Crafting a community: Students plan for a future in The Union at Dearborn

The Union at Dearborn community assistants

Ali Elsaghir and Paige Heaven show off the model room for The Union at Dearborn

Paige Heaven spends too much time in her car.

She lives with her dad in Canton, driving to and from campus six days a week—sometimes, she admits, twice a day if she’s forgotten something.

So it comes as no surprise that she was excited to hear about The Union at Dearborn, the new housing option for UM-Dearborn students.

“I really love this campus; I love being involved,” she said. “For me, the only thing it was missing was housing.”

Heaven is one of eight students hired by The Union at Dearborn to help shape the new living experience as a community assistant (CA). While they wait for construction to finish, the CAs set up shop on the second floor of the University Center, drumming up excitement for the complex and encouraging students to sign up for the housing option.

“We’re here for students to come in, get their questions answered,” said Ali Elsaghir, another CA. “We’re excited for this opportunity and we want students to take advantage of the option. It’s definitely a step in the right direction for the university.”

Both students look forward to a time when residents and non-residents alike can use The Union as a gathering place.

“There will be a fitness center, meeting areas for student orgs. It’s going to be a place where everyone can hangout,” Elsaghir said.

The CAs’ role will change as students move in this fall. They’ll shift from leasing agents to community builders.

Friendly competitions with neighbors, weekly events, door decorations, laundry seminars—the ideas are already flowing.

“I’ll start sending ideas to our boss, Steve Ostipow,” Heaven said. “And he’ll say, ‘Those are great ideas. Let’s get the residents moved in first.’”

Ostipow, general manager for The Union, admires the students’ enthusiasm.

“I’m fortunate to have a group of students who really see how this project is more than a job and more than just an apartment complex. They all felt very strongly that this housing community was an opportunity to be part of something new, big and exciting,” he said.

Something, Heaven says, completely different than what UM-Dearborn students are used to.

“When they live at The Union, I want them to have that full college experience,” she said. “It’s unlike any other living experience they’ll have. It’s going to be fun.”

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