“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

Pizza and the Planet

Team 2, bringing you “Pizza and the Planet!”

Our event, “Pizza and the Planet,” was put on April 15 2018 as a part of the BLI Leadership Lab. Our original goal was to educate University of Michigan Students on sustainability initiatives occurring on campus. We ended up doing that by giving our event attendees an overview of the Planet Blue Ambassador training program and having UMBees come and talk about their org. We also provided pizza and compostable materials in order to make our event Zero Waste. 

We learned a lot about how to communicate with diverse individuals in a more professional setting, especially through meeting with our stakeholders. These meetings also honed our problem-solving and quick-thinking skills. Specifically, our meeting with a representative from the Office of Campus Sustainability helped us understand how we could go about planning our event. We did further research and ended up meeting with a representative from Planet Blue in which we realized the need for education on surrounding sustainability initiatives on campus and the Planet Blue Ambassador Program.

One BLI habit that was essential to our project was “Start Small.” When exploring potential topics to address through our project, we began with the broadest possible idea: the environment and health. As we progressed through the Leadership Lab, we narrowed our focus and learned to define concrete goals for our project. Starting small has encouraged us to plan and execute seemingly insurmountable tasks and focus on achieving our goals. Another BLI habit which was vital to our project was “Work to Learn.” Our project team had already been utilizing this habit in planning our event. We received great feedback from our peers in the Leadership Lab and we incorporated their suggestions into our project. In addition, we both learned how to execute our event and grew as leaders through taking concrete steps toward a project in which we lacked prior knowledge. Finally, we “Engaged the World.” Engaging the world is what helped us narrow our focus for our project. After meeting with a representative from the Office of Campus Sustainability, we learned that they would value having the word spread about their various initiatives. We learned what one of our stakeholders needed and we tailored our project to suit that need. By utilizing these three main habits and parts of some others, we were able to learn both how to execute an event of this nature and what it means to be a leader while doing so.

On top of the aforementioned habits, another one we ended up using a lot was “Expect Challenges.” The most notable challenge occurred the day before our event, when we received an email from a representative from Planet Blue. Although there had been no information about this online, we were informed that we were supposed to be officially trained to guide others through the Planet Blue training. We then had to come up with an immediate solution on since our event was happening the next day. After brainstorming, we were able to come up with a response satisfactory to all parties. Doing our own research, we were able to create our own presentation to give to our audience. From there, we let them know of the Planet Blue website so they could pursue the training if they wished to. Of course, we faced many other challenges throughout the course of the project, the first one involving the topic of our project. We had no real “vision” for our project until after the first few weeks had passed. We wanted to focus on what our stakeholders had to say about our topic, because they had way more expertise than any of us did. After these meetings and brainstorming both on our own and with our peers, we could finally form a vision for our project.

As a result of our event, we had twelve students become Planet Blue Ambassadors. This truly speaks to the idea of starting small. Not only did we really step back and put on a small event, we had a smaller crowd show up. This is usually seen in a negative light, but we believe the small crowd fostered a more intimate environment than a standard

Our project group with most of our attendees!

presentation would have. Feeling comfortable is one of the most important factors to consider when putting on an event like this. The people who a ended our event were engaged with the material we were presenting many people said the part they liked the most was either the material itself or the way it was presented. We also found multiple comments regarding the learning environment we created. It felt great to feel like our event could have made a difference, even if it wasn’t one we had originally considered, and we hope our progress continues as we move into the future.

Going forward, our group plans to meet with more Planet Blue representatives  to establish a more formal event for the fall. We would like to actually be trained to present the full Planet Blue Ambassador training content, as we had a comment regarding this in the “comments/suggestions” sec on of our survey. We hope to be able to reach out to more student organizations on campus and have them involved with bringing awareness to their initiatives, in addition to crafting an opportunity for them to recruit more members. There is also the potential to work with the School of Public Health in order to inform incoming students of their programs. We are looking forward to seeing what happens when we have the me and resources to implement a larger-scale event!

By: Madeleine Conrad, Andres Davalos, Olivia Gregg, Jessica Kosticak

i’M SAFE

Hey, you! Yes, you. Are you afraid of the dark? If you are, then you’re a part of a very specific group of people — a group of people who also feel the same way. However, those of you who do feel afraid are also part of a different group of people. You walk home at night, unsure. What lurks in the dark? Do you want to find out? (probably not). Okay, maybe that’s an overestimate. Or maybe it’s an underestimate? Hard to tell.

i’M SAFE was dedicated to finding answers the past few months. We wanted to know a) who feels unsafe? and b) who can help them? We are happy to say that we can definitively give answers to these questions. Suffice it to say, we are dissatisfied with the answers. However, we should first talk about our journey, our story. It wasn’t a long road, but it is a road worth reflecting on.

When i’M SAFE was formed, we had little more to bring us together than the BLI itself. Four freshmen and two sophomores bound together by some inexplicable love of nighttime campus safety, but not much else. We like to think we’re fun people, but how were we supposed to know that? Our first meetings were like rocky road ice cream; that is, like a rocky road. It wasn’t perfect, okay? Excitement and motivation were high, but none of us knew what to do. It was almost a disaster really–kinda like melted rocky road. A slush of uncertainty mixed in with an abundance of ideas, along with a sprinkle of dissonance. Sure, we could put some ideas out and throw out others, but the scope of our project was yet to be realized. The navigation through this sludge of rocky road had immediately begun.

The next few meetings were very formative. We slowly refined our idea into something: a survey with 100 respondents. Next, we had to set up an event: a table set up on the Diag. Finally, we wanted to talk to DPSS or SAPAC about our survey. We had some direction, and all that was left was to execute. Ever watch a video of a bunch of dominos falling? It was like that.

A lot of our time was spent on the survey. Luckily, Shubhangi is a statistics wizard, so we sent out an amazing survey that received 117 people responses. More on the results later. Let’s talk more about our tabling event. We created a surveying event out on the Diag with paper surveys for people to fill out and made sure we had incentives to do so; free coffee and mini-flashlights were definitely the way to go. It was absolutely not what we expected it to be: a few hours of chatting up passerbys, chillin’ in the Diag spot. The chillin’ part is definitely accurate; we were actively fighting frostbite (who knew it would that cold in November-clearly not us!). In reality, we had people stop by at about 15 minutes before the hour up until 10 after the hour, but never after. However, we were still pleased with our results: 24 surveys filled out, two boxes of coffee poured (we promise most of it wasn’t us trying to keep warm), and 50 flashlights handed out. If you were in our Leadership Lab, you know the type. These surveys were piled in with our general surveys.

Before we could talk to DPSS or SAPAC, we had to come up with a nice report for them to take a look at. Once again, Shubhangi came to the rescue with T-tests and her statistics magic. The results? Unfortunately, women feel significantly more unsafe at night. We can’t look at our survey results and say why, but we do know what the data tells us. What we also know is that many students on campus are unaware of the resources out there to help them get home at night.

The three BLI Leadership Habits that were essential to our project were Value Difference, Expect Challenges, and Combine-Collect-Create. From the start, it was clear that we were all very different; we had different interests, personalities, and work ethics. So during our first meeting, we made sure to use these differences to our advantage and also made sure to identify what would work collectively in terms of running our meetings. As a result, this made both the execution of the project along with the team meetings very efficient. In addition, given the short time frame of the Leadership Lab, it was clear that challenges were inevitable. We made sure that we always had a backup plan in what we were doing in case we encountered a challenge that would prevent us from executing out our original plan. Last, in order to execute out our project, we made sure to combine our ideas, collect qualitative and quantitative data by surveying students through social media platforms and through an event on the Diag, and ultimately worked to create a data report that we will hand into DPSS and SAPAC.  

Our most important challenge was figuring out the details of what exactly we want to do to make the campus a safer space. We had big ideas initially such as starting a student run system of walking students to their destinations at night, or fixing the night lights on campus. We were confounded by variables such as which areas we want to cover and improving the safety of fraternities or other social organizations. We worked through by critically analyzing every possible solution in the context of the time and resource limits. When we finally decided on creating a data backed and usable report for campus organizations that aim to improve safety students such as DPSS or SAPAC, we were able to take off from there.

While i’M SAFE isn’t going to go the distance, we still plan on advocating safety on campus as individuals, we will not continue this as a collective group effort. However, we do plan on staying connected with the BLI by attending Lunch & Learns to catch up and speak to other members of the leadership lab about our experience, as well as keep in contact with each other.

 

By: Adam Cohn, Anna Joshi, Shubhangi Kumari, Gregory Meyer, Ben Oostendorp, and Tanushri Thakur

Sharing Cultures: Promoting Multicultural Thoughts and Knowledge on Campus

Our project was originally imagined as a solution to increase multicultural
awareness on campus. While our campus is very diverse and there are many
international students who have a lot to offer, all three members of our team agreed that
there was not enough embracement of this great diversity. We all came from different
backgrounds, spoke several languages and had traveled about the world and we decided
we wanted to show others how great it can be to learn more about other countries.
However, we knew that attempting to improve multicultural awareness and inclusion on
campus and in the world is a huge undertaking that many people work on for their entire
careers. Therefore, it was important for us to find a way to make this the goal of our project within the time frame and resources we had. Focusing on a small aspect and using
University resources we were able to find a small but elegant proposal as a project. We
focused on the first step to gaining interest in other cultures, just catalyzing students
curiosity with…food! From our experience we knew that this is a typical way in which
people begin getting interested in other cultures.

The project consisted in buying various candies and other treats from 15 different
countries ranging from the Americas and Europe to Africa and Asia using the small project
BLI grant we were awarded. Attached to these treats was a list of facts about each country
including: its capital, how to say ‘hello’ or other phrases, facts on popular music, famous
landmarks, architecture, politics, currency, and other miscellaneous fun facts. As the
people approached the table, they picked one of the treats and we provided them with
the fact sheet and would strike up a conversation, if they desired it.

Our project’s goal was to raise awareness of different cultures, so to determine
this, we asked the people who participated in the event what they had learned from our
table. We created a short video compilation of some of the responses. The event had 77
registered attendees plus additional people who left before being able to provide their
uniqname. We approximate this to be about 30 people at least. We purchased and
handed out $188 worth of products from over 15 countries from around the world. We
consider the event to have been very successful and would like to thank the BLI for all
their support.

By Daniela Mejia, Daijha Morrow, and Justin Cadarette

The Dot Org – Go With the Flow, Stop Menstrual Stigmas

With our grant money, we focused on a manageable goal for our greater project idea, and hosted a publicity event titled ‘The Period Party’. At this event, we spread the word of our soon to be established organization over the course of two days in the hall of Mason Hall. The event occurred on November 27th and 28th, and occured from 4-6 on both days. During this event, we distributed 500 stickers/small flyers, 100 cupcakes, and many bags of candies. Then, we started conversations with the students and teachers who wanted the food and stickers. We answered a lot of questions about the reality of the menstrual stigma, and had interesting conversations with students and teachers who were mostly supportive of our cause. This event was important to further our success, because it spread awareness of an issue that many do not understand or care about. Through these conversations, we ended up getting contact information from about 20 people interested in joining our cause, as well as many follows and likes on our social media pages. The food and decorations we bought with the grant money was what attracted people to our area in the hall, and allowed us to start conversations about our issue.

dotorgcupcakesOut of all the BLI habits existing, the ones we used the most were ‘Start Small’, ‘Engage the World’, and ‘Expect Challenges’. ‘Start Small’ influenced how we began defining how our team could succeed by the end of Leadership Lab. We recognized that we needed to start with smaller goals to accomplish, instead of big ones. The Period Party event was a tangible goal for Leadership Lab, and was a great way to start conversations on campus about the problem we address as well as the existence of our group. The second habit we used was ‘Engage the World.’ We contacted representatives from other student groups such as the American Association of University Women and Greek Life as well as our peers and asked for feedback on whether people would be willing to contribute to our cause in the future, and also if people supported our cause in general.

dotorglogoOur Period Party event allowed us to engage with students and professors and discuss the issue and how we plan to make a change with our organization. The third habit we used was ‘Expect Challenges’. In general, we always created a backup plan in case our ideal goals were not possible. We knew it would be hard to successfully plan and complete a drive before the end of the BLI section, but we had our Period Party publicity event as a backup idea. As a group, we learned the importance of creating alternate strategies.

By: Marisela Angulo, Justine Burt, Mallory Dementer, Gabby Morin, and Nina Serr

Bridging the Gap

On Friday, December 1st, our group hosted Bridging the Gap — a night of discussion, pizza, and puzzles. We intended to have a discussion with 30 people, talking about events and working on puzzles. We hoped to work with more stakeholders and to reach out to conflicting groups on campus to get diversity of opinion in participants. Due to time constraints, we were unable to collaborate with most of these groups. However, we do feel that the event was a success. Although we did not have 30 people attend, the fourteen who did enjoyed the event and said they would be interested in attending a similar event in the future.

bridgethegapdiscussionThe three BLI values that were essential to our project were Value Difference, Always Ask, and Collect, Combine, Create. Valuing difference was the driving force and focus of the initiative. Every participant and facilitator brought different opinions and experiences to the table, and we learned from those differences. One of the phrases within the Value Difference habit is “let discomfort inspire,” which is what we strived for in our project. We also asked existing groups on campus to learn from what they had to offer. Some of our original plans already existed on campus, so we wanted to learn more about how to create a unique but salient event for students. In this way, Always Ask was a byproduct, as we learned to ask for feedback and gained experience creating a new project on campus. We discovered that our first set of ideas were fairly similar to the work that other groups are doing on campus, such as We Listen. Programs like Intergroup Relations have a similar focus in that they try to encourage dialogue between those with different life experiences who may not see eye-to-eye. We collected the gist of their work and combined them with our own ideas for creation.

Bridge the Gap LogoThe challenge we faced was reaching out to stakeholders and participants. We contacted stakeholders on multiple occasions, but only one responded. They were unable to assist us because of a more pressing matter. We managed because the team remained flexible. We also focused on bringing people from our own circles rather than the general U-M community to ensure participants showed up. Of course the event remained open to the general public, but the direct invites are what proved successful.

bridgethegapteamOur group works well together, and we are respectful of each other’s opinions and differences. The biggest issue we would want to address moving forward is availability and responsiveness to meetings outside of class. Each person in our group was busy during the weeks of the Leadership Lab, which made it difficult to schedule meetings that each member could attend. Sometimes when we had meetings scheduled, we ended up not being able to meet due to other commitments. Prioritizing meetings and working on better communication would be significant changes that would need to be made to improve the success and functionality of this group going forward.

Some lessons that we learned include that planning an event takes longer than expected. It is important to advertise an event on campus and to plan ahead in order to do so. We should have applied to the BLI small grant earlier, in order to receive funds early enough to make flyers and put them up around campus. We evaluated the success of our project via the number of attendees, the organization of the event, as well as the flow of dialogue. All of these variables were exceptional, and overall the event went well. The number of attendees was perfect for our first event, but from here on we hope to reach larger numbers and connect with other groups with different mindsets.

By: Meredith Days, Max Grahl, Noah McNeal, Camron Razdar, and Josiah Walker

SustainabiliTEAM

On Thursday, November 30th, our project group SustainabiliTEAM created a successful tabling event that educated people on simple, easy ways to be more environmentally sustainable in their daily life. This event also produced a visual representation of the impact the event had on the campus community with the SustainabiliTREE. So, we ended up accomplishing what we set out to do. The event accomplished the central goals we originally set: educating and promoting sustainable habits on campus. The way that we ended up fulfilling these goals, however, was completely different to the original vision. Our original vision was to create a video educating students on simple environmentally sustainable habits. This video never got past the planning stage, as we quickly realized it was an unrealistic goalª and, we scaled down our project to a tabling event that produced the same results we expected from the video.

Three BLI Leadership Habits that were essential to our project include Start Where You Are, Collect, Combine, Create, and Start Small.

  • Start Where You Are: Where we were in the beginning of the course and the connections we had, it just wasn’t feasible for our video. We found that the resources we had could be the start of an event or smaller project, and began to formulate that instead.
  • Collect, Combine, Create: We all came into this project with a lot of new ideas and different backgrounds. All of our strengths came together to formulate this project, and we were able to work through each other’s weaknesses. Our project was successful.
  • Start Small: We had started with a huge goal of implementing a sustainability video on campus. This was unrealistic for our time. So we scrapped this idea and started small, with a more realistic goal that could be accomplished.

Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 12.14.21 PMThe most important challenge our team faced was coming up with a realistic plan that would still fulfill our goal in educating students on how to be more environmentally sustainable on and off campus. We started off with an unrealistic goal in mind, but through feedback from others, self-reflection, and group discussion, we formed a cohesive achievable target that satisfied the bottom line we set while including unique aspects. With our collected ideas and rational thinking, our tabling event went smoothly and fast-paced as anticipated.

We had a positive group dynamic. Our team worked well together and ran into few internal complications. We met every Sunday to discuss our progress and what steps need to be taken. We had additional weekly gatherings as needed. For example, members of our team met to speak to stakeholders and make posters during times outside weekly meetings. The most significant change we could make to improve effectiveness would be devoting more individual time on the project outside of these meetings. We were all effective when working together, but if we could have completed more of the tasks on our own time, which would have left more room for productivity and growth during our group meetings.

Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 12.14.31 PMWe had a few setbacks in the planning stage of our project. After getting told that our initial idea would likely not work we did not know what to do. We had to change our idea quickly because time kept moving even though we did not want it to. When we came up with the idea of a tabling event in Mason Hall, we knew that we had hit a good idea. I think that we learned about flexibility and how to get up after you knocked down. We evaluated the success of our project through how many paint chips we had on the tree and how quickly we ran out of doughnuts. The next steps for our team is to continue utilizing all that we have learned about leadership and working in groups in our everyday lives. This lab has served as a valuable stepping stone for each of us to learn effective leadership strategies while practicing them in our everyday lives. As for our project, we successfully created an awesome educational project that we will continue to promote. Sustainability is a very important topic, and with our knowledge on the subject we will be able to teach the importance of it to others.

By: Olivia Chan, Laci Duvernois, Allyssa Garza, Charles Jones III, Katie Kubityskey, and Maddie Topping

Team Diversity – Bias Incident Reporting

Our original vision called for a student maintained response system to bias incidents on campus, but we quickly realized that this was not realistic for our time constraint. We then decided to simply focus on the University’s bias incident reporting log. After realizing that none of us actually knew how to report a bias incident to the university, we made this the focus of our project. We partnered with Expect Respect and held a successful tabling event that taught students how to identify a bias incident and all the ways to report it to the University. People were able to enjoy a free donut, take a flyer with all the information we gave them, and take swag (stickers, buttons, and bracelets) provided by Expect Respect. We sent out a survey before the event and learned that 76.9 % of students did not feel confident identifying a bias incident, and 50% of those students did not know how to report one to the University. After visiting our table, 84.1% felt confident they could identify a bias incident and 62.2% knew how to report an incident to the university. We were able to teach students how to report a bias incident in a short amount of time and make a small positive impact for diversity in our campus community.

Three BLI Leadership Habits that guided our project were “Start Small,” “Build a Team,” and “Collect, Combine, Create.” Initially, we found that it was difficult to find a project that was small enough to have a big impact on the community. Once we completely changed our project, we were able to better collect our thoughts, combine as a team, and create a project that would benefit the student population. In our weekly meetings, we welcomed new ideas and combined our visions of a successful project. Finally, we were able to build a team, not only within our immediate group, but the community at large. We partnered with Expect Respect to develop a project that increased awareness on what a bias incident is and how to report it.

One of the biggest challenges that we faced was that our issue was quite broad, and knowing our time and resources were a bit limited, we needed to rethink our initial idea. Thus, we opted to develop a plan in which a meaningful impact can be made but just executed on a smaller scale. Since our initial plan was ambitious, we realized this soon enough and reconstructed our project idea to better meet the expectations set for us. As mentioned in the BLI habits that were exercised, we focused on starting small and developing a more realistic perspective to tackle the issue at hand, which was the lack of exposure to reporting bias incidents. After our event, this method proved to be successful as we were able to gather a significant amount of people to come by and grab a donut while learning how to report bias incidents!

Our team included people from three out of the four grade levels, and all different experiences at the University of Michigan. Our team really succeeded in collaborating because we are able to combine our different perspectives, and contribute each of our individual vision for what this project should look like, to make an end product we will all proud of. When we began working, we all had different ideas of what this project should look like, but by taking the time during our meeting to describe what we wanted to get out of this experience, we were able to make sure everyone’s ideas were equally represented. Other than that, everyone in our group were just kind to one another. The respect each member of the group gave to each other was part of the reason why our group had such an accepting climate: it was very comfortable to contribute new ideas. As opposed to what our group succeeded in, the primary area where our group struggled was finding a good time for us all to meet. It was really hard to all meet up at the same time since we had time-conflicting prior commitments. We ended up making it work in the end though by utilizing online messages software like GroupMe to communicate ideas.

As we were working on this project, our group gained many skills that were useful for personal development. We learned to inform other team members when problems arise such as schedule conflict and to give each other’s honest feedback. This allowed us to have an open and efficient communication in a group setting. We also learned to formulate a clear and practical goal that our group could accomplish in a limited time and resources which helped us develop a smart planning strategy for future projects. It was definitely hard to coordinate meeting times with not only the other team members but also our partner Expect Respect, but we learned to still be actively engaged through different means of communication and to be more flexible. The acquisition of these essential skills defines the success of our project.

The project was a great success, and as such, we are excited about potentially putting on this event again, potentially once or twice per semester. Since the logistical elements have now been figured out, it would not be too difficult to put this event on again, and we were able to successfully connect with a lot of students in a short time period. Moving forward, our team is considering continuing to work together and with BLI to sponsor this donut event once-twice per semester, but we also have individual goals within BLI. All of us are interested in continuing our leadership here in some capacity, whether than be through trips, the capstone, or potentially teaching the course next semester!

 

By: Devan O’Toole, Evie Winter, Mehrin Ahmed, Sophie Partington, Hannah Dang, and Ashya Smith