Paani Culture Night

Paani is a 501(c)3 non-profit my peers and I founded that aims to improve sanitation issues occurring within Pakistan by creating a space for innovative solutions and educating local and international communities. On January 1st, myself and two of my good friends were brainstorming ways that we could create an educational event regarding the intersectionality of the global water crisis. We wanted this event to be educational but also engaging and empowering. From my personal experiences, many events like these carry a format where there is first a lot of talking about an issue, and then soliciting some sort of donations. What I typically see with these events, is that people will go there in a more supportive mindset instead of one framed by excitement for the event. We wanted to change that, so we needed to have something that got people excited to go to this educational event. Which is why we decided we were going to have a culture night.

This was an event that we were excited for, because we were going to bring together eight different countries of people – Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Persians, Jordanians, Iraqis, Egyptians, Lebanese. These 8 countries suffer from serious sanitation issues. Millions have died as a result of these inhumane conditions, but billions have become desensitized to these tragedies just as the victims have become dehumanized. To make it engaging, instead of being an informational event, we were going to combine the engaging aspects of a social and the educational aspects of an info session to make a hybrid social advocacy event. The goal of our event was to advocate for two things, the first was to talk about the sanitary issues that have been occurring in these areas, while the second one was to raise awareness of the beauty that these cultures all carry. What we got, was an event where we would first talk about the intersectionality of the global water crisis and then showcase different aspects of these cultures, in a social environment that connected people. This would make it so people could sample what makes a particular culture so beautiful, and escaping the negative perceptions they may have about it.

The event that we got was close to what we anticipated. Except for the challenges. People started pouring in around 7:30 like we expected, there were dozens and dozens of people, some in cultural attire some not. Some people were more social some people weren’t. These were all the things that we were expecting. Some of the things we were not expecting, was for the microphone system to be a bust. The audio system was very weak, and the social environment hindered the attention spans of our audience, so they didn’t seem too enthralled with listening. It was frustrating, because the goal of the PowerPoint and the presentation was to unify everyone over the sanitation crisis. The cultural immersion experience was supposed to be more supplemental. This was probably the biggest challenge we endured, as our message may have been lost to some.

Aside from that, I think the event was a success because of how many people that came together and how many people that had a terrific time experiencing different cultures. It took away any sort of stereotype that people may have a certain culture for one night, because it put us all on the same platform. We had dances from Yemeni and Iraqi Student Association. We had Henna from Bangladesh and India. We had Persian students who told us that they were glad they were invited to an event that encompassed their region, because they had generally been left out of these events, despite suffering from many of the same adversities. The fact that we were able to come together on this common struggle was a great experience.

Moving forward I think the biggest thing we need to do is try to accommodate for a wider venue, incorporate more cultures, provide more activities that showcase the immersion, and really just try to hit very hard the point of unity and how we’re coming together to highlight this issue.

One thing that I really hope that I can instill to people that are reading this post, is if you have an idea go after it. Most of the time there are people at this University who share the same passion and vision that you do. If they don’t, they probably have some ideas that you can integrate into yours. The unlimited resources and tools that we U-M has to bring people together, in addition to the sheer amount of outreach that university offers is something to maximize in your four years. We took an idea and were able to bring together hundreds of people, and raise awareness about an important issue.

By Sikander Khan

Lunar New Year

Our first ever Alpha Kappa Psi Lunar New Year was part of our organization’s goal to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion among our members. With such a large presence of students from different cultural backgrounds, this event allowed us to experience cuisines and traditions that are often practiced during Lunar New Year. Our event showcase dishes from all different regions within Asia, including Vietnamese Spring Rolls, Chinese Egg Rolls, Chinese Dumplings, Chinese Bok Choy sides, and Traditional Stir-fry.

The biggest learning opportunity was teaching other members of Alpha Kappa Psi who had not previously been exposed to Asian dishes and the techniques for making dumplings and egg rolls. From the meticulous process of perfecting the layering of the stuffing and sauces inside the egg roll to the steaming and frying process of the dumplings, members in our organization learned how to make these dishes from scratch. This was important because many of our members who led the workshop had been doing these activities in preparation for Lunar New Year for many years growing up. It was an opportunity for our members who celebrated Lunar New Year to share with all of our members their passion for cooking and their culture.

One of the most impactful feedback that we received during the event was that everyone was excited and curious to learn about the history of each dish. This included learning the names, origin, and function of different ingredients and tools that were used to make each dish different. As a result, we were able to not only educate people on the cuisine but also the history behind the dishes. This event allowed members to also share stories about their experiences celebrating Lunar New Year to shed light on the variation of methods to celebrate the holiday. We are thankful for BLI’s support in helping our members learn more about Lunar New Year and wish everyone a Happy Year of the Pig!

By Rachel Levine

VenueTourist

“The purpose of VenueTourist’s Capstone Project was to determine the best market niche for virtual tours and how to best sell to that niche. In order to determine the best market niche, we explored three separate industries: universities, corporations, and venue owners. The evaluation of ‘best market’ was based on ease of sale and willingness to pay. After conducting sales efforts – email outreach, meetings, and if we were successful, contract signature – in each niche, it was determined the university market was both easiest to sell to and had the highest willingness to pay. The second question, what is the best way to sell to universities, was evaluated by seeking advice from mentors in our industry and then testing said advice.

Advice from mentors for sales strategies included cold emailing, cold calls, campus ambassador programs, traveling to university dense areas, going to conferences, and more. Initial results showed campus ambassadors and traveling to university dense areas as the best sales methods in order to maximize potential revenue (probability of closing sale * price of potential sale). From these results, VenueTourist has concluded the best path for growth is to create a small team of skilled sales ambassadors and have them travel to university dense cities in order to sell our virtual tours.”

Check out their Capstone poster here!: Venue Tourist Capstone Poster

Team members:

Connor Tullis, BBA, 2020
Sven Wollschlaeger, BBA & CS, 2021

UpNext

“The problem that we are solving is people’s inability to have a say in the music playing around them in a party and other social settings. Currently, everyone in the party is at the mercy of the party host, or the owner of the phone attached to the speakers. Many times, peoples’ unique song tastes cause them to argue about which songs to play, causing people in the party not to have a good time. Our solution is to make it as seamless as possible for everyone in the party to have a say in the music playing. Based on our analysis of the current ecosystem involving music streaming services, businesses and college students, we created UpNext, a live collaborative playlist iOS application. Using UpNext, anyone can add any songs they want and vote on songs; songs with higher vote scores will be played earlier. In attempt to establish product-market fit, we had been constantly gathering data through our user’s use cases through Firebase Analytics, as well as personal interviews and surveys with our users. Our Student Ambassadors had also been spreading UpNext to new users and gaining feedback from these users. In addition, using UpNext in bars in Ann Arbor had also been a good source of data and research into the features needed by bars. The result shows that UpNext solves a problem faced by many college students. UpNext has amassed over 1000 users in Ann Arbor with 150 weekly active users. In addition, 2 bars in Ann Arbor use UpNext as their source of music daily.”

Check out their Capstone poster here!:

Up Next Capstone Poster

Team members:

Raymond Sukanto, Business & Computer Science 2020
Daniel Kaper, Computer Science, 2020
Victor Mahdavi, Business, 2020
Matthew Samaan, Organizational Studies, 2020

The dot org

“We are The Dot Org, an organization dedicated to reducing the stigma surrounding menstruation and providing greater access to menstrual hygiene products. We are passionate about our project, because as women who experience menstruation, we have seen the effects it can have on social and mental health. Through summer research, we also understand the effects menstruation has on those who experience homelessness. We began our project by collecting data about the multiple target populations within the geographical community with which we wished to study. We successfully conducted a focus group, interviews, a survey, and a literary review on the range of how menstruation can negatively affect the lives of those in Ann Arbor, as well as how the stigma surrounding menstruation originated. We learned that providing greater accessibility to menstrual products would improve the lives of members in our community, and decided to increase accessibility to free menstrual products in local businesses, schools, and homeless shelters. We partnered with businesses such as BlueLep, Study Hall Lounge, and SavCo, and collected data on products we provided them to show them that the products were worth providing if they were affordable to the business. After collecting data for Blue Lep and Study Lounge we found that tampons are used more frequently than pads and people really appreciated having the products there, even if they did not need them. We also worked with Hill House, Pease House, and MISSION to collect data on menstruators experiencing poverty and homelessness, and learned about their preferences and menstrual experiences. To reduce the stigma surrounding menstruation, we hosted two awareness events and hosted member meetings to talk about how the stigma can affect people’s lives. We also put free products in the Campus Library restroom with facts about menstruation attached.

In the end we found that people do want products in the bathrooms even if they themselves do not need it every time they are there. They like the message that is being sent and would like to see it more places. The economic impact on the companies implementing the distribution is low and would take very little effort to continue after the pilot and the benefits outweigh the costs.”

Check out their Capstone poster here!: the dot org poster

Team members:

Gabby Morin, Sociology of Health and Medicine, Pre-dental, 2020

Nina Serr, Biology Health & Society, Entrepreneurship, 2020
Justine Burt, Business Administration, 2021
Mallory Demeter, Business Administration, 2021

NavNextSteps

“The purpose of our project was that validate the pains of high school students when applying to college, and then develop a solution. The team hosted focus groups, completed market research (benchmarking), and conducted interviews to draft a business proposal. We identified understanding the “standards” of the application process and stress as the main pain points of our customers and have developed a prototype that we hope to continue testing. We have completed proofing our survey and algorithms and have drastically simplified the original sequences after receiving customer feedback. Moving forward, we are looking to test our prototype in actual schools.”

Check out their Capstone poster here!: Nav Next Steps Poster

Team members:

Grace Wang, BBA, 2021
Jessica Vinagolu-Brar, Pyschology 2021

Migrant Education Initiative (MEI)

“The Migrant Education Initiative (MEI) is working with the Van Buren Intermediate School District (VBISD) to create an initiative aiming to bring more students of Migrant backgrounds to the University of Michigan. The VBISD is located in Van Buren county, an area with one of the highest Migrant populations in the state of Michigan- it’s the largest migrant-serving program in the state. This past summer, we conducted four focus groups, and surveyed over 60 parents and students to gather their opinions and perceptions of higher education. Even though most of these parents did not attend college, both them and their children were eager to achieve at least a bachelor degree. With a lack of representation of both migrant and Latinx student populations at the University of Michigan, MEI will assist in bringing these hopeful students to our four-year university. With our recent partnership with VBISD, we hope to bring this group of students to the University of Michigan over the summer, and launch an application incentive program to get these students the best chance of achieving their goal as possible.”

Check out their Capstone poster here!: MEI Capstone Poster

Team members:

Victoria Villegas, BA Sociology ‘20

Amanda Gomez, BS Information ‘19

Heal-Move-Shift

“Heal-Move-Shift (HMS) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that aims to actively educate and partner with Middle Eastern and North African (ME/NA) communities regarding three tenets of health: Cardiovascular, Nutritional, and Mental Health. The target mission is to Heal the community, Move the conversation towards a healthier direction, and Shift the stigma away from pressing health concerns through creative and active engagement with Detroit and Ann Arbor communities, along with education programs unique to each community’s pressing health concerns.
Youth in the Middle Eastern and North African communities face barriers toward health education and access and Heal-Move-Shift acts as the middlemen to help bridge this gap. HMS implemented seminar-based programs in high schools where members of the partnered community educate youth through seminar-based programs. After an initial Pilot Program in Central Academy, Heal-Move-Shift expanded to parts of Detroit and Metro Detroit to reach larger Middle Eastern and North African (ME/NA) youth communities. This Winter, HMS will implement its wellness program in Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Dearborn Heights at Central Academy, Dearborn High School, and Crestwood High School respectively.

Heal-Move-Shift research consist of collecting data by pre-seminar and post-seminar surveys from each wellness program seminar. The surveys are imperative in examining trends in student responses and correlate that to the overall effectiveness of our seminars. For the Central Academy pilot program eight entrance and exit surveys were given to students. Questions regarding the seminars ask participants to indicate the overall quality of the seminar (instruction, topics, activities) and their understanding of the topic discussed that seminar. Using data that is already available regarding health disparities in immigrant population, the goal is to compile all relevant information to assess the most appropriate way to address the problem and define any gaps in data that we may need to address through both preliminary research and school-based research.”

Check out their Capstone poster here!: HMS Capstone Poster

Team members:

Tariq Mekkaoui – Biomolecular Science, 2020
Mariam Reda – Creative Writing, 2020
Mohsin Arsiwala- Public Health, 2021

Being First: A Podcast for Bridging the First-Gen Gap

“The Being First podcast lifts the voice of first generation college students while shedding light on the issues that these students face through dialogue about social capital and how to acquire it, candid conversations about the first-gen experience, and challenging the first-gen landscape of the university. Through recording sessions with stakeholders and students in this community, we’ve found that the thread that runs through every first is resilience and grit necessary to level the post-secondary playing field.” 

Check out their Capstone poster here!: Being First Capstone Poster

Team Members:

Lance Bitner-Laird, Sociology, May 2019
Carlos Henderson, Sociology, May 2019

Alternate Reality Initiative (ARI)

“The Alternate Reality Initiative (ARI) is the first student organization at the University of Michigan centered around virtual, augmented, and mixed reality (XR) technology. After seeing a lack of hardware access and learning opportunities, we created ARI to provide opportunities for students to explore, learn, build, and connect with XR technology. Through weekly meetings, ARI is fostering a community of the next generation of XR innovators by hosting development workshops, discussing industry news, and connecting students to opportunities in the greater XR ecosystem.

Over this summer, our team worked with four key stakeholders: ARI members, XR student organizations, XR faculty, and XR companies. After interviewing past members, we learned that it was difficult to discover us, so we increased our marketing and recruiting efforts. From other universities’ student organizations, we learned best practices on supporting project teams and also gained a better understanding of our growth potential. From faculty, we learned that they’re excited about our student-led organization, and we are working with them to provide resources and research opportunities to more students. Finally, from XR companies, we’ve been able to hear their perspective on the XR industry, and we are working with them to invite them as speakers.

Our efforts this year led to an increase to over 500 members on our email list, and we’ve had an average attendance of 24 members per meeting. In addition, we are also launching a pilot program to support student XR project teams next semester. Finally, we will hosting the first ever XR Midwest Conference. We believe that there is enormous potential for more people to be involved in XR in the Midwest. This is why we want to highlight the XR industry professionals, XR faculty, and XR tech talent in the Midwest to create a greater industry presence.”

 

Check out their Capstone poster here!: ARICapstone Final Poster

 

Team members:

Michael Zhang, Business Administration, 2021
Matthew Kosova, Industrial and Operations Engineering, 2021

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