Education and Community Service in Louisville, KY

Over spring break in 2018, a group of students from the U-M Muslim Students’ Association went on an Alternative Spring Break trip to Louisville, Kentucky. We explored the topic of Youth and Education by partnering with an amazing organization called Junior Achievement, which is dedicated to giving young people the skills they need to make smart economic choices. As I reflect on this trip, I’d like to first thank the BLI, which has been dear to my heart since I started at U-M, for granting us with the Small Grant that helped with our trip expenses. We wouldn’t have had the rewarding and reflective experience that we did without their generous contribution.

Every weekday, we woke up bright and early (6 am!) and went to an elementary school in Louisville to teach a lesson about financial literacy to students ranging from kindergarten to 4th grade. Every day, we visited a different school and taught lessons such as explaining the difference between needs and wants and assembling “Sweet-o-Donuts” to illustrate the importance of means of production. And every night before, our group members worked to learn the lesson plans that JA provided to us. We expected challenges in our classrooms and handled them with a determination to provide a good lesson for our students. We always asked our JA supervisor and our classroom teachers when we needed help.

We also explored the wonderful city of Louisville. We visited Muhammad Ali’s final resting place and were able to reflect on his life, legacy, and the role model he is for our own aspirations.We also toured the University of Louisville campus (Go Blue forever though), had ice cream with members of U of L’s Muslim Students’ Association, tried chess pie, and had dinner with the U-M Alumni Association of Louisville (again, Go Blue forever). And because we couldn’t get enough of the benefits of community service, our group also spent an evening volunteering at a mosque that served a large refugee population.

Through this trip, I gained 12 lifelong friends – my forever ASB family. The bonds that we made through our shared experiences volunteering are some I hope will last for a long time. Our trip was muddled with multiple, marvelous misadventures, including but not limited to: ice cream runs, basketball games, urgent care visits, getting lost in the woods, getting lost in the city, walking on the wrong bridge, broken pinkies, laughing about our embarrassing moments, creating every possible ASB-related pun in existence, driving in our favorite minivan—the list goes on. This trip would not have been what it was without every single one of our ASBunch.

Amidst all the fun, our group members also paused and reflected on our daily experiences every night. Community service isn’t just work that positively impacts the community—it is work for a purpose higher than yourself that does not only enrich the community you’re assisting but also provides a teaching opportunity. Our own Islamic faith encapsulates this idea. This opportunity also helped me truly grasp the impact of disparities due to residential segregation on students’ educational attainment. Items as seemingly mundane as eyeglasses or hearing aids could make a significant impact on a child’s learning ability. A positive attitude and encouragement to a child learning a concept they’re unfamiliar with speaks volumes. One of the schools had a large amount of ESL students, where language barriers hindered their ability to interact with their fellow students—yet these barriers can be lifted with the right kind of attention. In an area that is so nuanced but also so integral to our society, a policymaker has to be aware of all of these intersecting factors that affect education.

Our students ended up teaching us so much about ourselves. They all seemed to possess an innocent, almost naïve desire to learn. Their pure eagerness struck me, because it made me wonder how we lose that as adults. It seems that we get so caught up in working towards an end goal—whether a better grade, job, income, education, or future—that we lose sight of the knowledge and memories we gain along the way. What changes throughout our lives that diminishes that spark?

This is a question I asked as I reflected on myself as a leader and as a member of my community. Ultimately, this trip became such a life-changing and phenomenal avenue for personal growth. I recognized the value of prioritizing the goals that truly mattered to me, the importance of seizing every opportunity that came my way, and the ability to tangibly instill change with a smile on my face. As I returned to campus, that excitement never left. For the first time in a long time, I let all my stressors, academic deadlines, and extracurricular involvements go for a week, and by doing that, I was truly able to enjoy the work I did.

That week was easily one of the most rewarding and beneficial weeks of my life, and my hope is that all students at the University of Michigan get the opportunity to go on at least one ASB trip during their time here.

By Zoha Qureshi

Lupus: Michigan Student Awareness Project

As a new organization, our main goal for the Lupus Detroit @ Michigan Student Awareness
Project was to raise awareness about Lupus. Largely due to the demographics of the Ann Arbor campus, many students are unaware of the struggles undergone by Lupus patients and many do not even know what Lupus is. Therefore, we sought to teach as many students and faculty members as possible about Lupus while engaging them in a fun event.

Initially, we sought out to put on a comedy show where participants would pay to
attend the event and in return receive a great deal of information about the organization, thedisease, and how they could get involved. While our main aim for this event was raising
awareness, we also hoped to recruit more members for our new organization. Although our intentions for the event were great, we later realized that we had underestimated the amount of time and work that it would take to put on an event of this caliber. Our first struggle was finding an affordable space that could accommodate the amount of people that we had in mind. After finding a space that was available, we next attempted to solidify comedians who would be willing to volunteer their services. However, this proved to be a greater challenge than we had anticipated. Although we each knew of people who would be willing to help, most comedians wanted compensation for their services and transportation and those who did not, could not be available on such short notices. After being unable to solidify a comedian, we decided that to go back to the drawing board and change the idea for our event.

The Lupus Detroit Butterfly that was painted by all attendees

In the end, we decided that if we wanted to reach out to as many people as possible the
event would need to be free seeing as our organization’s name is not well-known on campus. In this aspect we had to start small. We realized that as a new organization we had to be realistic about the amount of people who would support our event and be grateful for the few that did. Our awareness event became a painting event and was held February 24 2018. This event was inspired by the stress of finals time and the importance of self care on Lupus patients. As a team we agreed that one of the most important aspects of recovery for Lupus patients is self care. This not only means taking medications and adhering to doctors’ recommendations, but doing things that you love and enjoy. Thus, we decided to hold an event that would help to relieve some stress. At the event, we first discussed lupus and what our goals as an organization were. Afterwards, we had a short mingling time where potential members could meet one another and discuss why they were interested in becoming a part of the organization. Lastly, we al participation in the painting of a purple butterfly with the purple color being symbolic of Lupus (purple is the color of the Lupus ribbon) and the butterfly being symbolic and peace, happiness, and freedom.

The event was successful, in that, we recruited a lot of new members and raised awareness about Lupus. Although the event did not turn out as planned and we did not have as many attendees as we’d hoped, we considered it a successful event as long as a few people were willing to join the fight for Lupus warriors with us! Next semester, we plan to increase the awareness of Lupus even more and with the money with earned from a previous bake sale event, we plan to create baskets for inpatient Lupus warriors and deliver them in hopes that they will brighten their day a little bit. Our next event will be a large wellness event that will feature massages, painting, yoga, and more. We have already begun planning this event so that we will not encounter the same obstacles as
with our first one!

By Sydni Williams

Sankofa: African Students Association 20th Annual Culture Show

On behalf of African Students Association (ASA), I want to deeply express my gratitude to BLI for the financial support of our 20th Annual Culture Show. The Akan word, Sankofa, which translates to, “go back and get it” was brought up by an ASA executive board member during one of the meetings, and served as a centerpiece for the theme of the show. Giselle Uwera, an ASA executive board member that served on the fashion, styling, and visuals committee for the show, described the show eloquently– “ Sankofa was a beautiful space for ASA to showcase so many different cultural aspects (fashion, dance & music) from all regions of the continent of Africa. With its theme of knowing one’s past and how it impacts one’s future, ASA told the story of a member of the African diaspora who is torn between their past, present, and future. Throughout the show, ASA’s goal was to make sure our audience followed the storyline that our [ASA] members relate to, and my favorite part was seeing the beautiful story brought to life in the form of Sankofa. ”

Sarah Samsundar and Jeremy Kwame posed in Ghanaian Kente cloth

One way this storyline unfolded was through a fashion show. This year, there were four scenes with clothing ranging from traditional to contemporary, from different countries. Members of the styling committee were intent on highlighting as many regions of the continent as possible. This year, 30 students were models, led by our two model coordinators and ASA executive board members, Megan Manu and Sophia Akatue. Megan and Sophia were in charge of holding model calls, planning walks, and running

Megan, one of the model coordinators and ASA’s secretary, had a few words to share regarding the show– “The culture show was definitely something to look forward to. We literally built the event up from the ground. Planning and executing the event became all of the executive board’s priority, sometimes even taking importance over school work… that’s how much the culture show meant to us. But I definitely want to emphasize how amazing the show turned out and how worth it was!”

Jade Kissi dancing her way down stage in wax print cloth.

Music, dance, and Spoken Word performances expressed our theme of reflection as well. This year, we had a Rwandan Dance group one of our members used to be a part of, perform, as well as the Sun Drummers, Amala Dancers and two students, Dania Harris and Arwa Gayar, with Spoken Word pieces. All the performances contributed to a collective energy in Crisler, one that I looked forward to taking part in for the second time, this year as an executive board member of ASA.

Jeremy Kwame, a freshman who modeled in the show reflected upon the show as well– “Participating in Sankofa, this year’s edition of the University of Michigan’s African Students Association’s Annual Cultural show, was one of the highlights of my first year. There was a creative ambiance to the show which encompassed a multitude of setting and eras from traditional to more liberal and contemporary. I believe this catered towards the interests of the different generations and diasporic backgrounds present”.

Rwandan Dance Group mid-performance.

The BLI Habit we utilized the most was, “Start Small”. Once we had the idea for the show, we had to contact performers, create many, many, to-do lists, contact and follow up with sponsors and performers, and finally, publicize the show! Starting small allowing us to not feel too overwhelmed, and reframed our ideas into tangible goals. For example, once we had the idea of a scene titled, “When I was,” dedicated to one’s past, we started small by collecting recordings of ASA members’ parents describing their life growing up on the continent and life lessons they had for their children. Then, our talented Arts director and Co-President, Jacklyn Thomas, cut the recordings together to serve as a background for the fashion show.

One BLI Habit we wish we could have utilized more during this experience was, “Expect Challenges”. The day of the show, that started at about 7am for some ASA members who set-up the stage at Crisler Center, there were many unforeseen challenges. One challenge included not clearly delegating people to table before the show to sell and collect tickets, as well as when to stop tabling. Many people arrived well into the show, yet we had already stopped tabling. Communication among members could have been improved as well.

Although, there were challenges, the BLI Habit “Pause and Reflect” allowed us to grow as an organization. First, we incorporated this habit within the show, by inviting past executive board members to walk with the current board in the final scene of the show. We wanted to reflect upon all the hard work previous boards have put into the organization and give these past members well-deserved recognition. Second, the next few meetings after the show were dedicated to discussing what went well, what didn’t go as planned, and how to improve for next year. Overall, we were extremely pleased with how the show came together, and are excited to see what the next executive board has in store for the 21st Annual Culture Show.

By Tosin Adeyemi

Nicaragua Mission Trip

This spring break—with the aid of a BLI small grant—I travelled to Nicaragua to help
install electricity in a school building. I went with the Nicaragua Mission Team from my local church. The trip was intergenerational: five of us were in our twenties and thirties, and the other five were in their 60s and 70s and had been to Nicaragua several times before. The school we worked with was located in the small community of Quebrada Honda in Pantasma. The trip was challenging, meaningful, and perspective-giving. After arriving at the airport and spending a night in Managua, our team drove for four hours, zig-zagging through beautiful mountains to reach the small town in Pantasma where we would sleep every night. The conditions were far from luxurious—we definitely left our “creature comforts” at home. We all slept on mats on a floor and our shower—which was in a separate building—consisted of cold water and a dirt floor. We had to be careful to not drink the tap water, as it contained bacteria that we were not accustomed to.

Monday through Thursday, we woke up at 7 AM and—after driving about 30 minutes to get to Quebrada Honda—worked for several hours installing electricity in the school. The community had asked us to do the electrical work in three out of its four classrooms, and—after initial prayers and dances given by the community—we began measuring conduit, cutting wires, and drilling holes in the walls and ceilings. Though we had had two orientation sessions before leaving in Ann Arbor, I was mostly learning how to do the work through doing it. At the end of the day Thursday, we tested our work with a rented generator and—after some trouble- shooting—confirmed that the lights and outlets were functional. Now the community must wait for the government to run electricity to their community so that they can use what we installed.

Throughout the trip, our team focused on the concept of serving through relationship. Through morning devotions and evening reflections, we continuously asked ourselves, “What does serving through relationship look and feel like?” We wanted to prioritize the community’s needs, hopes, and dreams. In this way, we strove to serve through partnership instead of imposing our own goals and culture. We recognized that the community would benefit from the electricity—not us—and wanted the community to feel a sense of ownership of the project. This translated into us sometimes stepping aside to let community members participate in the drilling, taping, and measuring. The community members were eager to help, and at one point I was teaching children how to twist and tape wires to assemble a functional electrical outlet.

I am taking Spanish for my language requirement and enjoyed having an opportunity to practice speaking the language. I spent much time with the children in the community, who followed me around and constantly asked if I could play ball or frisbee with them. The children were gracious and patient with me as I sometimes struggled to construct sentences or pronounce their names incorrectly. Though I could not understand all of what they said, I understood much of it. Communicating with these young people from a different culture brought me much joy.

The intergenerational aspect of the trip was particularly meaningful to me. As a college student, I spend most of my time interacting with people my age. This trip was a rare opportunity for me to befriend and spend quality time learning from another generation. Each evening, we reflected as a team. We asked ourselves, “What moments from today surprised you or brought you joy?” and, “What moments challenged you?” These questions led to honest conversations about our goals and experiences and enabled us to encourage and support each other through challenges. We realized that serving through a model of relationship also meant supporting each other as team members.

At the end of the trip, a nearby community invited us to visit and requested that we build two new classrooms for them. This request made us think: Should we grant this request for this new community, even though we are not as comfortable building classrooms as we are installing electricity? Or should we continue to build a relationship with the community in Quebrada Honda, a community we already know and love?


These are ultimately questions that the Nicaragua Mission Team will have to wrestle with, and I hope to be a part of the discussion.


By Miriam Ernest

Ndakinna Education Center

Over spring break, twelve University of Michigan students embarked on a journey to the Ndakinna Education Center in Saratoga Springs, New York. Ndakinna is a center dedicated to educating student groups on Native American culture, particularly that of the Abenaki and Algonquin people.

While at Ndakinna, we had the chance to hear from a number of speakers, including Joseph and Jesse Bruchac, members of the family who owns the center, as well as Kay, a local Mohawk woman. We also went on a few treks with Jim Bruchac, where he taught us wilderness skills including fire building and animal tracking. Here are a few things we learned along the way:

1. “Ndakinna” (pronounced in-DAH-ki-nah) means “our land” in the Abenaki language.

2.Many principles used by the Founding Fathers in the U.S. Constitution originate from Native American ideals, particularly from tribes belonging to the Iroquois Confederacy.

3. When building a fire, the paper-like bark from birch trees is your best friend. This is what we used to ensure that our sparks caught when Jim taught us how to build fires during one of our hikes.

4. Members of native communities in generations as recently as that of Joseph’s own father were forced into extreme cultural assimilation. Sterilization of native people was not uncommon.

 5. There is not a distinction between masculine and feminine words in Native American languages as there is in many Romance languages. Instead, words are categorized by animacy: there is a certain set of nouns, adjectives, and verbs for living things, and another set for inanimate objects.

6. Saratoga Springs is the home of several springs that were famous among Native Americans for having healing powers. People would travel from far and wide to drink the water from these springs, which now runs in fountains located downtown. 

7. Women hold respected roles in many Native American cultures. For example, among tribes in the Iroquois Confederacy, women are the only ones who can nominate, elect, and impeach tribe leaders. This was of particular interest to our group, since all twelve of us were girls

8. Many English words and names are borrowed from native languages. For example, ‘Michigan’ originated from the Algonquin word for ‘land that brings food.’

9. According to Mohawk myth, the Earth was formed on the back of a turtle by a girl named Sky Woman, the moon is our grandmother, and the Sun is our eldest brother.

10.When tracking animals, a good trick is to look for bark dust in the snow. If there is not a lot of tree debris in the tracks, then they are fresh.

This is just a taste of what we learned and experienced at Ndakinna. We took so much away from this trip, and we were lucky enough to be able to leave something behind as well. Each student group is given the chance to create a mural to commemorate their time at Ndakinna. Here’s ours

The mural represents aspects of the Mohawk creation story, including the Tree of Life and Brother Sun as well as an experience we shared involving Abenaki dance. We were so fortunate to hear so many stories from our site leaders, and now, in a sort of chainlike reaction, we have the opportunity to tell our stories as well. The Bruchacs taught us that in Abenaki tradition, storytellers would often say “Ho” when they finished their tale, and the audience would respond “Hey” to show they were listening.

So, I hope you have enjoyed the abridged version of our alternative spring break story; this is where I leave you: Ho…

By Logan Tidstrom

SOUL Research Project

First-generation students face a unique set of obstacles upon enrolling at the University of Michigan. Navigating the academy in measurably different ways than their continuing generation peers, first-generation students at Michigan typically take longer to graduate, graduate with lower GPAs, and have higher attrition rates than their continuing generation counterparts. Moreover, first-generation students typically exhibit weak academic preparation, weaker study skills, less extracurricular involvement, and so on. They typically have more difficulty navigating college bureaucracy and experience more family strains, insufficient familial support, and smaller support networks. Although there are many reasons for these outcomes, one under-studied aspect of the first-generation college experience is that of family life. The SOUL project seeks to understand the unique combination of academic, financial, and social challenges confronting first-generation students and their families. From this point on, we will be building on the data we have thus far collected on students and be extending our focus onto their parents and/or guardians.

We met our goal to understand the unique combination of academic, financial, and social challenges confronting first-generation students and their families through our interviews. We also interviewed twenty first-generation college student participants studying in the Department of Sociology. Our work is now feeding into our Capstone project Serving the First: A New Generation through the Barger Leadership Institute. The goal is to inform university policy and design intervention programs to improve the academic, financial, and social integration of first-generation students and their families at the University of Michigan and other elite institutions. Very little is known of first-generation students and their families. This study will generate original publications and research.

We experienced challenges recruiting the interviewees at first due to low response rate and timing with exams but after a few weeks, we were able to recruit twenty interview participants. We reached our goal of twenty interview participants by constantly reaching out through email and leveraging our own networks on campus.

The SOUL program engaged the world by exploring and gathering information on the needs of first-generation college students and acting on this information in the form of interventions. There has not been much work done to alleviate the transition

February 19 2018: After a long day of interviews!

to college of first-generation college families; so our research built on the work being done at our university and possibly on other campuses. The interview process was the initial engagement of a population that is not always best supported. We grew as leaders by taking the first step.The university community is comprised of numerous different people with numerous backgrounds. The SOUL programs aims to value the difference amongst people by placing a supportive focus on first-generation college students. Through the interviews, we gained invaluable knowledge that goes into how a large population of the students navigate their collegiate experience and how parents can be better incorporated into that if possible. We grew as leaders by valuing difference.

Ultimately, the SOUL program conducts research and interviews to learn from the accounts of first-generation college students and their families. A productive relationship between these unique families and students will be formed gradually by the further involvement of this program. The information gathered will be shared with the university community to achieve the goal of a better educational experience for all. As leaders, we will always work to learn.

By: Lance Bitner-Laird

Peer Facilitators Food Grant

In training course in preparation for the ALA 170 classes, peer facilitators dive deeper into improving facilitation and leadership skills. Through group activities such as sessions for development and feedback in addition to bonding over snacks before class, our group of peer facilitators grow closer into a more effective team for the 2018 winter semester. For first time facilitators, it is essential that we learn from our peers and set goals to provide the best support we can to the incoming Leadership Lab students. For returning facilitators, this course provides an outlet to reflect on previous experiences and target specific areas of improvement. In the process of developing new skills, areas of weakness like public speaking are improved upon resulting in a chance to enhance professional development skills that will translate into other roles we may pursue in the future.

However, peer facilitator trainings are late in the evenings and for some of our peer facilitators, immediately follow class. This makes it difficult for facilitators to remain engaged. Providing facilitators with food during our meetings would help us stay focused and on task. Not only would it allow time to go by faster, but it would allow for team-building opportunities in a non-classroom format. Food would allow for informal bonding among facilitators and strengthen our ability to communicate and work with one another. Thus, to develop a stronger team dynamic, develop and fine-tune our skills, and to better lead the ALA 170 Leadership Lab course, we applied for the small grant in order to gain necessary funds to provide food for our trainings. With the use of this grant, we better developed bonds as a team over food, and better our skills to serve the BLI community.

Several BLI Habits were exercised during these training classes. Start where you are:
Within the ALA 170 Peer Facilitator trainings, each peer facilitator takes his or her different skill set to build up their facilitation skills. Although this is individually-focused, work within the trainings are group-based as well. Leadership seen personally and through teams optimizes building on each other’s strengths but also allows to challenge one another. Pause & Reflect: While practicing our facilitation skills, it is important for everyone to reflect privately on their progress of facilitation skills as well as checking in with their peer facilitator team to ensure that everyone is doing well to contribute to the team. Pause and reflect does not stop at the peer facilitator training though. This BLI habit is critical during the Leadership Labs as well since reflection is important to do throughout the course. Work to Learn: Working together as a team will really spark creativity throughout the peer facilitator team. It is a critical habit especially for peer facilitators as our input into our trainings reflect on the output we get in individual leadership development. The process of action, thought, and reflection would lead to an effective way to constantly check in on one’s strengths and things to be improved.

One challenge we did not expect was the need to filter for different kinds of snacks to accommodate to food allergies from the original snacks we planned for in our budget. However, after doing thorough research of nutritional facts and ingredients for our originally planned snacks, we were able to find food considering these allergies so that everyone got fed. Yet, it was rewarding when peer facilitators came into the trainings to find food waiting for them. It showed that everyone appreciated having a treat to enjoy during training.


By Jessica Selzer

Pizza and the Planet

Team 2, bringing you “Pizza and the Planet!”

Our event, “Pizza and the Planet,” was put on April 15 2018 as a part of the BLI Leadership Lab. Our original goal was to educate University of Michigan Students on sustainability initiatives occurring on campus. We ended up doing that by giving our event attendees an overview of the Planet Blue Ambassador training program and having UMBees come and talk about their org. We also provided pizza and compostable materials in order to make our event Zero Waste. 

We learned a lot about how to communicate with diverse individuals in a more professional setting, especially through meeting with our stakeholders. These meetings also honed our problem-solving and quick-thinking skills. Specifically, our meeting with a representative from the Office of Campus Sustainability helped us understand how we could go about planning our event. We did further research and ended up meeting with a representative from Planet Blue in which we realized the need for education on surrounding sustainability initiatives on campus and the Planet Blue Ambassador Program.

One BLI habit that was essential to our project was “Start Small.” When exploring potential topics to address through our project, we began with the broadest possible idea: the environment and health. As we progressed through the Leadership Lab, we narrowed our focus and learned to define concrete goals for our project. Starting small has encouraged us to plan and execute seemingly insurmountable tasks and focus on achieving our goals. Another BLI habit which was vital to our project was “Work to Learn.” Our project team had already been utilizing this habit in planning our event. We received great feedback from our peers in the Leadership Lab and we incorporated their suggestions into our project. In addition, we both learned how to execute our event and grew as leaders through taking concrete steps toward a project in which we lacked prior knowledge. Finally, we “Engaged the World.” Engaging the world is what helped us narrow our focus for our project. After meeting with a representative from the Office of Campus Sustainability, we learned that they would value having the word spread about their various initiatives. We learned what one of our stakeholders needed and we tailored our project to suit that need. By utilizing these three main habits and parts of some others, we were able to learn both how to execute an event of this nature and what it means to be a leader while doing so.

On top of the aforementioned habits, another one we ended up using a lot was “Expect Challenges.” The most notable challenge occurred the day before our event, when we received an email from a representative from Planet Blue. Although there had been no information about this online, we were informed that we were supposed to be officially trained to guide others through the Planet Blue training. We then had to come up with an immediate solution on since our event was happening the next day. After brainstorming, we were able to come up with a response satisfactory to all parties. Doing our own research, we were able to create our own presentation to give to our audience. From there, we let them know of the Planet Blue website so they could pursue the training if they wished to. Of course, we faced many other challenges throughout the course of the project, the first one involving the topic of our project. We had no real “vision” for our project until after the first few weeks had passed. We wanted to focus on what our stakeholders had to say about our topic, because they had way more expertise than any of us did. After these meetings and brainstorming both on our own and with our peers, we could finally form a vision for our project.

As a result of our event, we had twelve students become Planet Blue Ambassadors. This truly speaks to the idea of starting small. Not only did we really step back and put on a small event, we had a smaller crowd show up. This is usually seen in a negative light, but we believe the small crowd fostered a more intimate environment than a standard

Our project group with most of our attendees!

presentation would have. Feeling comfortable is one of the most important factors to consider when putting on an event like this. The people who a ended our event were engaged with the material we were presenting many people said the part they liked the most was either the material itself or the way it was presented. We also found multiple comments regarding the learning environment we created. It felt great to feel like our event could have made a difference, even if it wasn’t one we had originally considered, and we hope our progress continues as we move into the future.

Going forward, our group plans to meet with more Planet Blue representatives  to establish a more formal event for the fall. We would like to actually be trained to present the full Planet Blue Ambassador training content, as we had a comment regarding this in the “comments/suggestions” sec on of our survey. We hope to be able to reach out to more student organizations on campus and have them involved with bringing awareness to their initiatives, in addition to crafting an opportunity for them to recruit more members. There is also the potential to work with the School of Public Health in order to inform incoming students of their programs. We are looking forward to seeing what happens when we have the me and resources to implement a larger-scale event!

By: Madeleine Conrad, Andres Davalos, Olivia Gregg, Jessica Kosticak


Hey, you! Yes, you. Are you afraid of the dark? If you are, then you’re a part of a very specific group of people — a group of people who also feel the same way. However, those of you who do feel afraid are also part of a different group of people. You walk home at night, unsure. What lurks in the dark? Do you want to find out? (probably not). Okay, maybe that’s an overestimate. Or maybe it’s an underestimate? Hard to tell.

i’M SAFE was dedicated to finding answers the past few months. We wanted to know a) who feels unsafe? and b) who can help them? We are happy to say that we can definitively give answers to these questions. Suffice it to say, we are dissatisfied with the answers. However, we should first talk about our journey, our story. It wasn’t a long road, but it is a road worth reflecting on.

When i’M SAFE was formed, we had little more to bring us together than the BLI itself. Four freshmen and two sophomores bound together by some inexplicable love of nighttime campus safety, but not much else. We like to think we’re fun people, but how were we supposed to know that? Our first meetings were like rocky road ice cream; that is, like a rocky road. It wasn’t perfect, okay? Excitement and motivation were high, but none of us knew what to do. It was almost a disaster really–kinda like melted rocky road. A slush of uncertainty mixed in with an abundance of ideas, along with a sprinkle of dissonance. Sure, we could put some ideas out and throw out others, but the scope of our project was yet to be realized. The navigation through this sludge of rocky road had immediately begun.

The next few meetings were very formative. We slowly refined our idea into something: a survey with 100 respondents. Next, we had to set up an event: a table set up on the Diag. Finally, we wanted to talk to DPSS or SAPAC about our survey. We had some direction, and all that was left was to execute. Ever watch a video of a bunch of dominos falling? It was like that.

A lot of our time was spent on the survey. Luckily, Shubhangi is a statistics wizard, so we sent out an amazing survey that received 117 people responses. More on the results later. Let’s talk more about our tabling event. We created a surveying event out on the Diag with paper surveys for people to fill out and made sure we had incentives to do so; free coffee and mini-flashlights were definitely the way to go. It was absolutely not what we expected it to be: a few hours of chatting up passerbys, chillin’ in the Diag spot. The chillin’ part is definitely accurate; we were actively fighting frostbite (who knew it would that cold in November-clearly not us!). In reality, we had people stop by at about 15 minutes before the hour up until 10 after the hour, but never after. However, we were still pleased with our results: 24 surveys filled out, two boxes of coffee poured (we promise most of it wasn’t us trying to keep warm), and 50 flashlights handed out. If you were in our Leadership Lab, you know the type. These surveys were piled in with our general surveys.

Before we could talk to DPSS or SAPAC, we had to come up with a nice report for them to take a look at. Once again, Shubhangi came to the rescue with T-tests and her statistics magic. The results? Unfortunately, women feel significantly more unsafe at night. We can’t look at our survey results and say why, but we do know what the data tells us. What we also know is that many students on campus are unaware of the resources out there to help them get home at night.

The three BLI Leadership Habits that were essential to our project were Value Difference, Expect Challenges, and Combine-Collect-Create. From the start, it was clear that we were all very different; we had different interests, personalities, and work ethics. So during our first meeting, we made sure to use these differences to our advantage and also made sure to identify what would work collectively in terms of running our meetings. As a result, this made both the execution of the project along with the team meetings very efficient. In addition, given the short time frame of the Leadership Lab, it was clear that challenges were inevitable. We made sure that we always had a backup plan in what we were doing in case we encountered a challenge that would prevent us from executing out our original plan. Last, in order to execute out our project, we made sure to combine our ideas, collect qualitative and quantitative data by surveying students through social media platforms and through an event on the Diag, and ultimately worked to create a data report that we will hand into DPSS and SAPAC.  

Our most important challenge was figuring out the details of what exactly we want to do to make the campus a safer space. We had big ideas initially such as starting a student run system of walking students to their destinations at night, or fixing the night lights on campus. We were confounded by variables such as which areas we want to cover and improving the safety of fraternities or other social organizations. We worked through by critically analyzing every possible solution in the context of the time and resource limits. When we finally decided on creating a data backed and usable report for campus organizations that aim to improve safety students such as DPSS or SAPAC, we were able to take off from there.

While i’M SAFE isn’t going to go the distance, we still plan on advocating safety on campus as individuals, we will not continue this as a collective group effort. However, we do plan on staying connected with the BLI by attending Lunch & Learns to catch up and speak to other members of the leadership lab about our experience, as well as keep in contact with each other.


By: Adam Cohn, Anna Joshi, Shubhangi Kumari, Gregory Meyer, Ben Oostendorp, and Tanushri Thakur

Crank Creek Survival Center

As part of the Michigan Active Citizen-Alternative Spring Break program through the
Ginsberg Center here at the University of Michigan, we traveled to Harlan County in Kentucky to volunteer with Cranks Creek Survival Center, a local nonprofit. Cranks Creek has worked in the area for decades, providing housework services, food, and household supplies to residents in need. The founder, Becky Simpson, has passed away, but her husband, Bobby Simpson, has continued her work. The organization hosts many student groups in the spring and summer to help work on maintenance and deliver supplies. In our time with Cranks Creek, we worked on rebuilding the house of a family in the area. We quickly learned the ins and outs of measuring tapes, drills, and hammers, and were left to work on the house while other volunteers with the organization delivered supplies and ran day-to-day operations. Over the course of the week, we observed tangible progress on our work and grew close with the family we were working with. A number of us talked to residents about issues such as the status of coal mining, politics, climate change, and other things. These experiences opened our eyes to new viewpoints on the world and we are incredibly grateful for the experience. We would like to express our gratitude to the Barger Leadership Institute for their support of our trip. We look forward to continue working with the Ginsberg Center and BLI in the near future!

By Finntan Storer