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IceVax: Capstone Bootcamp Reflection

Our project idea before boot camp was to create a box that could transport vaccines over long distances and be stored at cool temperatures that vaccines need to be stored in. We had an idea that there were some places we wanted to implement it in, such as Pakistan and Yemen, through connections we had already established.

Over the course of boot camp, we learned about how many other stakeholders are involved in the implementation process and how there would be many other people we need to contact, from regulators to other community partners. We also figured out which research methods would be most helpful to obtain the data we were looking for. Additionally, we developed a clearer picture of how we would evaluate our success. Lastly, we received a lot of great feedback on our pitch and how we can best present our idea.

One specific personal highlight that we all agree was really cool and helpful was the development of our vision statement which helped us see what our goals were for the future and what work we would have to do in order to get there. Overall, the BLI boot camp was crucial in the development of our project.

By, Essam Alsnayyan, Sikander Khan, Huzaifa Piperdi

Project Healthy Schools Global: Capstone Bootcamp Reflection

Our project idea prior to the Capstone bootcamp included a preventive health education curriculum that was focused on solely diet and nutrition. Project Healthy Schools Global began in 2015, and in 2017 we launched our first pilot run of the program throughout Dhaka, Bangladesh reaching over 200 students. Our team had the advantage of already running a pilot program, however, we still had a lot of room for development.

Throughout the bootcamp, our team received an abundance of valuable and constructive feedback, from other members of our cohort to the panelists we met through speed dating, about how our project can grow and what steps we can take to ensure that it is sustainable. One of the ways that we believed that our project could expand is by making our health education curriculum more comprehensive and capturing the various dimensions of health present in developing countries.

Being culturally aware and sensitive to the community has always been a priority to our team, which is why we’ve, from the beginning, emphasized that our project is culturally adaptive. Though we have already taken steps to ensure that our project is culturally adaptive, the workshops and lessons that taught cultural humility and sensitivity were extremely helpful in recognizing possible unintended consequences and strategies to overcome these obstacles. Moreover, although we are all Bangladeshi, as we travel to Bangladesh in August to complete a needs assessment and engage with stakeholders, we will be seen as outsiders. Therefore, the “Cultural Humility” and ”Working With Communities” workshops were extremely beneficial; we must be aware of the identities we hold and remain cognizant of how our identities will intersect with the identities of the stakeholders we will engage with.

One of our personal highlights from Bootcamp was working alongside and collaborating with other student teams. It was inspiring to engage with other students who were passionate about their projects and genuinely desired to make a positive impact in the world. Seeing other students work hard motivated us to continue working passionately as well. Additionally, every stakeholder and panelist that participated in the bootcamp brought enthusiasm with them. It was wonderful being able to receive advice from people that have significant experience in their industry and that genuinely want to help students succeed. It was also meaningful making these important connections because they may be able to assist us with our projects in the future.

BLI provided numerous resources and guidance to us during this long week, but most noteworthy is the unwavering support that they provided to all the teams by creating a safe space that promoted learning, growth, and compassion.

By, Khadiza Begum, Joeita MacField, Faatimah Raisa

Arete: Capstone Bootcamp Reflection

Before Boot Camp, the consequences of our stated goal hadn’t been fully fleshed out. The problem of recidivism, which we had set out to solve, is incredibly complex. In our initial pitches, we had stated that our organization aimed to reduce the recidivism rate by facilitating philosophical discussions. Over the course of Bootcamp, the GA’s, as well as our guests, helped us clarify and discover what the true focus of this project can be. As recidivism is a large and prevalent issue, there are key influencers of recidivism that we should try to target through our intervention. Instead, we have shifted our focus to measuring the effect of philosophical discussions on critical consciousness and well-being of the incarcerated individuals in our local communities. The research and deliverables completed during Boot Camp provided us with the confidence that something like this could actually have a real and lasting impact-if executed with careful planning and deep understanding. And so, Bootcamp was probably the best experience we could have asked for to better inform us of our project logistics. The overwhelming support and useful feedback provided to us throughout the week was invaluable. Specifically, the judges of our final presentations provided us with the following feedback that made us step back and think deeper about our project: to clarify our why (why are we interested in helping this specific population?), to clarify what our intended aim of using philosophical discussions is (see the effects on incarcerated individuals mindsets?), and to concretely be able to describe what research questions we will be pursuing and with what exact methods. We recognized that our idea appeared to be in the infancy stage and now need to seriously focus on executing an outcome.

By, Rhea Dhingra, Razeen Karim, Osama Saeed

Health Promotion at UM: Capstone Bootcamp Reflection

Health Promotion at UM is a student organization that hopes to improve the health of all people, especially the underserved, through volunteering in the local community and educating the public, while also building a close-knit community for our members to passionately apply medicine and public health to better the lives of others. Our capstone team is Leo Thompson, Monna Meng, and Grace Tremonti.

Before Bootcamp, our main goal was sustainability. We felt that the BLI and their resources could really help us think of ways to make the organization last for a long time, both on campus and out in the community. Although we had brainstormed many broad ideas to approach this goal of “sustainability,” including facilitating our volunteer growth, improving our marketing and recruitment, and optimizing operations, we had not really thought about specific ways we were going to implement it, or what our priorities should be.

One way our idea evolved during Bootcamp was that we shifted from mainly logistical goals to actually wanting to change the culture of our organization, and begin to market Health Promotion as a venue to engage in meaningful, long term service. This shift was really inspired by the things we learned in bootcamp, like starting to evaluate our programs and reflect on what we really want people— both target communities and volunteers— to get out of partnering and working with Health Promotion.

Our idea has also become much more focused, in the sense that we now have a clear idea of how to actually implement and test some of the ideas that we have. One example of this is that through our workshop on literature review, we were able to pinpoint ways to test our ideas on member recruitment and marketing for the club. Bootcamp helped us discover the practical applications of our ideas and how to go about actually making them happen.

Aside from the logistical clarity, the BLI has provided us with during Bbtcamp, we felt that preparing our pitch helped everyone on the team think deeply about their true purpose for pursuing the BLI Capstone for HPUM. Connecting with many experienced professionals has inspired us, given us many new ideas, and helped define our vision to a degree that would not have been possible without the bootcamp. We would have never imagined the direction of HPUM could change so much is such a short period, and we are really excited to see where our summer research takes us!

By, Leo Thompson, Monna Meng, and Grace Tremonti

Capstone 2019 — The Teams

The Barger Leadership Institute is pleased to announce the 2019 Capstone Program teams! These six teams will engage in eight months of designing and implementing evidence-based, collaborative projects that seek to bring about small (and big) wins for the complex problems of today. After eight months of individualized mentorship, research and project management training, and many opportunities to master effective leadership habits.

Building Practical Skills, Practical Mindsets, and a Practical Electric Motorcycle
Kai Schiefer, Luke Wong
This team hopes to reduce carbon emissions by creating an electric motorcycle prototype and introduce technical and management skills to college and high school students.

Host Your Voice*
Amulya Parmar, Ankit Patel, Varun Madan
This team hopes to support nonprofit organizations in reaching more people through online and digital advertising.

arete (philosopy in prisons project)
Rhea Dhingra, Razeen Karim, Osama Saeed
This team hopes to improve in-prison rehabilitation by engaging current incarcerated members in facilitated discussions of philosophical texts.

Project Healthy Schools Global Initiative
Khadiza Begum, Faatimah Raisa, Joeita MacField
This team hopes to create a community-based movement for public health and prevention and promote health literacy. It also seeks to mobilize communities to address social disparities related to health and wellness, be it the disproportionately low access to healthy foods for students of low socioeconomic backgrounds or the limited access to exercise opportunities for young women.

IceVax
Sikander Khan, Essam Al-Snayyan, Huzaifa Piperdi
This team hopes to design and distribute car battery-operated cold boxes to transport vaccines at an appropriate temperature over long distances.

Health Promotion at UM (HPUM)
Leo Thompson, Monna Meng, Grace Tremonti
This team hopes to improve the health of all people, especially the under-served, through volunteering in the local community and educating the public, while also building a close-knit community for their members to passionately apply medicine and public health to better the lives of others. Their Capstone goal is to achieve sustainability, facilitate volunteer growth by improving their marketing and recruitment, facilitate operational expansion, and optimize operations.

* The BLI and The London Idea are thrilled to name Host Your Voice as the London Idea Project for the 2019 Capstone Program! Learn more about the London Idea and the BLI partnership here.

“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

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