StoryTeller– A New Semester of Head-Start

StoryTeller is a brand new student organization that became official in March, 2018. Our mission is to promote interconnectivity and communication on campus by sharing unique stories of everyday individuals through short videos. At the initial foundational stage of the organization, human resources are essential to bring the projects we value on track, as well as to developing less mature ideas, bringing in more connections and inspirations and gathering a community of people sharing interests. Therefore, StoryTeller had the BLI Small Grant help recruitment events.

For the StoryTeller members as well as executives, it took some effort to walk through recruitment essentials and put together the materials. Designing a poster was not too difficult, but the logistics including where and when to print, adapting the design to different poster styles offered, budgeting and coordinating schedules within the team was a lot of confusion and going back and forth with the progress. Without a skilled and familiar member able to take responsibility of the whole process, the executives explored various options and supported each other during. We took it as valuable experience for similar needs in the future, and believe that without difficulties would not come fluency and mastery.

As a group the members reviewed our mission together. At the events (Northfest and Festifall), members went into roles where they can shine, while helping peers prepare and step up to do the difficult attention grabbers and pitching. When we encountered challenges–at Festifall our table was at a location with little flow–we explored options (such as moving the table) and took on challenges to overcome (going out in the crowd and distributing flyers).

Beyond the surprise and thrill of being able to attract interest and get sign-ups, we are so glad that with the grant, we had the practical opportunity to truly work as a team and present that image to the community -helping each other with difficulties, task delegation, encouraging each other to take challenges, forgiving of mistakes and recognizing achievements. With this mindset we are planning to restructure the organization into small project teams, as well as developing new project directions such as new film techniques, podcast and filmathon.

We are excited about a new year of new stories.

By: Li Wang

“Mental Health Baggies”

On a cold, cloudy day the week before finals, we stood in the middle of the Diag handing bags out to the hundreds of student bustling back and forth to their last couple classes of the semester.

It probably didn’t appear so at first, but the bags were the product of a project on mental health awareness on campus. Dubbed by our group as ‘mental health baggies’, they contained not only a generous amount of free candy and chocolate, but also a pamphlet that contained mental health resources, self-care tips, phone numbers for various hotlines, and tips for talking to a friend who might be going through a rough period.

In essence, the bags were meant to be a small way to raise awareness and provide resources to students who might be experiencing issues with their mental health. The bags not only provided resources for individuals to utilize during the stress and strain that is finals week, but also provided a small treat to hopefully brighten the day of students whose minds were filled with concerns about finals, papers, and summer plans.

When our group began working on the project for our work in the BLI Leadership Lab, we set out with a desire to address some of the mental health issues that exist on campus. After spending time talking with various university and student organizations on campus, we realized that often students are not of some of the free services that exist for them on campus, so we decided to create a resource that would list many of these services. Additionally, by handing out the bags during the week before finals, we felt that our small project would have the most amount of impact and potentially reach someone who was deeply in need.

Our experiences researching mental health resources and awareness on campus really opened our eyes to the deficits and stigma that still surrounds the issue on campus. In the future, we all hope to continue our work in raising awareness for mental wellness and psychological well-being on campus. We would like to thank BLI for their generosity and support of our project, and we look forward to continuing our work with BLI in the upcoming semesters.

By: Emily Currier

Blood Drives United

Blood Drives United is not the best-known club on campus. Talk to someone about ‘BDU’ and they’ll probably squint and ask for clarification. Even dropping the name of the competition we run each year, Blood Battle, a series of blood drives where we collect over 2500 pints of blood, doesn’t elicit much of a reaction. Our lack of a profile on campus is something of a problem for a club that aims to engage more than 10% of the student body in donating blood. For us more than anyone, visibility is key.

So this year, we’ve decided to take tips from other popular clubs such as Dance Marathon that have the largely engagement we’re looking for. This year, we’ve decided to have mass meetings for the first time ever. BLI was instrumental in funding our very first one.

Previously, we’ve relied largely on service frats to staff our drives. But we want our own following, independent of those groups. To that end, this year BLI helped us rent a room and buy pizza for any interested volunteers. We ended up having a great time: I met plenty of freshmen who would never have had the opportunity to get involved in BDU if not for this meeting, and hopefully many of them will be joining our leadership as well.

Building a Team and Engaging the World can seem like some of the most obvious BLI habits, but as our club demonstrates, often we fail to adequately engage them. This meeting was our first step towards becoming better, more fully involved leaders in charge of a club, not just a competition, and we are very grateful to BLI for giving us that opportunity. We hope every other club on campus can take the time to think about what leadership habits they’re overlooking so they too can have an experience like we did.

Be a Hero at the Big House, 2012

By Willa Hart

Blockchain at Michigan

Our Blockchain at Michigan team was stunned to hear the Director of MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative kick off the Crypto Springs conference with a powerful statement:“I hope it all tanks.” Neha Narula, a Ph.D. from MIT, TED speaker, and avid advocate for blockchain, challenged the audience to cut through the hype and focus on user-centric design, technology, and the shared values of the crypto community.

Following Narula’s opening, leaders at Crypto Springs engaged in thought-provoking dialogue exploring technological advancements in blockchain and the indispensable value of user-centric design. Sarah Gregory of Coinbase led a roundtable discussion on how blockchain enthusiasts can explain to newcomers that cryptocurrencies have the potential to transform the world: “They are more than just another medium of exchange or a speculative investment.” She stressed the importance of providing people with a tangible reason for using cryptocurrency, such as faster international payments. Her vision for user-centric design gave us a perspective on how to create a narrative around the true value that crypto has to offer those beyond our community.

Digging deeper into user experience, Amber Baldet’s talk about the decentralized web sparked our team’s curiosity about the nuanced impact of data privacy in the world today. A key benefit of decentralization we often hear about is that users will be able to control their own data. In the information age, where big tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon harvest and monetize their users’ data, many newcomers to blockchain find the data privacy aspect of decentralization irresistible. However, Baldet shared a compelling anecdote about her personal life that caused us to reconsider our views around convenience, privacy, and security.

Baldet spoke of how she captures moments with her young child by taking many photos, and that as a busy mother it would be difficult to sort through these photos herself to create an album of memories. She explained that as a user, she admires the convenience of technology when Google applies black-box algorithms to assemble a meaningful photo album out of thousands of pictures. Instead of pouring hours into selecting photos on her own, Baldet would prefer purchasing an algorithmically generated photo album from Google. Her unique perspective helped inform our team’s understanding of how users might sometimes overlook privacy and security in favor of convenience.

Amber Baldet Speaking on the Irony of Decentralization

During a lunch break, our team enjoyed the privilege of engaging in a roundtable discussion with Christina Lomazzo, the Blockchain Lead at UNICEF Innovation Ventures. We were excited to learn that UNICEF funds startups that create open-source technologies for social impact. Lomazzo detailed numerous opportunities in this area, such as the ability to track vaccines to their final destinations, the capacity to provide digital identities for the millions of undocumented people in the world, and the creation of task-based bounty networks for refugee camps. While we take powerful mobile technology and reliable network connectivity for granted, these luxuries do not yet exist in developing nations. Keeping this in mind, we recognized the importance of taking technological constraints into account when building products for everyone to use.

The Crypto Springs community reflects a microcosm of what our blockchain club is working to become: a diverse group of dedicated individuals united by the belief that blockchain technology has the ability to improve the world. With 25 engineers in our first cohort, Blockchain at Michigan will be building impactful decentralized applications and conducting research on scalability and privacy. Aly Oda, Nach Dakwale, David Kobrosky, and Dheera Vuppala are thrilled to bring the knowledge and values of Crypto Springs back to the University of Michigan to help develop the future leaders of the blockchain space.

Thank you to the Michigan College of Engineering, the Barger Leadership Institute, and the Crypto Springs Organizing Team for the generous support that made our trip possible.

By Nach Dakwale

Challenging Narratives and Conflict Resolution

Our dialogue event, Challenging Narratives and Conflict Resolution, took place on the
night of December 1st , 2017. A group of students from that summer’s GIEU: Israel-Palestine trip was inspired by our experiences there, the people we met and the stories we heard. We decided to share this new knowledge with the university community by creating a space for our Israeli and Palestinian guides to speak on the topic of the conflict and their personal experiences of it.

Along the process of planning, organizing, and executing this event, the biggest challenge we faced was that we had some of our main sources of support, through advertising, back out. They perceived the event as too controversial and polarizing considering the campus climate regarding divestment. There were moments when we really felt alone in the process, but luckily our team had very strong planning and organizational skills, and we were able to reach out to other sources for advertising support.

Through this event, our goals were to expose students from various backgrounds at the University of Michigan to global issues that they may not be familiar with. We hoped to educate them on the complexity of the Arab-Israeli conflict by emphasizing the importance of nuanced perspectives and multiple narratives.

By: Lisa Garcia