Katey – ANKURI (Dehradun, India)

Me and a few of my summer camp students
Hi everyone! I’m Katey, a senior studying in LSA’s Program in the Environment and Urban Studies. Earlier this summer, I was very fortunate to spend two months outside of Dehradun, India, as a teaching intern at the non-governmental organization (NGO) ANKURI (Agency for Non Konventional Urban Rural Initiatives). Along with three other college students from the US, I taught English to students of all ages in a few different villages outside of Dehradun at their government schools, ANKURI’s Literacy Center, and at a three-week summer camp filled with crafts and games.

An afternoon at the Literacy Center

As the lead teacher for the second to fifth grade students, I learned how to think on my feet and lead our teaching team through transitional moments in an organized way. In all three teaching locations, we were often under-resourced and our enrollment numbers fluctuated frequently, so we had to adapt the lessons we’d planned depending on how many students and materials we had each day. Additionally, depending on how the teaching sessions progressed, we had to totally scrap our original lesson plans and go with an alternative set of activities and games. Therefore, I developed an arsenal of games, books, and activities that could be used at a moment’s notice and communicate to my American and Indian co-teachers the change of plans in a calm way. I became a more flexible leader and also came to enjoy the challenge and nature of working in an ever-changing environment. I believe I developed really important leadership skills through this experience because the only constant in any work environment is change – in future jobs and internships, I’ll feel more comfortable navigating a team through situations in which we have to alter our original plans. I also enjoyed adjusting our lessons based on which students were present and which resources were available on a given day because I felt like we were addressing the individual needs of the students more accurately, rather than rigidly sticking to the lessons we planned.
Summer camp project

A class project from summer camp

Additionally, with the Indian government school teachers and students I learned how to lead activities and create relationships using forms of communication outside of language. I don’t speak Hindi and the level of English comprehension varied greatly among those we met, so often, we communicated through song, dance, crafts, and movement instead of language. It was a beautiful experience to form close connections with others despite not being able to speak the same language. This alternative form of communication will also help my leadership abilities back on campus because, although I can communicate with most people in Ann Arbor using English, these other forms of communication are deeply personal and have helped me create closer emotional connections with others than I would have if I’d only been using language.
This internship has also allowed me to rethink leadership in terms of how leaders function in a team. Through this experience, each member of our team of American college students, Indian school teachers, and NGO workers had a different role. For example, I taught and developed lessons for the second through fifth grade students and coordinated the arts and crafts activities for summer camp. Other team members taught and choreographed the song and dance activities for summer camp, and another created lessons for the older group of students. We were all able to serve as leaders in different areas, at different times. In future teams and projects, I hope to continue this format of leadership because it made the group function in a more egalitarian manner and gave each of us a sense of pride and autonomy over our area of expertise, rather than having one or two people lead the entire group in a hierarchical structure.
My fellow American interns

My fellow American interns

On an organizational scale, this experience gave me new insights on NGO and non-profit leadership, which is a field that I’m interested in exploring after graduation. Our internship supervisor founded ANKURI, an NGO that aims to empower rural women through income generation, alleviate poverty, and promote health,
education and the full participation of women and children in Uttarakhand society (adapted from ankuri.org). Although initially I didn’t have a clear idea of the background and intentions of those operating ANKURI and was thus slightly skeptical of the organization, once I met Rachna – the founder and director of ANKURI – I felt more confident about the work ANKURI is doing in the area. Rachna is from a much higher social and economic class than most of the women and children ANKURI is intended to serve and she has funded most of the organization’s operations out of her own pocket; however, despite her many differences with those ANKURI serves, she lives among the community and has gained their trust and created close relationships with them over the years. Most importantly, Rachna wants the women and children to have autonomy over the decisions and functioning of the organization: rather than Rachna being the “face of ANKURI,” she wants to help establish a strong base for the operations of the organization and eventually transfer control of ANKURI to the village women. She has also established a local and international network of ANKURI supporters, utilizing a combination of different funding sources and resources to keep the organization functioning. As someone who wants to work with non-profits and grassroots organizations after college, learning about Rachna’s different approaches to funding, resourcing, operating an NGO, and the theory of change behind ANKURI will be valuable when thinking about the various ways organizations can function in the non-profit world.
I’m immensely grateful for the financial support of the Barger Leadership Institute and Kelly and Mary Jean Jecklin – without them, I wouldn’t have been able to have such an influential and memorable experience interning abroad. I thank Rachna and her family for being such wonderful hosts and mentors. Lastly, thank you to the women and children of ANKURI and all of our students and co-teachers for welcoming us into their community.

Take a Tampon Leave a Tampon – Ann Arbor, MI

Photo 1 for blog

Project Goal: Our goal was to increase access to sanitary products on campus and provide all students who menstruate with security, dignity, and agency in caring for their reproductive health. It was brought to our attention through a Project Community the disparities communities face. Many students do not have the resources to afford these expensive items or they are of an identity that makes it uncomfortable to purchase them in the store. For these individuals there is currently no option being offered for assistance. Through our campaign we hoped to raise awareness about this major issue and break down the stigma that surrounds menstruation. We hoped to set the foundation for a self-sustaining tampon/pad receptacles located throughout women’s and gender inclusive bathrooms on campus in the form of “Take a Tampon, Leave a Tampon” boxes. This project also provided a toolkit for Planned Parenthood to give to other student groups across the state of Michigan to use at their respective schools as part of the Community Action Project of the students in Sociology 225 Section 304.

Methods of Implementation: This small grant allowed us to purchase sanitary products to make available in respective bathrooms in Lane Hall. We put baskets (See Figure 1.0) with which included different flow pads and tampons as well as pantiliners, in both the women’s bathroom and the gender inclusive bathrooms located on the first floor of Lane Hall. We had the hygiene baskets available for the remainder of the Winter semester of 2017 while monitoring the supply on a daily basis.

Expenses: We utilized $75.03 of our award to purchase sanitary products and a receipt was submitted to the Barger Leadership Institute to be reimbursed on March 24, 2016.

Results: The results were expected and unexpected. The expected being that our tabling and access of sanitary products raised awareness for this reproductive justice issue. The unexpected result was a lack of use of the products provided, which may be due to multiple variables. We were only granted access to place the products in two bathrooms in Lane Hall and we only had a two week time period to see the results of implementation. The BLI grant provided us with the opportunity to purchase sanitary products in bulk, so the unexpected left over products were then donated to Safe House in Ann Arbor as stated in our grant proposal.

Evaluation: All of the goals that were set were successfully met. We received this grant from the Barger Leadership Institute and created a toolkit for other organizations to start this project at their school.  We were able to increase access to sanitary products to people at the University of Michigan through our “Take a Tampon, Leave a Tampon” initiative in Lane Hall. At our tabling we were able to raise awareness for this reproductive justice issue. This toolkit included a timeline, a flyer for a pad and tampon drive, an improvement list, and a brief summary of our thought process and execution. We believe this toolkit is very explicit and any student organization could implement this program at their school. Aside from the concrete goals of raising awareness and access to hygiene products, we were able to achieve a goal of a successful team initiative.

Broader Implications: This BLI Small Grant was intended to stimulate learning about leadership through practice, encourage and support student initiative, and seed innovative projects that will contribute to the Institute, campus community, and/or society, and it did just that. This pilot program increased access to sanitary products and awareness about the impact menstruation has on a young student’s college career, which has yet to be done on the University of Michigan’s campus. Now that toolkit has been created and passed along to other organizations students and faculty, others will be able to address and promote awareness around a reproductive justice issue that is often be overlooked. This initiative could not have been as successful as it was without the Barger Leadership Institute,  Thank you very much.

WiLL Presents Leaders and Best of Ann Arbor – Ann Arbor, MI

LeadersandBestPhoto

Women in Leadership Lessons (WiLL) hosted their flagship panel event on leadership on Wednesday, April 6 which was open to students and faculty from Organizational Studies, Barger Leadership Institute, and the broader University of Michigan community. The panel, Leaders and Best of Ann Arbor, consisted of leaders from around Ann Arbor representing Zingerman’s, the Ann Arbor YMCA, and U-M’s Center for Positive Organizations. Panelists included: Suneeti Agrawal (MBA candidate in Ross School of Business and President of Michigan Business Women at Ross), C. J. Azubuine (MBA candidate at Ross School of Business), Abbey Davis (Teen and Volunteer Director at the Ann Arbor YMCA), Betsy Erwin (Education Lead at the Ross Center for Positive Organizations), and Jennifer Hayman (Marketing Director: Service Network at Zingerman’s).

Panelists represented a range of ages and life experiences and were able to share their unique insights on leadership from this broad range of experience. The panel included a set of moderated questions covering such topics as the difference between leading and managing, strategies in negotiation, and finding work-life balance in one’s career. The panel was followed by a Q&A with audience members which sparked more insight-filled discussion around topics such as navigating gender in the workplace.

This panel provided opportunities for learning for both WiLL members and members of the braoder University of Michigan community. Panelists shared a number of key insights such as the importance of being intentional about stepping up for things and always raise our hands for things as a way to set ourselves apart within our organization. They encouraged us to create supportive work environments for ourselves and others, advising that we be approachable and empower and support our colleagues whenever possible. Abbey Davis suggested that as leaders we see ourselves as mentors not just as managers and that we are fulfilling our role as leaders only if we are ensuring that the people we lead our developing through their contact with us. These panelists also provided valuable insights into current hot topics such as negotiations and work-life balance. Their advice for negotiating involved seeing a negotiation as an opportunity for advocacy. If humility or shyness makes advocating for yourself difficult, one recommendation was to imagine you are advocating for another person: objectively analyze and quantify your achievements, research the situation of people with comparable experience in your industry, and negotiate as if you were working on behalf of someone else. Their advice for work-life balance was to make time for what is necessary for you to find balance in your life. Suneeti Agrawal gave the example of a time when she coordinated her schedule with her boss to ensure she would have time to take a one hour yoga class during the week because she knew this was a necessary part of her life that would ensure she produced quality work the rest of the week. These insights on leadership were vastly helpful in preparing our audience (of mostly undergraduates) for life after college. Audience members came away wanting to learn even more from these panelists, asking whether next year’s panel could be longer and include even more direct audience questions with panelists. As we reflect on this panel, we will definitely make some changes about how we approach and lead situations. This panel put a strong emphasis on making sure that the people we lead are developed and supported. As we head into the workforce, we hope to engage with this challenge and to ensure that we a) find leaders who are intentional about ensuring we have opportunities for development and b) make sure that we, in turn, give back to the people we lead.