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Japan - May 2019


In most stories of individual leadership development, there is a moment where someone - a mentor, a boss, a friend - opens a door. We hope to give select Michigan students, our BLI Fellows, just these kinds of chances. Access to real unvarnished examples of leadership allows students to begin to make sense of the complex tasks and skills contemporary leaders must bring to bear on the world. 

May 2019, eight BLI Leadership Fellows joined BLI director Ramaswami Mahalingam in Japan for a two week immersive mindful peace leadership journey. Students learned about mindfulness and peace leadership in different contexts and fields, explored the history, took in the culture, and experienced an unforgettable glimpse into this timeless country.

Students observed and learned about mindfulness practices and contemplative art with a focus on Japanese aesthetics to help build their leadership portfolio to promote peace, dignity, and sustainability in their personal, social and workplace domains.


A big thank you to Barbara Shenk and Dannie Otto for all for their time, work and dedication to help us engage with presenters, artists, and activists in Hiroshima – Shoichi (Shaw) Fujii, Professor Bo Jacobs, Dr. Ronald Klein, Tatsushi Amano, Jumpei Hirao, and Erika Abiko. We truly value all those that shared their time and experience with our students.

We are grateful for– Mirei Tashiro and Dannie Otto for coordinating the performance and visit with Tatsushi Amano, and for Tatsushi Amano for performing his monodrama, Living with Father. Ms. Ai Yabuki for all her assistance in coordinating the UNITAR visit, Nassrine Azimi for presenting on Peace and Conflict Resolution and the work of UNITAR. Ryuichi Ito of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for all his efforts to plan our group visit to the agency.

We appreciate – the generosity of U-M alum Bonnie Dixon, B.A., ‘78 and J.D., ’81, for hosting a special dinner for our students in Tokyo, and to Suzy Salib from LSA Advancement for making the introduction to Ms. Dixon. Goro Oshida, for leading our students on an illuminating and engaging tour of underground Tokyo. Our founder, Dave Barger, whose presence and participation on this inaugural trip, is invaluable for students and staff alike.

Many thanks to Brad Hammond of the U-M Center for Japanese Studies and Asinda Sirignano of the LSA Global Engagement team for all their assistance, training and guidance that helped prepare our students for the trip.

We are filled with gratitude for the many people who made our Japan trip memorable.

The BLI Fellows

Jessica Kosticak

Mehrin Ahmed

Justine Burt

Marissa Sotomayor

Semia Clay

Christiana Cromer

Freddie DeLaRosa

Emma Ma