Faculty News

Historic Michigan Union reopens

Union reopening celebration on Jan. 13

After an 18-month, $85.2 million renovation, the historic Michigan Union reopened January 13 with a celebratory ceremony in the new indoor courtyard. The 100-year-old landmark has been a central location for social engagement and student activism for generations.

Vivian Yu, a 2012 alumna, was one of the creators of Building A Better Michigan, which began the initiative that led to the renovations. She explained to the crowd gathered in the courtyard that in 2010, as a sophomore, she and fellow students recognized that enhancements to student life facilities could positively impact campus in many ways.

Yu described the process of touring other campuses to compare facilities, and she recalled asking: “What would it look like if we could really, truly embody the purpose of what a union is?

“A union is bringing together folks from all different corners of campus together that might not have otherwise ever crossed paths,” Yu explained. “We all had this feeling about what the Michigan Union meant to us, but it hadn’t turned into anything that could be leveraged into action.” 

That idea eventually led to the renovation, and Yu said she would have never imagined it looking as beautiful as it does.

“Today, we celebrate the students who have been central to every aspect of this renovation,” said Ron Weiser, chair of the Board of Regents, at the reopening ceremony.  “Bringing together innovation, diversity, accessibility, and interaction to create a space that both meets the needs of current and future students, and honors the historic architectural integrity of the Union. This new design exemplifies Michigan’s commitment to its students.” Michigan Union exterior sign

The new features include expanded student spaces and flexible meeting areas. The renovation project was designed with sustainability in mind, and energy-efficient windows, LED lighting, and a 20 percent water consumption savings are just some of the features included.

At the reopening ceremony, University of Michigan President Mark S. Schlissel spoke about the profound impact of the Michigan Union on the campus and community.

“The influence of the Michigan Union is unmatched in higher education,” Schlissel said. “The historic architecture we love remains, but inside there’s now more space for students and for the community. Everything was designed with connection and collaboration in mind.”

The Union is a hub of activity for the campus, with an average of 9,000 visitors per day, and has a history of civic engagement and teaching student leadership.

“Welcome back to the place where leaders become their best. Welcome back to the part of campus where community is created and Michigan memories are made,” said Susan Pile, senior director of University Unions and Auxiliary Services. “These students were making plans for truly the next generation of Wolverines that they themselves would never be here to experience this place as students on this campus. This is a true leadership legacy that they have left for us. Their vision has become reality and we are grateful.” 

Read more about the renovation in the University Record.