Team Zero Waste

Our group successfully developed an action plan to increase awareness of waste and consumption through a university-wide zero waste challenge. The invitations to our challenge were well received and enough people participated to the point where we reached our maximum capacity for gift handouts. We were granted a BLI small grant to order custom water bottles as both an incentive and a reward for participants. We had at least 34 daily survey responses out of the 40 participants and we were able to analyze this data to determine whether the challenge was impacting their lifestyles. Although there wasn’t any discernable trend in consumption over the course of a week, we’re hopeful and confident participants were conscious of their waste since the consumption numbers were very low, to begin with.

There are four leadership habits that were key aspects of how our team worked well together. The first is “Start Small.” We knew we wanted to create real change in these short seven weeks in regards to waste management on campus, so we chose to do a project that was realistic. The second leadership habit is “Engage the World.” We reached out to several different environmentally minded organizations and tried to gain as many participants as possible for our competition. Having the most possible people involved was hugely important to how we were measuring the success of our project. The third leadership habit is “Expect Challenges.” We were able to effectively plan our project around the idea of welcoming challenge but avoiding issues too difficult for us to handle in the short span of the project. The fourth leadership habit is “Work to Learn.” Our work was a learning experience in both the process and the results. By using surveys to facilitate our event, we collected a lot of data about student waste habits.

Throughout the semester, our team faced a variety of challenges. One of the challenges we faced was an issue with communication. First, we had some difficulty recruiting participants for the event after trying a variety of marketing methods. We designed, printed, and posted flyers, but found that they were not successful in recruiting participants as we received zero emails to our group email. We answered to the lack of response by creating a Facebook event, which was how we garnered much of our attention. Our issues with communication continued when we started the challenge, as many of our surveys were having issues and our emails were sending multiple times. As a result, we sent out apology emails and started communicating mostly through a texting notification application.

Our group dynamic throughout the process of our project has maintained relatively strong. We have met consistently every week to ensure our deliverables were prepared to be turned in and that our progress was on track. When we first began the project, we all had many valuable ideas to contribute, it was difficult to agree on the specifics. However, once we managed to agree on how to conduct our challenge, decisions were easier to make. Our common passion for sustainability and similar end goals allowed us to come up with a broad idea for our project. Yet, we struggled on deciding what specifics our surveys and emails should include. However, after much discussion and feedback from our peers, we were able to deliver an optimized product within the limited timespan.

Although there was no significant or apparent trend from the quantitative data that we gathered, which included the instances of recycling, the number of paper towel use, the number of times ordering takeout, etc. We believe that we have gathered very useful data to supplement future or ongoing sustainability programs and projects. From the analysis of our data, a movement towards individual zero-waste is almost impossible. Instead, there should be more work going on in the background that forces people to become more aware and do certain things that move towards zero-waste, like getting rid of paper towels completely in bathrooms. We believe our project was successful due to the high turnout of participants and high retention rate of participants throughout the course of last week. We’ve seen and encountered some flaws in the process of our execution plan, but due to the time constraint and workload, it was inevitable. The outcome isn’t exactly what we hoped, but overall, we are really satisfied with the turnout and amount of data we were able to capture.

  •  Julia Atayde, Orion Cleaver, Kevin Liu, Rachel Levine, and David Talbot

Victors Volunteer – Helpful Humans of Michigan

The goal of Victors Volunteer is to spread awareness of the volunteer communities on and around campus, as well as spread awareness of the positive impacts helping others has had on our Michigan peers. We choose to take a ‘Humans of New York’ approach by sharing a personal volunteer-related story and photo on multiple (Facebook, Instagram, and a Wix Blog) social media platforms. By sharing personal volunteer experiences, our social media platforms act as a resource of where and why to get involved.

In the twelve days that we posted to our social media, we reached over 2,000 people in page and post views. We surpassed our original goal!

As a secondary tactic to reach a broader audience, we planned a celebratory and networking event. With a generous grant from Barger Leadership Institute, we were successfully able to host a volunteer celebration and collaboration. As a thank you to the thirty interviewees, we invited them to the LSA opportunity hub for pizza, salad, and refreshments. They were encouraged to bring their friends or invite others interested in, or already in another service community.

Although our event ran smoothly, we faced an expected challenge – turnout.

Our event was small (15 including ourselves) however, we enjoyed a few hours of sharing volunteer stories, discussing our favorite places to volunteer, and making recommendations for which student organizations on campus would be interesting for an individual based on their interests. We had a few people come who had not been interviewed, but saw our posts on Facebook, and wanted to know more about our project, or a specific organization that was written about on our page. We considered this another small success because we were engaging a broader audience and inspiring more to get involved.

Our group is thankful for the opportunity the Barger Leadership Institute awarded us and plan to continue sharing volunteer stories of the Helpful Humans of Michigan.

  • Megan Gargaro, Allie Mangus, Scott Rola, Daria Hurley, and Danielle Tondreau



capstoneblog1It has been quite an honor to participate in the BLI’s inaugural Senior Capstone Project. Suffice to say, the Capstone has been equal parts more than we could imagine and also what you would expect. It’s been a long and at times arduous process, but also the most meaningful thing either of us has done. Throughout the project, our inspiration has remained consistent: we wanted to create something about video games, a longtime passion of ours, and the people who play them. Yet there is indeed a duality of our inspiration: while we wanted to make a game about video game communities, we were more so motivated to critique this culture in terms of its social issues, particularly gender. The project, which would eventually take the name JUXT, has been a highly creative endeavor, and it forced both of us to evaluate our skills and also our limitations.

The initial phase of our project was research. We studied online video gaming communities to better understand how gamers talk about gender. This was a step out of our comfort zone; we had no previous experience with analyzing raw data. Fortunately, we built a sustainable research plan and recruited a research partner to help along the way. After research, we began the game development phase. We started by building a team, as we alone did not possess the expertise needed to make a fully functioning game – even a small one. After a lengthy hiring process, we found a programmer and an audio producer to help realize our vision. We divided the roles of writer and artist between ourselves and designed the game together. Throughout the fall and winter semesters we worked to complete the game, and as of the end of this winter semester, we have a finished game.

The best advice we can give to our peers in the BLI and future members is to expect challenges. Any creative project has ups and downs: writer’s block, miscommunication, and juggling the Capstone with other priorities are a sample of pitfalls we had to maneuver. However, as in all projects, it is valuable to be wary of challenges rather than to fear them, and always be ready to find a solution. Working as creators rather than consumers was a difficult adjustment, for example. We were often tasked with re-evaluating our project’s scope, timeline, and organization.

We also found it crucial that projects like these understand that starting small does not capstoneblog2inhibit creative growth. Even for a confident team, starting small almost always yields positive results. In hindsight, we may have looked too much at the big picture while ignoring our considerable “small wins.” At each meeting, we would address many facets that need to be completed, while ignoring the value of what we had already accomplished. This could be due to our inexperience in game design, always wanting to improve upon what was laid out. We now have an appreciation for every step, no matter how minute, in any project setting.

Finally, we think our project has shown the value of working to learn, as our team was able to craft an experience, unlike anything we had ever done before. Much of the creative process was spent on first tries, and while that may be another kind of challenge, it offered a freedom from “absolute” statements (i.e., “This should be this way,” “Our game needs to have this,” etc.) In the conceptual stage, such statements heavily informed our thinking. It wasn’t until we got into our specialized zones that we could actually see how the pieces would come together. It forced us to communicate clearly, revisit our work, and critically examine each part to make sure we were reaching our goals. While our work may have changed a lot from initial concept to final product, our vision was never compromised by lack of experience. Not only are we proud to have worked on the BLI Senior Capstone, but it has invigorated our passion for meaningful creative projects and imparted invaluable perspective on what it takes to complete long-term projects.

Zachary and Jonah Beck