Students tour Notre Dame, Purdue campuses
By Nina Pantoja, vice chair, Michigan Union Board of Representatives
On January 26, 2019 about 15 other students and I were lucky enough to be a part of a Building a Better Michigan (BBM)-led bus trip that visited the campuses of Notre Dame and Purdue. While the weather was less than ideal, with a snowstorm prolonging our trip home and delaying us two hours, the journey was an extremely rewarding experience.
Purdue aided us with the new plans to renovate the CCRB, while the home of the Fighting Irish provided us with guidance on the project of the Union. Through our visits to these campuses we met wonderful people who showcased the buildings they were proud of, we learned about what worked and what did not for college students, and we came back to our Michigan campus with a new appreciation for the tradition that reminds us of who we are as Wolverines.
In our time spent at Notre Dame, we were able to identify a new goal for the Michigan Union: subtle spirit. The newly built Duncan Student Center showcased history and a deep connection to the esteemed university in a way that caught our attention without being overwhelming. With celtic crosses on the railings, Notre Dame’s emblem etched into tall wooden pillars, and old stadium seating incorporated into walls, it was impossible to ignore the pride that the community felt for its Fighting Irish. An obstacle that we have had in the renovation of our Union is the search for a way in which we could showcase school spirit without having it consume its entirety. Notre Dame showed us exactly how to navigate through this roadblock, and that was through detail.
On the trip we also witnessed a strong connection between the center and student body through the personalization of art. One impressive piece we were shown was a creation of their cathedral through 3D imaging. They gathered over 100 students and scanned their profiles so they could be printed and used to create the outline of the iconic building. This uniqueness and intimacy it encompassed is something we would love to create through our own art pieces in the Union. We hope to place work that showcases the students that enrich our Michigan community, ultimately creating a space that you can only find in Ann Arbor.
Although Notre Dame gave us incredible ideas, there was something that we felt we needed to do differently: we needed to find a balance between tradition and modernity. With the renovation of the Union comes heavily needed updates. However, we hope to maintain the warmth that the Union held through its historical woodwork and antique stained glass.
The Duncan Student Center was amazing, but for our campus we felt that it was too modern. It lacked tradition, something so vital to the life of the University of Michigan. This sense of strong communal tradition, of warmth, is exactly what attracted me to this campus 3 years ago. The Union made me feel welcomed in a place I was completely unfamiliar with, a place 252 miles from the only home I had ever known.
As the school year continued, my connection to the now 100 year old building only grew and allowed me to form a bond that would lead me to apply to be on the Michigan Union Board of Representatives. As I’ve recently become Vice Chair, I hope to work with the incredible people on this project to not only recreate the same unique warmth that I felt when I entered the building for the first time, but to enhance it so that every person who visits our university feels like they have finally come home.
Nina Pantoja is a sophomore studying Spanish and Sociology with a concentration in Law, Justice and Social Change at the University of Michigan. She serves as vice chair of the Michigan Union Board of Representatives and is a member of Building a Better Michigan.