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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.

Sincerely,
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.

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

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

Vinita – Virya Mobility 5.0 (Bangalore, India)

The Start-Up Environment

Interning at a start-up has been a completely new experience for me. The work culture is very much how one would expect a start-up to be – quiet, small and scenic. In fact, my first day was also the first day of the first employees they hired, and it was the first day of the new office. It has been a busy first two weeks. The work pressure is high; it’s all-hands-on-deck where everyone is helping out with each other’s roles. Everyone works 6 days a week, and most people stay back till quite late in the evening. It leaves me with little time after work, but I’m hoping this will improve in the coming weeks as everyone gets settled in.

Bangalore in synonymously known as the City of Gardens, of which the location of my office is a living example. Replacing two walls are two large window panes showcasing the famous palm trees, sunny skies and colorful flowers Bangalore is famous for. The greenery provides a calming effect, allowing creativity to flow and brighten the atmosphere. I personally really enjoy the casual atmosphere – be it the dressing attires, the friendliness or our daily debates on which restaurant to order from. Plus, everyday there is some new addition to the office, from the coffee machine to paintings and plants. It’s interesting to witness the company and office being constructed piece by piece.

While there is still an element of hierarchy within the company, I have really bonded well with some of the new employees. We’ve even planned to go to an escape room this week, and soon go on a scuba diving trip nearby! I’m excited to build friendships alongside learn from my co-workers.

Mid-Point Reflection

It has been three and a half weeks into my internship, and it’s been a steep learning curve. I had hoped to get exposure to the fields I would be working in after graduation. With interests in Business/Economics and Computer Science, I wanted tasks that covered all these 3 subject areas so that the experience would solidify my decision to pursue these areas, through a more informed decision on where it would lead my future. As I progress through the internship, I think this goal still accurately describes my experience.

Goat 1The tasks I have been given are very interesting and varied, giving me exposure on different avenues of business. I have been involved in things from market research, to consumer in-sighting and developing job descriptions. Currently I am working on developing financial models to provide a recommendation whether they should full own or franchise the product, and this is something I am particularly enjoying. I have never been exposed to financial data and to dive into modelling has been a fun, steep learning curve. The experience is creating a growing interest in finance that I want to further explore academically. My work has an immense impact on the direction the company does to go in, and I’m glad that I’m contributing in a meaningful manner to the firm.

My co-workers all have an engineering background, which does make me stand apart – I do not have an engineering background. Occasionally while it does create a drift that I do not necessarily understand their discussions, I am slowly overcoming my hesitancy to ask questions and clarifications. I am increasingly being more questioning, and I have learned exponentially on the physics behind systems and how that can be applied to daily life. Our differences turned out to be a blessing in disguise!

I would be able to explore the Indian work culture and gain a better understanding on how leadership skills can be transferred between different types of projects. This would allow me to both develop my skills and also gain a deeper understanding on how to employ leadership skills effectively in a global context. In an organization that will scale up alongside the emerging economy, I look forward to learning how leaders adapt to an evolving economic climate, in order to have the most impact and be successful. Especially in the technology hub of the country, this experience will provide valuable and a unique insight into the electric vehicle market in a developing country.

The month has been a phenomenal learning experience, where I have grown in both knowledge and also as an individual and my leadership skills. I’m excited to see what the next month have in store for me!

Overcoming Obstacles

One of the most valuable experiences I have had in the internship was conducting financial modelling. The final goal was to provide my recommendation on whether the company should own or franchise their large-scale product. While it was my most favorite task, it has simultaneously been my hardest task.

What made this such a phenomenal experience is the fact that prior to this internship, I have never been exposed to financial data nor any form of financial modelling. When given my task and goal, it initially felt quite overwhelming and a monumental challenge to carry out. Where do I even begin to build a financial model?  What does it comprise of? What do I even model to derive results and an eventual recommendation? It seemed that I had more questions than answers. And yet, after a week, I managed to achieve a conclusionBangalore

As I began to attempt this large task, I initially strived to study financial models previously
developed by the firm and understand them thoroughly. Asking more questions from the models, I employed online resources and started to self-teach the basics of financial modelling. Before I knew, I was progressing through my modelling, learning exponentially about how to build them – but more importantly, how they were relevant and would help reach and prove my recommendation.

Although learning through YouTube and Google has left gaps in my understanding, I’m excited to explore this new-found interest. As I take a class on these very concepts next semester, I look forward to being able to apply my modelling experiences to class and develop a thorough understanding of the field. My work has an immense impact on the direction the company does to go in, and I’m glad that I’m contributing in a meaningful manner to the firm.