Roseanne Wholihan

2016 A Community Advocate


What makes you a Difference Maker?

While I often have a difficult time talking myself up, I am quite proud to be honored with this distinction of being a University of Michigan-Dearborn Difference Maker. It is my goal in life to be able to make a difference in my community of Inkster, Michigan. Inkster has seen some rough days, and is still working through these hard times. My goal for sometime, specific to Inkster since I became a resident 7 years ago, has been to be able to offer opportunities to the people in my community that they might not otherwise have access to. In order to accomplish this, I have worked toward attaining a degree that I am graduating with in May of this year. My path has taken me a long time, and brought me through many different situations and opportunities to help others. My goal in life has always been the elevation of the community members around me to equal status regardless of their race, gender, or socioeconomic standing in our society. With this goal in mind, I have worked physically and verbally to create the environment that I want my future children to inhabit. When I advocate, or volunteer, or work to promote liberated spaces for those around me, it has always come from the depths of my person, my beliefs of equality. If following this need for equality has made me a Difference Maker, then it is a title that I wear with honor and pride!

Campus Achievements:

Working full-time along with going to school full-time has meant that I was unable to be as involved on campus as I would have liked to be during my time at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. There are still some achievements that I am very proud to have under my belt, most of which were unexpected but fully appreciated! Every semester I have been at the University of Michigan-Dearborn I made it onto the Dean’s List regarding my grade point average. Even with other commitments aside from working and being a student, it has been consistently important to me to keep my grades up and put as much effort into my schooling as possible. This has also led to being a part of three different Honor Societies – Phi Theta Kappa, Tau Sigma, and the Golden Key International Honour Society. One of the most fulfilling experiences that I have had while at the university was going through my internship in the fall of 2015 at Starfish Family Services, and with that I was awarded and Intern of the Year award by the Humanities department. Lastly, I have been honored here through the Difference Makers group! These accolades are always surprising to me, and continue to make me more motivated to finish my degree the best that I can.

Leadership Experiences:

While leadership is not necessarily something that I seek out, I am willing to take charge when offered the opportunity. In my current career, I have gone from having no hotel or hospitality experience to being the Director of Sales and Marketing at a local chain hotel property. While this career is not one that I see myself continuing in, starting behind the front desk with no experience and moving up to running two departments, along with additional management responsibilities, is something that I am proud of. I have been training employees in hospitality roles (from guest relations to sales) on and off for ten years now, and I have been commended for my organization and teaching skills. I feel that my open demeanor is something that aids me in training others, as I try my hardest to be understanding, available, and accepting of any questions or confusion that may occur during the process. This is also quite possibly something that adds to my being chosen for leadership roles in academic groups that I have partaken in. I am used to delegating responsibilities, and I also feel that I try to be as fair as possible, often taking on more work myself if I am confident that I can accomplish it well. I am hopeful that my leadership experiences in my career and scholastic atmospheres will continue to propel me to the completion of my long list of goals post graduation!

What is your Dream Career?

It has always been my dream to open up a community center where youth feel comfortable spending time to relax, and also to have access to opportunities and a healthy environment that they might not normally have access to.

After graduation this spring, I plan to attain a job gaining more experience in the field of social services. While working this job, I will begin the process of filing for non-profit status and fundraising for the opening of a youth focused community center in Inkster. The youth living in Inkster do not have many positive outlets that are available and affordable to them. My community center will offer a place that is safe, educational, and fun where youth can access opportunities that might not otherwise be available to them.

Growing up in metro Detroit, I know first hand just how few positive outlets are available to young people, especially those in impoverished and underprivileged areas. In my adolescence, I watched many friends lose their lives due to drugs and alcohol, addictions they turned to escape not only suffering, but also boredom. Had they been given access to healthier environments, I firmly believe that many of my peers would still be alive today. I want to contribute to the development of safer, more positive opportunities for future generations of metro Detroit.

What was a Defining Moment at UM-Dearborn?

The most defining experience that I had at UM-Dearborn was my internship program that I participated in during the Fall 2015 semester. I completed a 4 credit hour internship for Starfish Family Services in December of 2015, and my placement was very specific and very close to my heart. While Starfish Family Services has a large network of offices that offer services in many different areas, Starfish is also one of the only organizations that have a shelter in the city of Inkster. Living in the city of Inkster, and wanting to work closer with my community, it was important to me that my internship be something local. When I found out that the Starfish facility just down the street from me was a shelter specifically for teens and adolescents, I knew that was where I wanted to be. Working at Starfish for the semester really served to solidify my want to go into the sector of helping the youth of my community. Working one-on-one with students from the area let me know that my want to open a community center was not just my personal feelings, but a need and want that the youth are reaching out for also. While many teens do not stay long at the Starfish shelter, the time I got to spend with them while they were there was educational for me and also an opportunity to begin the work that I hope to continue for the rest of my life. While I am not currently consistently volunteering there, I am still on the books to visit and continue my serving once my daily schedule lightens up again after graduation. I am excited to be able to be directly involved in the lives of my community once again, and am incredibly grateful for the opportunity offered to me through my internship with UM-Dearborn.