Posts by Barger Leadership

“Search Inside Yourself” Mindful Leadership Program

After the 2-day live Search Inside Yourself program, I would define mindful
leadership as the ability to 1) sense and understand the feelings of oneself as well as others; 2) act and speak with compassion of the motivations and goals of others and 3) lead a meaningful life. The road map used to guide the program is a very helpful visualization highlighting that a number of components build on each other and eventually lead toward mindful leadership. From bottom up, the components are: mindfulness, self-awareness, self-management, motivation, empathy and leadership. Mindfulness and self-awareness are the essential skills that lead to self-management and further, empathy. The first day was focus on building this foundation and fostering good attention to our body and feelings to prevent us from operating on “autopilot”. Only when we can attend to ourselves can we attend to other people as well.

I was particularly inspired by the ‘motivation’ module on the second day: there was a journaling activity to explore our core values and a 5-year vision activity. The prior draws core values from people I admire, which is incredibly helpful for identifying my core values to have them guide me through difficult conversations and conflicts with a clear, good intention. The second one is identical to the Zingerman’s visioning activity I participated in earlier; this time, it was very interesting to hear about the different areas of focus in the vision from people from various stages of life. For example, while my vision was primarily focused on how I navigate the workspace and professional life, an older lady I talked to was pondering “what does being alive mean to me?”. Most importantly, I got to experience the power of the emotional intelligence of a community. I was genuinely encouraged to care about myself and to explore all the best that I’ve got in my future. If this is not mindful leadership, I do not know what is.The ‘meaning’ in a meaningful life, which I named earlier, is not complete without bringing a meaning to other people’s life.

Throughout the program we practiced a number of types of listening: mindful listening, where we pay our full attention to the speaker without responding; and later, generous listening, where we pay attention to the speaker while also asking guiding questions that explores the speaker’s story and feelings more. This is such an importance skill to be reinforced again and again—it gives the speaker the deserved respect and makes the speaker feel important. It is the key to ‘leading with compassion’, a newer idea to me raised in the program. When handling a challenging conversation, the idea encourages us to consider the narrative of both ourselves and the other side, in terms of content (what happened?), feeling and identity (am I a good person?). Then, with these considerations, aim to solve the problem at hand rather than pushing away responsibilities. A mindful leader is therefore personable rather than perceived as on the top of hierarchy and unapproachable.

By: Ariel Huang

Defining Mindful Leadership

After participating in the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute’s conference and completing the 28-day mindfulness challenge, I’ve found that a key part of mindful leadership is the ability to calmly and appropriately experience and respond to emotions. This kind of emotional intelligence is built largely through experience, which is mostly a function of time, but can also be cultivated through careful and deliberate practice. In my case, as a young leader with relatively little life experience, this deliberate practice is essential to developing my emotional intelligence and responding to situations with clarity, focus, and compassion.

My experience with the mindfulness challenge was mostly pleasant. Each day I would complete a short meditation, delivered to my inbox. These were guided meditations ranging from one to ten minutes long. I only missed a few days of practice, and when I did, I made up for it by completing two in the next day. These experiences were ones that I looked forward to, taking a moment to settle, usually at home at the end of the day, but sometimes in the morning, or before starting work, to bring my focus and attention to the practice.

As a fairly active and rapid thinker, it can be hard for me to focus on one thing at a time. This came through during the mediations, when my mind would start to wander, either back into the past or towards the future, or towards some distraction: a sight, smell, or sound that would keep me from focusing. An earlier version of myself might have scolded or got angry, but I remembered to approach the practice with curiosity and kindness. This allowed me to acknowledge the fact that my attention was distracted, accept it, and bring my focus back to the meditation, usually through a deliberate breath. This is small thing, but it is representative of the emotional maturity that I am developing over the course of this mindfulness practice.

In more high-stakes context, the simple act of acknowledging and accepting emotions will allow me to clearly, carefully, thoughtfully, and respectful present my ideas and opinions without getting overly “caught up” in the emotional tension of a situation. Rather than being defensive, I will be open, receptive, and try to understand how the emotional context of a situation is informing the decisions that various actors are making.

This has allowed me to stay calm in situations that a previous version of myself might have gotten frustrated in. Through mindfulness, I feel I am connected to a broader human context in which all people deserve peace and compassion. It can be hard to retain this feeling when someone cuts me off in traffic or I feel something unjust has occurred, but I still bring to mind these well-wishes, or, if I can’t do that, draw my attention inward to what I can control: my breathing and my body.

The grounding of the body and the breath is an essential mindfulness principle, as breathing creates a touchpoint for my attention when situations are challenging or overwhelming. This allows me to buy time and emotional distance from a difficult situation, and gain the physiological benefits of calm and composure that come through taking deep, deliberate breaths.

As hard as it is to believe, even for me, I believe my SIYLI experience and the 28-day challenge is creating a lasting impact in my life, informing me on the rationale and benefits of mindfulness. I have been able to utilize a number of integrated practices in my daily life, allowing me to be calm,composed,curious, and kind with myself, others, and the world around me.

By: Ethan Hopper

University of Michigan Kidney Disease Screening and Awareness Program

The Kidney Disease Screening and Awareness Program (KDSAP) is a student run organization that originated at Harvard University in 2008. Since then, KDSAP has spread to fourteen other colleges and universities, including University of Michigan. Our chapter’s two main goals are student professional development and community outreach. We provide opportunities for pre-health students to hear from healthcare professionals and learn about basic renal physiology. We also partner with local physicians and community organizations to provide free kidney screenings and health education to underserved populations.

This year, our executive board made a goal to coordinate double the number of screenings as we had in past years, but we were limited by the cost of medical supplies. However, with the grant support from the Barger Leadership Institute we were able to achieve our goal; we held five screenings over the course of the year during which we provided free health services to over 150 community members.

Over the course of the academic year, we held screenings at the Ann Arbor YMCA, the Islamic Institute of America in Dearborn, the First Spanish Baptist Church in Detroit, the Brown African Methodist Episcopal Chapel in Ypsilanti, and Washtenaw Community College. At each of these screenings, community members were able to complete a health history form, have their blood pressure, blood glucose, and BMI measured, have their urine screened, and speak privately with a volunteering physician for free. Over 60 KDSAP members (many of which were new to the organization) participated in trainings and performed these measurements at the screening events. This gave many pre-health students a chance to gain exposure to the healthcare field while simultaneously serving community members who do not have regular access to healthcare.

We also held several other educational events for club members and elementary students from the local community. For World Kidney Day we had a University of Michigan nephrologist and kidney transplant recipient speak to club members about their personal experiences working with kidney disease. We also partnered with the Wolverine Health Sciences program to put on a kidney-related science event at Angell Elementary School.

Out of all of the BLI habits, the ones we used the most were ‘Engage the World’, and ‘Build a Team’. ‘Engage the World’ was a central habit of our project because a large part of our organization’s mission is to reach out to underserved communities. In past years we had only been able to hold screenings in Ann Arbor and Livonia—both of which are reasonably wealthy areas. This year our executive board reached out to many new and underserved communities including the Islamic Institute of America in Dearborn, the First Spanish Baptist Church in Detroit, and the Brown African Methodist Episcopal Chapel in Ypsilanti. We have already begun coordinating future screenings at these locations and hope that we can continue these partnerships for many years to come.

‘Build a Team’ was another essential habit to our project. Given that our organization is still relatively new to University of Michigan, we have still be sorting out many of the nuances of managing an organization with so many moving parts and tasks. Our executive board has had to work effectively as a team in order to expand our organization to include more club members and hold double the number of screenings as we had in past years. We held bi-weekly meetings

in which discussed our upcoming screenings and club activities and supported each other in completing the tasks assigned to each executive board position.

We are incredibly thankful that BLI gave us the chance to grow our organization this year! We invite other BLI fellows to join KDSAP in the fall and help us hold many more screenings and educational events during the upcoming academic year.


By: Lauren Weinberg

UBUNTU, “I am, because we are”

African Students Association’s 21st Annual Culture Show By: Tosin Adeyemi

This year, the African Students Association (ASA) at the University of Michigan looked to Southern Africa for inspiration for the theme of their 21st Annual Culture Show, Ubuntu. Ubuntu loosely translates to, “I am, because we are” in the Zulu language of South Africa. The culture show took place March 15th, 2019 from 7-9pm in the Michigan Theater.

The theme Ubuntu was expressed through four different scenes: society, community, family, and individual. Each scene incorporated fashion and performance. For the fashion component of the show, students from U of M in Ann Arbor, as well as students from Eastern Michigan, modeled clothing from different regions of the continent. Clothing included floor length skirts, dresses, pants, and more! Under the leadership of ASA’s model coordinators, students perfected their walks through weekly practices on campus.

In addition to stunning model scenes, the show featured a variety of performances. In the scene community, there were two performances. First, Bichini Bia Congo Dance Theater Company, which performs Congolese dance, graced the stage with two dancers and one drummer. The troupe was found by Jean-Claude Biza, an instructor at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater & Dance. This scene also featured the Michigan Gospel Chorale, who sang the song, “Siyahamba”. Their melodious performance left attendees in awe.

In the scene family, the Amala Dancers performed, which has consistently been a crowd favorite. ASA is especially grateful for Amala Dancers, because they have performed at numerous ASA events, including Our Global Africa and Charity Ball for the 2018-2019 school year. Finally, in the individual scene, there was spoken word as well as ASA’s first solo music artist, Asante. Aldo Pando Girard during his spoken word piece touched upon his multiple racial identities and Asante sang about his Ghanaian background. Asante is a University of Michigan alum.
Left: Asante (@mindofasante (Twitter/Instagram) & mindofasante.com)

Overall, ASA’s executive board members are happy about the outcome of the event. The event would not have been possible without all of the students involved, and generous financial support. We want to express our gratitude to Barger Leadership Institute (BLI) for financial support, as well as a framework for developing leadership habits throughout the event planning and execution.

One habit that we extensively utilized was Collect, Combine, and Create, in order to assemble different elements of the show into a cohesive, vibrant evening of culture for attendees. For example, board members on the fashion and styling committees collected fabrics originating from different countries and combined them in ways unique to each model. Also, members on finance committee combined different specialty items into bags for our VIP attendees. The biggest items were bags of plantain chips from Frita Batidos, which were secured via email with the manager. BLI’s emphasis on professional development translated into professionally reaching out to the manager inquiring about sponsorship. Thus, the impact of BLI on ASA members’ growth was not confined to leadership.

One habit that we wish we utilized more was expect challenges. Although we knew having the show the Friday after spring break would bring challenges, there were more challenges than we expected. These included coordinating performances, given many students could not make dress rehearsal because of class, attracting students, and stage managing during the show. Nevertheless, reflection upon what went well and what did not go well is invaluable information for ASA’s next executive board.

We would like to acknowledge the following performers, as well as provide links to more photos and a video of the show:

Bichini Bia Congo

Michigan Gospel Chorale

AMALA Dancers

Aldo Pando Girard (spoken word)

Asante (music performance)

Photo gallery here,  and video here!

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 22nd Annual Culture Show. Thank you again BLI for your generous support, and we look forward to working with you in the future.

The 2018-2019 ASA Executive Board

Giselle Uwera, Maxwell Otiato Megan Manu, Temitope Oyelade Selina Asamoah, Jeremy Atuobi, Ihunanya Muruako, Kingsley Enechukwu, Tosin Adeyemi


By: Tosin Adeyemi

All photo credits to Benji Bear Photography.

Climate Action Movement Panel and Discussion

We knew that something needed to be done about climate action on campus. That’s why we created the Climate Action Movement Panel and Discussion: because we wanted to engage the community in Climate Action.

This event consisted of a panel discussing previous climate action in Ann Arbor and a group discussion to produce tangible, actionable goals to improve sustainability measures in Ann Arbor. We realized that the best way to work toward stronger climate goals was to receive input from the community. We worked with both student groups and community groups to crowdsource goals that students, University administration, and local government could take to improve environmental sustainability.

Since we will all be impacted by climate in the future, it is important to us to start a movement for climate action in a united front – that was the aim of this event.

By Devan O’Toole

International Deaf & Hearing Alliance’s Alternative Spring Break Program in Queretaro, Mexico

During spring break, the International Deaf & Hearing Alliance worked with CAM Helen Keller, a primary and secondary school for deaf and disabled students. Each IDHA member was placed in a different classroom, ranging from preschool to high school, to provide additional support to the incredible educators and staff at the school. In preparation for our service-learning experience, we learned Mexican Sign Language (LSM), but were able to practice and learn more LSM during our experiences. We are extremely grateful to CAM Helen Keller and the Deaf community of Querétaro for welcoming us into their community to build relationships and engage in this intercultural service-learning experience. The following is a compilation of various members’ reflections on their experiences working with the Deaf community of Queretaro.

Jazmine Johnson

“Working with deaf communities in Queretaro, Mexico has broaden my perspective on people with disabilities. Before going on this trip, I did not take into consideration how huge the deaf community is and the magnitude of the struggles that the students face. It went beyond just their disability but the resources that were afforded to them, in regards to their education and family support. This humbling experience also made me more aware of my identities that I hold and made me more cognizant of all the resources that I am privy.

While I enjoyed my interactions with the students, I am really valued my time with the teachers as well. One of the teachers spoke a little bit of English, and she would inform me of a lot of the issues that the students and staff faced. One in particular really took me by surprise. For instance, a lot of parents do not like to accept that their children are deaf. As a result, they don’t try to learn sign language to communicate with them. I was astonished by this information because I would expect a parent to want to better communicate with their child. Sign language is very important as people who are not hearing should still be able to communicate with others and sign language is their medium to do so.

I didn’t know what to expect when working with the deaf community and other students with disabilities. I just know that my goal was to be engaging and open, despite the communication barrier. I really just wanted to help the students to the best of my ability and build a relationship with them. I am glad that I kept those expectations in mind, when first visiting the school. I was so nervous at first because I only knew a little bit of Spanish and sign language. However, I didn’t let that stop my efforts in getting to know the students. I’m so glad that I didn’t let my language barrier to affect my interactions and engagement with my class. This experience is one that I never will forget and I can’t wait to continue working with the deaf community.” – Jazmine Johnson

IDHA members learning LSM (Mexican sign language) at the Cross & Beat festival activity tent with other members of the Queretaro community.

Julia Alexander

“Going into this trip, I was unsure what to expect. I had never traveled outside of the country without my family and I had never been on a service trip, so this was a completely new experience for me. However, I was excited to learn more and I thought that it would be a nice challenge and push me out of my comfort zone. I hoped that in going to Queretaro and volunteering at the Cam Helen Keller school, I would be able to have a positive impact, be helpful to the teachers and learn more about the community there.

It was so amazing to be a part of this trip. Not only did I feel as though I was able to assist at the school, I also learned so much about the deaf community in Queretaro. It was amazing to see how all of the children in my classroom actively wanted to learn, and helped each other grasp new concepts. It was so different from schools in America, where everything is about getting good grades and competition between students. The sense of community learning was a big theme. All of the activities enforced community learning. In everything that the class did, students were constantly learning and collaborating with each other; whether they were presenting, doing a group project, or simply working on math problems on the board. This was a new style of learning that I thought was very interesting because it led to a more engaged class, and excitement in helping fellow classmates learn new things.

Though it was difficult to communicate with the [students at CAM Helen Keller] on the first day, as the week went on, I was able to pick up on their signs with more ease, and better understand what they were trying to communicate to me. Also, the kids were so patient in ensuring that I understood what we were talking about, so it made it really easy to learn and comprehend what they were trying to get across.

I feel as though this trip has made me more open to new experiences. It has been so amazing to learn about the deaf community in Queretaro, and get some insight into their lives. I had such a great time getting to know the kids and am so grateful for this opportunity to contribute and learn more about this special, unique community.” – Julia Alexander

Malikah Pasha

“Imagine being able to witness a orangey salmon sunset every single day, smiles welcoming you into the door, the freshest of food swimming down your belly, fruit trees growing outside your classroom, warm and cool colors of homes, buildings, schools, and so much more. This was Querétaro.

Querétaro was the first time I left home and I can say it was one of the most welcoming and beautiful city I’ve ever been to.While Querétaro is a very homogeneous city, some of the things were a culture shock. Being that few Black people travel or even go to Mexico—especially small cities like Querétaro—everyone continually gazed at me and even touched my hair. It felt very uncomfortable, but at my school knowing that my children have many questions, I felt comfortable enough to show them my hair and teach them a little about Black hair. That experience was both a win for the both of us, because while they were always teaching me, I got to teach them about America and things about myself.” – Malikah Pasha

Carmela Garita

“Volunteering is something I enjoy doing, but in the opportunity that I was given this past week, I was able to discover a joy for working with people more closely. The first day in the classroom with the sixth graders, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I soon started to learn that the kids were really patient with me because they quickly found out I barely knew LSM. From that first day I made it my goal to know more sign language in order to have, at least, small conversations with the kids. The rest of the days at the school got better progressively. I think what also made my experience at the school enjoyable and great was the staff there, especially Josefina, the teacher I was placed with. She would try her best to get me involved with everything the students were doing, and would even interpret her class lessons in order for me to be up-to-date to what they were learning. Something else I enjoyed were the mini-quizzes at the end of the day she would give me. This consisted of telling her what a certain sign meant in Spanish, or just me showing her what new signs I learned throughout the day. If I was given the chance to go back to Queretaro and volunteer with these kids, I would say yes in a heartbeat. I also need to give credit to the people who were in this trip, that made this such a great experience for me. I felt that there was never a moment where someone was left alone because everyone was inclusive, and willing to do different thing with different people. We all for sure got to know each other on a deeper level, rather that just knowing their name and the person who we always saw at weekly meetings. I can’t imagine having a better experience without the people and the circumstances we were all given.” – Carmela Garita

Rebecca Lee “I went to the first IDHA meeting after seeing the poster at Festifall was because I thought sign language was cool. Now it is a completely different story. I realized both through interacting with new friends and with the students at the school that knowing sign language is having an ability to communicate with people who often feel unable to do so themselves. Deafness can cut people off from others around them because of the unfortunate rarity of people who know sign language. Now that I have experienced this culture and this community, I feel driven more than ever to continue learning and improving upon my own skills in sign language. I want to continue practicing LSM and build my fluency, but I also want to start learning ASL. If I were to do so, I might be able to use a signed language in my own community, which would be rewarding both for myself and for those I would be able to communicate with. In addition to discovering a passion that I have for sign language, I really believe that this experience made me a different person. I am more patient, not only with others, but with myself. I am truly thankful that I had the opportunity to travel to Querétaro this year. The experience helped me to grow as a person, and to help my interest in sign language grow and thrive. I hope that someday soon I will be able to return to Querétaro. Even if a trip back is not in my future, this city and its people will forever hold a special place in my heart.” – Rebecca Lee


By Brandon Bond

Spring Break at Middle Way House

During spring break 2019, we traveled to Bloomington, Indiana to spend a week working with Middle Way House, an organization dedicated to working with survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking. Among the work that Middle Way House does, such as provide temporary 90-day housing, semi-permanent 2 year housing, and other services to survivors, one of their more unique programs is their after-school Youth Program.

We worked in the Youth Program from Monday March 4th to Friday March 8th, from 3:30pm to 8:30pm. Each day we would arrive at around 3:20pm and put our coats and belongings away, before going to the program room where we spent most of our time. We would wait for the HeadStart students to arrive, and when they did we often started the time with them by playing Just Dance 4 on the Wii or running around outside on the playground. As the different buses dropped students off throughout the first hour, we engaged the kids by playing games, dress-up, doing piggy-back races, or reading stories while we waited for snack time at 4:30. Snack time was always followed by some programming, which ranged from art club, science club, techie time, cooking club, dance club, and even building healthy relationships club. We were able to help out with programming, which was mainly run by Indiana University students who are regular volunteers. The kids in the Youth Program love programming time because they got to do different activities each week. After programming we had homework time, which was probably the most difficult hour each day. The Youth Program currently has kids ranging in ages from 3 years old to 14 years old, and the difference in engagement for homework time was a challenge. Obviously, the 3 and 4 year olds did not have homework, and the majority of kids under age 11 did not have homework either because elementary schools in the area have been moving away from required homework. During homework time, for these students, we were supposed to read to them, or if they could read, have them read to us. Even with older kids who enjoy reading, being forced to spend an hour reading when you could be playing with all the awesome toys that the Youth Program has could be kind of difficult. We did find that it was rewarding to engage the kids with reading, however, and be able to then transition to educational games afterward to finish out homework time. After homework time, there was more free time and sometimes even more programming, and then the kids would begin to be picked up from the program. By the end of each day, we would be completely tired, but satisfied with the fun we were able to provide for the kids.

We had hoped before the week began that we would be able to gain a better understanding of the impact of domestic violence, to learn about how a domestic violence shelter supports survivors through programming, and better grasp how to return to campus with plans to bring awareness about this issue back to our communities. We were definitely able to recognize the impact of domestic violence, mainly through the behavioral patterns and engagement differences with kids at the Youth Program. The programming we worked on during the week was both engaging, educational, and age appropriate, which is really important for kids who have been affected by domestic violence, who are sometimes unable to just be kids. Finally, we were able to return to campus with a drive to bring this issue back to our communities. We are hoping to have a dialogue event about domestic violence awareness, possibly with a panel, but that is still in the works.

One challenge we encountered was leaving at the end of the week. We knew from the very beginning that we would need to make it clear to the kids that we would not be returning after the end of the week. Even though we discussed this issue nearly every day in reflection, when the time came to begin saying goodbye to kids, it was hard not to get sad ourselves. The staff at the Youth Program really helped us out, reminding the kids gently but firmly to say goodbye to us, and to thank us for coming. Most of the kids left without incident or being really upset. It was difficult to leave the program and recognize we probably would not be going back and that we may never see any of those kids again. However, given that we were able to spend our time on spring break productively by playing with those kids every day, we hoped that we were able to have a net positive impact for the organization, while also learning a lot ourselves to bring back to our lives here on campus.

The leadership skills of each member of our trip shone through when we were faced with challenges at site. Before the trip, we recognized that we all had different starting places of background knowledge, that we would have to spend a lot of time reflecting on our experiences, and that if we needed help, we would have to lean on the staff, who have much more experience than we did. When faced with challenges, we worked with each other to solve them, and when we weren’t able to find solutions, we enlisted staff at the Youth Program to help. Every night, we reflected on that day’s experiences, usually discussing at length any of the challenges we had faced that day. As the week went on, we found ourselves developing and growing as leaders and volunteers within the organization, learning how to tackle challenges and dilemmas with less worry than at the beginning of the week. This growth and development was invaluable for the first hand experience it provided us to be able to bring back to Michigan.

By Meredith Days

Guatemala: the Nature of Business

I visited Guatemala this past Spring break. The Ross School of Business sent my cohort and I for a service trip hosted by International Samaritan and fully-funded by the Royal Bank of Canada. The purpose of the trip was to work at a school in a landfill community in Escuintla, Guatemala, one of Guatemala’s more financially disadvantaged cities. Our ultimate aim of the Spring break trip was to better understand the nature of business in Guatemala, better understand the culture of Guatemala, and to help build a soccer field for the school in Escuintla.

Our advisor, Katie, held morning and evening reflections, a chance to think about our experiences each day. The reflections allowed me to analyze the ways every experience of each day, whether big or small, affected my ideas and changed the way I thought. Fortunately, my fellow cohort members were all willing to partake in the dialogue; such a willingness allowed us to receive the most benefit from the sessions. We even took the conversations outside of reflection and continued them throughout the day.

Ultimately, our discussions led to similar conclusions about mission and service trips: mission and service trip groups have much learning to do, as there’s so many hegemonic, racial, and societal insensitivities that could occur and often do occur. These are aside from the fact that mission trips, specifically, help others while representing a certain religious sect, an outdated and pompous form of spreading religion. (Believing your way in America is always the “best way.” Showing signs of cultural disrespect. Taking pictures with babies and children you don’t know—just for Instagram likes. Even becoming friends with one of the local children only to leave them a week later.) These issues go unchecked most of the time and continue to be a problem on mission and service trips. Consequently, understanding the complexity of helping others in different countries is one of the most important insights I’ve gained.

By Omar Uddin

Science Olympiad!

The event we hosted was a Science Olympiad tournament to over 900 students across Michigan and surrounding states. Science Olympiad is a high school competition consisting of 23 different STEM-related with emphases in areas like astronomy, herpetology, physiology, and several others. Events range from completing a test to piloting a pre-built device, to completing a lab experiment.

All in all, I would say the Science Olympiad tournament that we hosted was very successful, albeit with a few hiccups along the way. Throughout the days leading up to the competition and during the competition we did run into a few problems. For example two teams decided to cancel attending relatively last minute. Although annoying, the event itself was not dramatically negatively impacted as we still had the vast majority of the other teams attending. However, the team did discuss what could be done in the future to discourage this type of behavior. Possible discussed solutions included a fine, not inviting them back among others. Other problems arose during the day of the competition when we discovered that we could not unlock several rooms that we had reserved before-hands. This caused one of our events to run a little behind schedule as we had to quickly find alternate classrooms for our participants. An unexpected fire-drill further exacerbated this problem. Nevertheless, the team stayed adaptable and found suitable accommodations relatively quickly. The last problem we ran into was the discovery that for one of the events, the final scores had been tabulated incorrectly, altering some placements for teams. To rectify this, we quickly sent out an apology after the event with updated standings and offered to send medals to teams that were affected.

Overall, from the feedback we received from our participants, the event itself was organized very well. Compared to many other invitationals that they’ve been to, ours was organized at a much grander scale and generally provided better facilities. The additional prizes we gave to first place teams was also a welcome feature. For some individuals, the tests we provided were deemed “too hard”. However, we actually created difficult exams by design to truly test the preparation and intellect of our participants.

The event also developed several leadership skills and BLI habits. For example, we worked hard to build a team that had complementary goals and skill-sets from the executive board, to our sub- teams, to our volunteers. We also remained adaptable the days leading up to and during the competition when a lot of unforeseen mishaps arose.

Lastly, we worked hard to engage as many students as possible in our event in order to share our love of science and learning with as many individuals as possible.
From the team’s perspective, we are extremely pleased about how this event turned out and look forward to making it even better moving forward. This is something that we will continue discussing and planning throughout this year and next.


By: Adam Shen

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