Japan Peace Leadership: Reflection

I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to take part in this trip. Not only did I learn an immense amount of history, but I was also able to better connect with myself as well as establish lifelong friendships. Prior to this trip, I had no idea what to expect. Of course, during our pre-departure meetings, we were able to get a general idea of what we were doing, but none of us had any idea what to expect during our actual workshops. I believe my biggest takeaway from the trip came from the workshop at UNITAR in Hiroshima. When Nassrine was talking about what the organization does, her passion was shining through. It was evident how much she cares about the well-being of people and wants to help benefit the world. After their official presentation, I was talking to her about the conditions of the environment and how much work needs to be done, and she told me how her family constantly questions her for being a vegetarian and using reusable chopsticks. She explained that not eating meat, using reusable straws, and recyclable chopsticks are all small changes that she can make, so she does what she can. I was so inspired, it brought me to tears. I literally could not hold back the waterworks, and she hugged me. The experience at UNITAR helped me realize that I am passionate about making a change and being the difference. There is nothing more I want than to make an impact in this world, and this experience allowed me the opportunity to realize that my passions can be applicable to a career.

In addition to the experience at UNITAR, the overall time in Hiroshima was incredibly eye-opening. I am embarrassed to admit that prior to this trip, I truly never understood what happened in Hiroshima. I was never taught about Pearl Harbor or the Hiroshima bombing or Nagasaki, so prior to the trip, I did a lot of research. Through all of my research, I never came close to finding anything as powerful, informative, or moving as any of the presentations we were able to experience in Hiroshima. It made me realize that it is possible to move forward in a way of peace — regardless of how much violence, aggression, and hatred is behind an act of evil.
At times, I felt embarrassed of the United States, and so many of the people who we were able to meet seemed so proud to be a part of a country that established a community of peace after such devastation. It was very telling of how we deal with tragedy. In our society, when something happens, the first thing we do is point our fingers. Then, we get revenge. After seeing how Hiroshima was able to establish their mayor’s vision of peace, it made me want to bring back my knowledge of peaceful leadership and spread the word that we need to do the same here in America. Although we are the country that influences the rest of the world, we need to step away from the ever-present power dynamic and accept the fact that we can learn some things from other nations around the world.

By, Marissa Sotomayor

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

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