me that I have real CASC experience before diving into grad school.”

Naom couldn’t stress enough how the CASC minor strengthened her ability to do work in Detroit.

“My world opened up with the CASC minor, and there are so many great things ahead!”

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