Posts by BLI

Sacred Time Project 2020

By Razeen Karim

Event Summary and Goals

Overall, I believe that the event went somewhat smoothly in terms of logistics, but completed the described goals listed in our original project proposal. First, we wished to promote a diverse space, with over 200 attendees representing 15+ nationalities, 10+ student organizations, and attendance of over 60% women. Second, our speakers all aligned with the theme of practicing with purpose, explaining the social and political movements associated with the religion of Islam and how these movements can be interpreted from an Islamic-perspective. Specifically, we received warm responses to our segments aligned with “diseases of the heart” which reflected upon experiences that many people find displeasing and how these experiences can lead to long-term emotional or social repercussions. They followed up with practical tips to include in one’s life in order to dispel these negative experiences and engaged in positive Q&A as well. Lastly, we were able to fulfill our goal of creating engaging topics for both the speakers and the audience members as well.

BLI Habits

Pause and Reflect: Our conference was able to embody the ideals of the pause and reflect BLI habit through successfully engaging in small groups throughout the second day of events. Everyone was able to reflect on what was given to them and challenge any values or ideals both internally and externally. Secondly, this ideal was also continually embraced by the speakers as well who oftentimes asked the audience to reflect on what they were being told and to openly speak up if there was an issue. This allowed the members to actively reflect on all issues they were told about and create an open culture of learning.

Engage the World: We were able to develop this skill by ensuring that our speakers were not only diverse, but by learning about Islamic cultures from around the world, from Egypt to Saudi Arabia. We were informed on stories and reflections from scholars from a variety of regions and how these lessons reflected the culture from which they were raised. It reflected the duality of Islam and the applications based on different situations.


One of the most valuable lessons I learned through this event is how to communicate with people to do their tasks properly. Being members of a student organization, we all happen to be around the same age, thus, having an authoritative figure in the group does not usually work well. When most of the team is composed of undergraduate freshmen, it is better to lead by example and show them how to do things, so they can learn from it for the upcoming year. Through this method, I actually got to know a lot of people very closely and build long term friendships with them. It also made the event more fun as it created memories that carry with us after college. Whether it was thinking out how we are going to feed everyone, or how to solve the on-spot issues we encountered during the event, instead of biting our nails and stressing about them, we turned them into “inside joke” as worked on resolving them.

The Lookout Project

By Lina Jeffery

According to the Bureau of Justice, between 2007 and 2009, about two-thirds of incarcerated persons in the US had substance use disorders (SUD), and this trend is increasing yearly. Returning citizens released in the last two weeks are up to 129 times more likely to die of an opioid overdose than the general population. The Lookout Project seeks to equip incarcerated individuals with knowledge about harm reduction and overdose prevention techniques. To do so, we eventually would like to implement an Overdose Education and Narcan Distribution (OEND) program in a Washtenaw County correctional facility. Our goal is to implement our program successfully at a local prison before expanding within the state of Michigan. The OEND will consist, first, of an educational program with a pre- and post-test, as well as training on recognizing an overdose and administering Narcan, an opioid overdose-reversing drug. This will be completed during incarceration. Upon release, we will provide participants of the program with free Narcan and information regarding other resources available to them through outside organizations. We will stay in touch with participants and survey them to identify their needs and what actions we can take to best serve them during their reintegration. This project and its goals will be constantly adapting and changing in order to continually support participants in the ways that are most beneficial to them. Ultimately, however, The Lookout Project aims to lower the statistics of former inmate overdose deaths by raising overdose awareness and making Narcan more accessible.

In the short term, we hope to take smaller steps to gradually work toward these larger aspirations. Our plans for this semester in ALA 175 included some of these goals, and we were looking forward to in-person contact with stakeholders and each other, but, unfortunately, because of the unexpected turn that this semester took and the social distancing constraints, we were forced to find ways to continue progressing online. We adjusted our goals and hoped to accomplish the following: create a digitalized logo (featured in the picture!), set up a G-Suite for The Lookout Project team members, purchase a website domain, Screencastify subscription, and video props for The Lookout Project, begin filming educational videos, and begin developing the website. However, as the COVID-19 crisis developed to be more serious than anyone was expecting, our goals were in need of adjustment again. For example, the educational videos have been planned extensively, but due to delivery delays, actually filming these videos was not feasible. One way of dealing with the limitations posed by the COVID-19 crisis was focusing on research as a product. We all collaborated through Google Sheets on a literature review. We read previous research on opioid overdose prevention and extensively analyzed the strategies used.
This ended up being invaluable and will heavily guide our steps in the immediate as well as the distant future.

A Summer in India

During my time in India, I worked with a nonprofit called MANN, which was a workforce training center for disabled adults. I was able to work directly with the CEO and COO on-site and implement a ground-up marketing strategy. It was awesome to see the organization’s growth in just a few short weeks I was there! 

However, apart from working with local businesses, I also became fully immersed in the culture. For me, this was the most impactful portion of the trip. Living with a local family in India was absolutely incredible as instead of being a tourist, I was able to authentically experience day to day like. From riding in a tuk-tuk to picking up phrases in Hindi, to going to the best-hidden street food destinations, this cultural immersion is certainly one which I will not forget. 

This rich learning experience of a global classroom and traveling across the Indian subcontinent was one that challenged and pushed me, but in the end, has helped me foster my passion for working in emerging economies and doing social impact work. 

By Quinn Favret

April 9, 2020 | Vol. 2

What does it mean to be healthy?

Balanced Diet Education is a BLI ALA 175 Leadership Lab Team — Their goal is to improve education surrounding perceptions of health in the Michigan community by providing accurate and easily accessible information to students. This newsletter outlines ways to stay healthy in Ann Arbor and while on quarantine. The first two volumes of the newsletter include tips for staying healthy on quarantine, how to avoid cravings, pros and cons of certain diets, and healthy options to consider at popular Ann Arbor restaurants.


April 9, 2020 | Vol. 1

What does it mean to be healthy?

Balanced Diet Education is a BLI ALA 175 Leadership Lab Team — Their goal is to improve education surrounding perceptions of health in the Michigan community by providing accurate and easily accessible information to students. This newsletter outlines ways to stay healthy in Ann Arbor and while on quarantine. The first two volumes of the newsletter include tips for staying healthy on quarantine, how to avoid cravings, pros and cons of certain diets, and healthy options to consider at popular Ann Arbor restaurants.


University of Michigan Kidney Disease Screening and Awareness Program

The Kidney Disease Screening and Awareness Program (KDSAP) is a student-run organization founded in 2008 at Harvard and has since spread to over twenty universities, including the University of Michigan. Our chapter’s main goals are the professional development of student members and community outreach. We provide opportunities for pre-health students to learn from healthcare professionals and to practice clinical exams. We partner with physicians and community organizations to provide free health screenings and education to underserved populations. 

Our organization received a grant from the Barger Leadership Institute (BLI) in 2018 that helped us expand our community outreach efforts and screen over two hundred participants as well as to host new events like our kidney dissection. This year, with BLI’s help, our goal was to develop new partnerships and host eight screenings, providing healthy meals at some of these screenings in metro-Detroit. 

This year, we held screenings at the Ann Arbor YMCA, the Islamic Institute of America in Dearborn, Washtenaw Community College, Pineview church in Ypsilanti, and the Masjid Al Falah in Hamtramck. At these screenings, community members received free testing from trained KDSAP members including: blood pressure, blood glucose, BMI measured, urinalysis, and consultation with a University of Michigan physician. 

At our Pineview church and MasjidAl Falah screenings, we provided meals for our participants. We also had a social worker at our screenings to provide information on nutrition and chronic conditions, as well as to guide participants to free clinics for follow-up care. We hosted multiple on-campus events such as clinical trainings, a physiology jeopardy night, and an MCAT/medical school admissions panel led by senior members. 

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to suspend multiple on-campus events and screenings at the First Spanish Baptist Church in Detroit, Brown Chapel in Ypsilanti, and the Islamic Center of Detroit. While this was disappointing, we look forward to working with these partners once the suspension is lifted. 

Three BLI habits of particular value to our organization are building a team, engaging the world, and expecting challenges. This past year we built a team of over one hundred trained students. We further integrated social services and educational information into our screenings by partnering with the pharmacy school and other student organizations. We engage the world by collaborating with our partners and working with them to ensure that successful and culturally appropriate screenings. This year we built new partnerships with Pineview Church, the Masjid Al Falah, and the Islamic Center of Detroit. Additionally, we faced challenges such as recruiting translators from other student associations to translate Bengali and Arabic at screenings. We also face the challenge of rescheduling screenings for the 2019-2020 school year and are engaging in discussions on how to overcome this challenge. 

We are grateful to the BLI for helping us to provide expanded services at our screenings and to confidently build new partnerships without concerns for supply costs. We invite other BLI fellows and student organizations across campus to join us in our efforts to provide health-focused community service. 

By Jeremy Policht

Thanking Our Cultures: Multicultural Sororities Unite for Cultural Potluck

Our multicultural sorority, Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority, Inc., hosted a multicultural potluck on November 22nd, bringing together several of the other sororities in the Multicultural Greek Council and combining several different cultural foods and traditions. 

Combined, we shared over 15 different cultural dishes, many of which were culturally tied to different ethnic backgrounds. Our goal for this project was to create a platform for multicultural communities on campus to embrace and share different aspects of their diverse backgrounds, and one of the best ways to do this is through open communication and the sharing of food. Through Our project “Thanking Our Cultures: Multicultural Sororities Unite for Cultural Potluck”, you can see members of the different sororities and students engaging in dialogue while sharing traditionally Latinx, Mediterrenean, South Asian, and other cuisines. 

By Viviana Flores

Chai & Chobi: Iraqi Culture Night

The Iraqi Student Association aims to promote and raise awareness of Iraqi, Mesopotamian, and Middle Eastern culture. The association is open to everyone, as the goal of ISA is to add to the diversity on campus. We strive to unite the Iraqi students of the campus through cultural appreciation and celebration. We also strive to educate the broader campus about the history and culture of this country by inviting all community members to participate and celebrate with us. Our goal is to celebrate what makes Iraqi-identifying students on this campus unique while also highlighting how we are part of the greater campus community and that our similarities unite us into the tight-knit community that makes this school great. 

Our project was our first-annual Chai & Chobi: Iraqi Culture Night. Chai refers to the traditional tea (or chai) that is served at Iraqi events or gatherings, and chobi is the name of the traditional dance performed at public events and at weddings. This event was important because it allowed us to highlight Iraqi culture and celebrate the diversity that makes it beautiful. Not only is Iraq a mix of ethnicities, religions, and languages, but it is also home of Mespotomia and the first civilizations with groups including the Sumerians, the Assyrians, and the Babylonians. These cultures are still alive today and continue to contribute to what makes Iraq unique. 

The night consisted of Iraqi pastries and chai, as well as catering from one of the best Iraqi and Mesopotamian restaurants in Michigan: Ishtar Restaurant. We played music, and members of the Iraqi Student Association performed choreographed Iraqi chobi and Assyrian bagiya routines together for the audience. They then opened the floor to perform a chobi line where everyone was able to join in while the board members taught them how to do the dance. The dance itself stems all the way back to Mesopotamia, and Iraqi communities alike are struggling to keep the dance and culture from becoming extinct. (Click here to enjoy a video of the dance and the culture night) There are not many spaces for Iraqis to freely share their culture due to the political and social issues that have occurred in the past three decades. 

Even before the turn of the century, Iraq has only even been portrayed in a negative light in Western media. There has never been space to express the beautiful culture, history, and people that originate from Iraq. So few people know of the melting pot that the Ancient Mesopotamian region is religiously, linguistically, culturally, and academically. In today’s society, only negative ideas and stereotypes are brought up at the mention of Iraq. It is as people have forgotten that civilization started right there and that the Mesopotamian people still exist (many of us are even on this campus!). 

It is more vital than ever that the campus hears the Iraqi narrative. Iraqis are forgotten refugees; Iraqis are targeted for hate crimes; Iraqis are facing a diaspora; the once-rich culture and country is disintegrating under imperialism and extremism. Soon, the entire area will collapse, and centuries of history, art, culture, and academia will fall with the country. This is why it is so important for the campus community to understand what is occurring on the other side of the world and the beautiful culture that comes from it.

By Mays AlBayati

Dinner Table Conversations

Dinner Table Conversations is a group dedicated to increasing awareness about how individuals can improve environmental sustainability. They emphasize not only how people can help the environment themselves and decrease their own carbon footprint, but also provoke thought as to how one can take action politically and socially to further sustainable living. They hope people stop viewing climate change as a lost cause and instead become committed to taking steps (no matter how small!) to do their part for humanity. It is important to stress that when an issue is as threatening as this one, any action is progress. 

They hosted a small event using tablecloths containing intriguing questions about the current state of the environment and what we should do to improve it to foster a discussion about this ever-more pressing issue. This was a zero-waste event and everyone who participated was emailed information that contained quick and easy tips as well as long term suggestions to help sustainability, making sure the topics discussed would not be forgotten. Thanks to the BLI Small Grant, they were able to print the tablecloths they designed and order food/beverages for the event. 

Overall, Dinner Table Conversations hopes to make it clear that anyone can participate in making our environment more sustainable. For a problem with such drastic implications, we need all the help we can get. 

By Bre Boersma

Alpha Chi Sigma – Ronald McDonald House Ann Arbor

Alpha Chi Sigma is a professional co-ed chemistry fraternity on campus that is passionate about volunteering and providing service within the Ann Arbor community. Specifically, Ronald McDonald House is one of the larger organizations that our group looks forward to working with every semester. Ronald McDonald House Ann Arbor is a home for families of children who are currently under care in C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. For this event, Alpha Chi Sigma went to Ronald McDonald House and prepared a home-cooked, fresh meal for the families. 

The purpose of this event is to give back to our local community and support families who may be going through a tough time while their loved one is in the hospital. The members of Alpha Chi Sigma learned to empathize with the residents and wished to support them in any way possible that would result in a relaxing and comfortable stay in Ann Arbor. The values that were essential to the success of this event were respect and empathy, both of which we hope to ingrain more into our organization. Moreover, our participating members were also able to take home valuable leadership skills, much of which is applicable in our daily experiences. Alpha Chi Sigma’s goal for this event was not only to provide direct support for impacted families, but also teach our surrounding community to be empathetic, compassionate, and selfless. 

By  Rushabh Bohra, Olivia Chan, and Dalton Knapp