One. Two. Three. FUNKTION!

Family.

Culture.

Expression.

FunKtion is University of Michigan’s only all male, multicultural, urban hip hop dance team. We perform consistently throughout the year entertaining crowds and introducing people to new culture, music, and expression. Every performance starts with the same chant we’ve had since our conception in 1999. “FunKtion on three. One. Two. Three. FUNKTION.”

We don’t want to be the best dancers. We don’t want to be the most technical. We focus on development.

We stay true to the notion that anyone without experience can learn to express themselves, to build on their confidence, to show them the beauty of community.

We believe that in order to entertain the audience with our performances, we first have to entertain ourselves: by focusing on the bonds we have with each other and having fun during practices (at the cost of efficiency), we do just that. By doing so, we create a place for ourselves on campus as not just a team, but as a brotherhood, one capable of surviving grueling 6-12 hour practices.

Every fall we perform at 2XS Barnite, a dance showcase hosted by Dance2XS UMich and features crews from all over the midwest. Our performance this year was one of the best we have had yet, and can be watched at this link: https://youtu.be/f5Uh_Ki2v1I. We hope you enjoy it, and we want to thank the BLI again for helping us look so fly.

By: Sanjee Choudhuri

READY, SET, ACTION: a reflection on a/pia high school conference 2018

Ready, Set, Action.

That was the theme for this year’s Asian/Pacific Islander American High School Conference (A/PIA HSC). This year’s HSC embodied Ready, Set, Action before it even became our theme, when it was just my co-chair, Tiffany, and me FaceTiming over the summer. We already had a billboard-sized vision of what we wanted the
conference to look like—now we just needed a team to help us execute it. Little did I know how wonderful and brilliant our board would be.

I knew that Tiff and I had crafted a successful team because we chose people who believe young people have the power to change the world. Our team has spoken to over one hundred people to make this conference happen. High schools, community centers, restaurants, state senators, professors, students. A lot of students. Despite all of the time spent on the phone or in Google Drive (Google Sheets was my personal favorite), I think everyone left the conference feeling somewhat awestruck. For me, the conference wasn’t real until 8 AM on November 10, when Ready, Set, Action was displayed on almost every single body in Angell Auditorium C.

This is one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had at the University of Michigan. It was a culmination of everything I’ve learned from being a member of the A/PIA community. We made progress with this conference. We talked about colorism, identity, our untaught history. How to be an activist in your own way, whether that’s through slam poetry or public service work. Wherever the high schoolers were in their journey, my hope was that they took something back with them. Like realize they’re having a lunch box moment and being able to name it as so. Or educate someone about the history behind the Model Minority Myth. Or feel a sense of pride when they check Asian off in the Race/Ethnicity box.

Despite our progress, I know there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done. We need to work toward making the Pacific Islander part of A/PIA more visible. We need to talk about class differences. We need to contact more rural schools so that A/PIA students don’t feel like they’re alone. That being said, I’m hopeful because our executive board is young and each generation brings new voices, even better and louder than the last. My one aspiration for A/PIA High School Conference is for it to always continue growing. I have no doubt that it will ever cease.

By: Tiffany Huynh

Constellation: A Culture Show

On November 9th, the Global Scholar Program’s Advisory Council hosted “Constellation: A Culture Show” with help from the BLI Small Grant. As a part of the event, individuals from the community performed cultural dances, sang, played instruments, gave cultural presentations, and performed comedy routines. In addition to performance-based representations of different cultures, we also displayed photography and art, played multicultural music, constructed a photo booth, and hired a henna artist. Furthermore, we had individuals who came to the event write their name, fun memory, or tidbit on pre-cut stars and place them on a “constellation”. Additionally, we also provided cultural dishes and desserts from various restaurants around Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

Constellation was a night in which people from all different backgrounds and cultures were able to come together and celebrate. It provided not only a space for people to showcase their own customs and cultures but was a space for people to learn about the cultures of the individuals around them.

Constellation provided a space for people to come together to celebrate our cultural differences and our multicultural university community. With over 250 people attendance, we were able to come together as a diverse community to celebrate ourselves, our heritage, and our diverse experiences.

By: Emily Currier

Civic Dinners: Opportunities to Learn Through Connection

It was a Saturday night, and like many Saturday nights, I just wanted to relax with my friends. This night, I was especially exhausted, though – I had just wrapped up the Net Impact National Conference, a 3-day conference in Phoenix, Arizona on the intersection of business, social impact and sustainability. The conference had consisted of 7 breakout sessions, 4 key note speakers, and a career exposition. There had been thousands of attendees from Net Impact’s 380+ chapters in over 40 countries, so there had been numerous opportunities for networking as well. I, along with the other 10 attendees from the University of Michigan, felt content but exhausted.

But instead of heading back to our lodgings or going out to celebrate, we challenged ourselves one last time through a Civic Dinner. Civic Dinners is a national organization bringing together strangers to discuss hot button issues, like race, gender, politics and more. The dinner consists of one volunteer host (who receives training from the organization), 6-10 guests, 3 big questions on the pre-selected topic, and an ensuing conversation. It’s a special opportunity to meet new people and hear diverse opinions – the attendees are more comfortable sharing intimate experiences and perspectives, both because of the mutual intentions of the group, and because sometimes it’s easier sharing with strangers. I had gone to a Net Impact Conference-affiliated Civic Dinner the year before, and invited my peers to sign up with me.

The topic of my specific dinner was Common Ground. This aimed to encourage participants to grow more comfortable sharing their political beliefs, to get outside of their echo chambers and hear something new, and finally, to recognize the humanity in all people, no matter their political affiliations. The specific questions addressed how we formed our political opinions, times when we’d change our mind, and one potentially controversial opinion we held. Due to the polarized nature of politics in the US today, I was excited to engage with the other participants, but nervous to share and hear diverse political beliefs.

My dinner was different than expected. There were actually 12 participants due to a sign-up glitch, so it was less of a discussion and more a series of short presentations. However, this did allow a greater variety of opinions to be shared. Due to the social impact/sustainability focus of the conference, our political beliefs were all pretty close; however, hearing different stances on different political issues was still exciting but stressful. Each time I presented, I was trembling a little and very nervous – it took a lot of courage to share political beliefs, due to their inherent personal and intimate nature. However, it was a great opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and learn from the strangers around me, and I’m extremely glad I went.

This dinner was more than one conversation – it was an experience that challenged my leadership skills and developed new ones. I literally engaged the world by meeting and talking to Net Impact students and professionals from around the US, and even some who’d travelled internationally to be at the conference. It was amazing to hear the differences between the places we’d grown up, and to find our commonalities despite them. Learning about these new opinions gave me more context for why some people have the strongly help political beliefs they had, and prepared me to better engage with a variety of stakeholders going forward, since I can now be more empathetic. I also improved my active listening skills, since I had to be engaged to encourage other participants to be vulnerable, but couldn’t show my support vocally due to the large number of participants. I’m excited to apply these active listening skills and my strengthened empathy in my leadership roles and positions going forwards.

So while it wasn’t the wild celebration most students might have liked on a Saturday night, the Civic Dinner was an integral part of my conference experience. I was pushed to meet conference attendees from other states and even countries, and heard about the role of politics in their lives, and how they’d formed their political beliefs. I grew more comfortable with difficult conversations, and with asking difficult questions, through pushing myself to be uncomfortable. I also heard different political beliefs and the reasons behind them, which pushed myself to learn from the participants’ different experiences. I am very glad I was able to participate in this Civic Dinner, and am grateful to the Barger Leadership Institute for funding this opportunity.

 

By: Charlene Franke

“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

“I Engaged the World…Literally!”

A small grant from the BLI and a FABULOUS access opportunity allowed me to go on a chance of lifetime-six weeks in England, talking about the “beautiful game” of football ~ British English for American soccer.

Something that many people do not think about is the process to study or intern abroad. For this international internship in Manchester, England with the National Football Museum (thank you, London Access Opportunity!) I had to apply for a visa. This was something I had never done before but was reminded time and time again that even if I booked my plane tickets, I could not get on that plane until I had that visa stamped in my passport booked. That process? Rather lengthy for sure, but I was so concerned that I could not get it in time. And who knows if the Embassy was even going to give me the OK!? I would hate to be that person who is the bearer of bad news and tell my supervisor in England that I could not come over because my visa did not process in time.

However, after some waiting and receiving my passport in the mail, I saw that beautiful visa and knew that it was time to pack my bags to get ready for a trip I will never forget.

I really have to thank BLI and the LSA Opportunity Hub for this amazing opportunity, because I would have never imagined that I would go abroad, not once, but TWICE in a year and the year is not even over yet!

Who knows where I’ll be next…

By Jessica Selzer

Project Lazarus – New Orleans, LA

We want to thank BLI for the grant support that allowed us to significantly subsidize travel expenses for Alpha Epsilon Delta’s ASB trip to New Orleans! We spent the majority of our trip volunteering at Project Lazarus, the oldest and largest residential facility that supports people living with HIV/AIDS in the Gulf Coast region. In addition to housing, Project Lazarus provides services not covered by Medicaid or Medicare, and cultivates a close-knit community among residents. Further, many residents utilize the facility’s serene outdoor spaces in beautiful New Orleans weather.

Justin Pawloski and Emily Lerner work on fixing a bike

During our mornings at Project Lazarus, we played Uno and basketball with the residents. Occasionally, we participated in some of the classes and excursions set up for residents including a photography class, acupuncture, and a walk through the Margeny area to Crescent park. In the afternoons, we primarily helped the ground technician, Carol, with weeding and planting flowers, but also helped with other miscellaneous tasks including fixing the tires on a couple of the residents’ bikes and cleaning up common areas.

 

Emily Lerner and Carissa Bartkowiak take a break from gardening

The night before our last day of service, one of our group members got sick. Through discussion with Project Lazarus, we came to the conclusion that it would be best if we found somewhere else to work for our last day. We spent Friday morning contacting numerous non-profits in New Orleans and ultimately found two great organizations: HandsOn New Orleans and Green Light New Orleans. HandsOn New Orleans connects volunteers with service opportunities in their community. Green Light New Orleans empowers individuals to addresses climate change through use of energy efficient light bulbs, rain barrels, and vegetable gardens in their backyard.

Group members huddle in for a selfie with a resident after a game of UNO

On Friday afternoon, half of our group helped HandsOn New Orleans with demolition on a home owned by the executive director who could not afford to finish his repairs. His work is centered on providing volunteers to help other people, therefore it was rewarding to serve as volunteers to return the favor. The other half of our group split their time between painting rain barrels and gardening at the Green Light community garden.

Megan McKenzie paints a rain barrel for Green Light New Orleans

Out of all the BLI habits, the ones we used the most were ‘Pause and Reflect’, and ‘Expect Challenges’. ‘Pause and Reflect’ was a central habit of our trip given that reflection is one of the essential aspects of a successful alternative spring break trip. Every night after dinner we sat down, discussed our highs/lows of the day and reflected on service and our social identities. Specifically, we had discussions about what motivates our service, how our definition of service has changed or stayed the same, and how, if so, our awareness of different social identities has changed throughout this experience. On our final night, all ASB members wrote a letter to themselves about their experiences on the trip, which we will be meeting to reflect on again in the coming month.

Justin Pawloski, Lauren Weinberg, Brennan Metzler, Tyler Adams, Tosin Adeyemi, Zach Hoisington, and HandsOn New Orleans Director Chris Cameron smile after a long day of demolition

‘Expect Challenges’ was a habit that we wish we had contemplated a little bit more before the trip, but was also a habit that we definitely appreciated and understood more during our last day of service. It was challenging trying to find new organizations to volunteer with last-minute on Friday, but searching through all of the non-profit organizations in New Orleans also opened our eyes to all of the incredible service going on there. Our experience serving at Project Lazarus and at two other amazing non-profits instilled an appreciation for service that many of us will reflect on and carry with us for years to come.

 

By: Tosin Adeyemi, Emily Lerner, and Lauren Weinberg

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