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Capstone Experience

Capstone Experience in Evidence-Based Leadership

The Capstone Experience at the Barger Leadership Institute (BLI) supports undergraduate students in designing and implementing evidence-based, collaborative projects that seek to bring about small (and big) wins for the complex, ambiguous problems that exist in our deeply interconnected world. Through generous funding and extensive mentorship, student teams will write a research proposal; collect and analyze sound, rigorous evidence; develop a project; create a budget; implement the project. BLI will provide funding up to $10,000, individualized mentorship, research and project management training, and many opportunities to master effective leadership habits. 

Student teams are encouraged to submit project proposals that address at least one of the following topics:

  • Mitigate social disparities (i.e. unequal distribution of resources and services in education, housing, income, occupational safety, access to physical and mental healthcare, etc.) across/within cultures, ethnicities, race, gender, sexualities, abilities, and/or regions to ensure equity;

  • Strengthen the connections between community and nature (e.g. plants, animals, landscape and other products of the earth)  in enduring, nurturing, and sustainable ways;

  • Improve wellbeing (i.e. improved mental and physical health) and resilience (i.e. people’s capacity to thrive against obstacles);

  • Use technology for social transformation, that is to improve the quality of life for people marginalized by visible (e.g. race, gender, ability) or invisible (e.g. socioeconomic status, ability, sexual orientation, mental health) identities; and/or

  • Promote sustainable environmental behavior (e.g. recycling, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, consumerism).

Want to learn more?

Read this article in Engaged Michigan about three of our 2018 Capstone teams: VenueTourist, Heal-Move-Shift, and Being First!

The London Idea Partnership

One lucky Capstone team is selected annually as the London Idea Project. The student team selected will benefit from specialized support for their action, connections to mentors, and a visit to Chicago to connect with leaders in their chose field of study. While in Chicago, the team will have an opportunity to present at The London Idea Foundation benefit.

The London Idea was created to celebrate the legacy of Adam London, a 2011 graduate of the University, majoring in Organizational Studies. He was an innovative ideator, a passionate creator, and an avid explorer. The London Idea Foundation's partnership with BLI continues Adam’s work connecting people and ideas.

The BLI and The London Idea are thrilled to announce the 2019 TLI team - Host Your Voice!


  • All team members must be current undergraduates in good academic standing who are enrolled at the University of Michigan through December 2019

  • At least one team member must be a BLI Fellow who has completed ALA 170

  • Teams must have a minimum of two members and up to a maximum of four members who are actively participating in the program including attendance at all required dates

  • All participating team members must be available for the dates listed below. Note that the bootcamp (May 6-10, 2019) is a full-time, mandatory commitment with deliverables to be completed each night. Students are expected to be available for in-person programming from 8 AM - 6 PM.

Capstone 2019 Timeline

The Capstone Experience will take place from March to December 2019 starting with pre-Bootcamp workshops, an intensive one-week Bootcamp training (May 6-10, 2019), a summer data collection phase, and a fall implementation phase.

Info Session 1:

Wednesday, January 30 | 5:30-7 PM | Weiser 855

Info Session 2:

Friday, February 8 | 12-1:30 PM | Weiser 8th floor, BLI open space

Application Deadline: March 11, 2019 | 11:59 PM

Program Cycle: March 2019 - December 2019

Winter 2019: Cohort meetings on 3/29, 4/12 | 3-6 PM

Spring Bootcamp: May 6-10 | 8 AM - 6 PM

Spring Showcase: Friday, May 10 | 10 AM-3 PM

Summer Data Collection: June - August 2019

Fall Implemention: September - December, 2019

December Showcase: Friday, December 6 | 1:30 - 4 PM

Support and Training

All Capstone Teams are provided with financial support, academic and professional mentorship, and a variety of skills training:

  • Be eligible to receive up to $10,000 of project funding, including stipend support for all students and housing stipend during Bootcamp for students facing financial hardships

  • Experience coaching and mentorship from BLI professional staff, graduate assistants, alumni, and experts in the field

  • Refine research skills such as targeted data collection and analysis, academic literature reviews, survey development, focus groups, and semi-structured interviews with stakeholders

  • Gain experience in grant writing and reporting, budgeting, project management, teamwork, public speaking, navigating ambiguity, stakeholder analysis, and curating and managing an advisory board (if required for your project)

  • Learn about ethically and equitably engaging with a community

  • Receive and integrate ongoing, timely feedback into project development and implementation

  • Engage in critical reflection

  • Cultivate a professional community through networking opportunities and cohort meetups


Not sure if your idea qualifies?

Schedule a consultation! The Capstone Program does not require a fully fleshed out idea. If you’re unsure about whether your idea or project qualifies, schedule a consultation with BLI Academic Program Manager, Fatema Haque,

How do you select projects to fund?

We review your completed applications, invite promising teams to interview in-person, and then the selection committee makes the final decision.

Will you notify teams if they are not accepted into the program?

Yes, all teams will be notified of our final decisions!

My project has received funding from another source. Am I eligible to apply?

Yes. We allow projects that have received funding elsewhere as long as you can commit to meeting all of our requirements.

2018 Cohort

Alternate Reality Initiative

Michael Zhang - Business Administration, 2021
Matthew Kosova - Industrial and Operations Engineering, 2021

The Alternate Reality Initiative (ARI) is the first student organization at the University of Michigan centered around virtual, augmented, and mixed reality (XR) technology. After seeing a lack of hardware access and learning opportunities, we created ARI to provide opportunities for students to explore, learn, build, and connect with XR technology. Through weekly meetings, ARI is fostering a community of the next generation of XR innovators by hosting development workshops, discussing industry news, and connecting students to opportunities in the greater XR ecosystem.

Being First: A Podcast for Bridging the First-Gen Gap

Lance Bitner-Laird - Sociology, 2019
Carlos Henderson - Sociology, 2019

The Being First podcast lifts the voice of first generation college students while shedding light on the issues that these students face through dialogue about social capital and how to acquire it, candid conversations about the first-gen experience, and challenging the first-gen landscape of the university. 

The Dot Org

A student organization dedicated to reducing the stigma surrounding menstruation and providing greater access to menstrual hygiene products. We are passionate about our project, because as women who experience menstruation, we have seen the effects it can have on social and mental health.


Tariq Mekkaoui - Biomolecular Science, 2020
Mariam Reda - Creative Writing, 2020
Mohsin Arsiwala - Public Health, 2021

Heal-Move-Shift (HMS) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that aims to actively educate and partner with Middle Eastern and North African (ME/NA) communities regarding three tenets of health: Cardiovascular, Nutritional, and Mental Health. The target mission is to Heal the community, Move the conversation towards a healthier direction, and Shift the stigma away from pressing health concerns through creative and active engagement with Detroit and Ann Arbor communities, along with education programs unique to each community's pressing health concerns. 

Migrant Education Initiative

Victoria Villegas - Sociology, 2020
Amanda Gomez - Information, 2019

The Migrant Education Initiative (MEI) is working with the Van Buren Intermediate School District (VBISD) to create an initiative aiming to bring more students of Migrant backgrounds to the University of Michigan. The VBISD is located in Van Buren county, an area with one of the highest Migrant populations in the state of Michigan- it’s the largest migrant-serving program in the state.


Grace Wang - Business Administration, 2021
Jessica Vinagolu-Brar - Psychology, 2021

NavNextSteps is an organization aimed towards helping high school students navigate the collegeapplication process. The problem we have identified is that no web-based “one-stop shop” exists forstudents applying to higher education schools. This debilitates students’ ability to pursue this alternativeoption for higher education. We utilize technology to create a difference in the world of education and to help simplify the steps to take to apply to college. NavNextSteps is specifically designed to help low income high school students access and efficiently complete their college applications.


Raymond Sukanto - Business & Computer Science, 2020
Daniel Kaper - Computer Science, 2020
Victor Mahdavi - Business Administration, 2020
Matthew Samaan - Organizational Studies, 2020

The problem that we are solving with UpNext is people’s inability to have a say in the music playing around them in a party and other social settings. Currently, everyone in the party is at the mercy of the party host, or the owner of the phone attached to the speakers. Many times, peoples’ unique song tastes cause them to argue about which songs to play, causing people in the party not to have a good time.

Our solution is to make it as seamless as possible for everyone in the party to have a say in the music playing. Based on our analysis of the current ecosystem involving music streaming services, businesses and college students, we created UpNext, a live collaborative playlist iOS application. Using UpNext, anyone can add any songs they want and vote on songs; songs with higher vote scores will be played earlier.


Connor Tullis - Business Administration, 2020
Sven Wollschlaeger - Business & Computer Science, 2021

From higher-ed institutions to commercial spaces and more, VenueTourist helps institutions showcaseone of their greatest assets: their venue! Through various 3D modeling services, VenueTourist providesboth clients and users fully customizable and all-immersive virtual reality tour. While individuals oftenface limitation when physically experiencing a building or venue/open space -- time and money -businesses often fail to provide an immersive digital alternative that effectively shows off one of theirgreatest assets: their spaces. Effectively, this is a problem both realized and unrealized. Often, the mostvalue yielding solutions are not the product themselves but what they create/allow for: Apple’s easy platform, Venmo’s convenient transacting, and Uber’s transit share economy. VenueTourist hopes to dothe same: democratize and spread individuals’ ability to be here (digitally) without having to be there (physically).

2017 Cohort

Michigan First

BLI Fellow: Soledad Martinez

The first generation college student identity does not have a concrete definition but instead is very complex and depends on individual circumstances. Based on research and personal experience, many individuals who would normally be considered as first generation student do not self-identify as first generation students. This is due to a lack of education and understanding regarding the complexities of a first generation college student. The individuals also have difficult feeling a sense of community at large institutions such as the University of Michigan.Michigan’s First is to bridge the gap between first generation college students at the University of Michigan and necessary resources available at the university. They are working in collaboration with the Kessler Presidential Scholarship Program. The end product of Michigan’s First will be to create a introductory brochure, student “ how-to” guide, and professional video to be viewed by all incoming freshmen.

Mythbusting our Biases

BLI Fellow: Clara Li
Team: Alyssa Toye, John Schaefer, Victoria Rai

"Mythbusting Our Biases" is based on the premise that individuals’ perspectives are grounded in his/her/their upbringing and experiences. Often, people tend to associate themselves with like-minded individuals. Unfortunately, such practices tend to reinforce personal biases as individuals are not put in positions where their perceptions are thoroughly challenged.The vision of “Mythbusting Our Biases” is to bring awareness to one’s biases, in the hopes of fostering globally competent individuals. We aim to achieve this through events titled “Dinners in the Dark.” Based on the restaurant model that creates an environment for people to have a different sensory experience with food, their version will also blindfold participants during dinner discussions, which will provide a unique way for students to engage in discussions around biases on campus. 


BLI Fellow: Sahibdeep Gill
Team: Allison Winnik, Han Joon Kim

SwingBy is a location based social-networking application that connects friends with hangouts in real time. A user can create an event in seconds and send friends an open invitation to “SwingBy.” Friends can see all the events going on in their area on a map interface in real time, and can choose which event they want to “SwingBy” using photo and video updates of the event to guide their decision.SwingBy has won “Best Technical Solution” at the European Innovation Academy over the summer. SwingBy also came out with a few Silicon Valley investors saying they could see their team at the world famous, Y Combinator. The vision is to launch in Fall 2017 at the University of Michigan campus and to dominate this market with 5,000 users by the end of 2017.


BLI Fellow: IIan Siegel
Team: Arthur Shi

OrgShare is an online student organization information sharing platform that allows students to rate, review, and navigate professional orgs on campus. Their philosophy is that being active in professionally oriented student organizations is hugely constructive and drives professional development. Their vision is to build an online community that helps students find the orgs that best align with their goals while making a big University have a small community atmosphere. 

Emotions in Action

BLI Fellow: Sanjee Choudhuri
Team: Ellery Wong, Alexander Mize

Emotions in Action is a fun after school group mentoring program partnering Ann Arbor middle schoolers with University of Michigan students to promote emotional wellness by teaching concrete emotional management techniques.This program aims to reduce the stigma associated discussion of emotions and mental health and better prepare our youth for their future both mentally and emotionally. The goal of Emotions in Action is to lessen the overall mental strain middle school students experience by practicing concrete emotional management techniques and creating a space where children can be themselves, talk about their emotions, and learn emotional management skills.


BLI Fellow: Alex Wilf
Team: Keenan Tullis

Members​ ​of​ ​the​ ​University​ ​of​ ​Michigan​ ​community​ ​are​ ​constantly​ ​growing​ ​as​ ​a​ ​result​ ​of​ ​interacting​ ​with complex​ ​ideas.​ ​In​ ​the​ ​course​ ​of​ ​these​ ​interactions,​ ​it​ ​can​ ​often​ ​be​ ​difficult​ ​to​ ​break​ ​down​ ​ideas systematically,​ ​store​ ​them​ ​in​ ​an​ ​easily​ ​retrievable​ ​and​ ​understandable​ ​way,​ ​and​ ​communicate​ ​them effectively. While back-of-the-napkin​ notes,​ ​whiteboarding​ ​sessions,​ ​and​ ​long wandering​ ​conversations​ ​all​ ​have​ ​their​ ​place​ ​(and​ ​always​ ​will)​ , ​what​ ​is​ ​needed​ ​is​ ​a​ ​common​ ​language​ ​to​ ​formalize​ ​conclusions,​ ​a mechanism​ ​to​ ​store​ ​those​ ​conclusions,​ ​and​ ​a​n efficient retrieval process​.Invarient will alleviate these issues for the UM community by creating a new system for visualizing and storing information. Their tool can be used by all including teachers for teaching, students for academic ideas, and academic advisors who want to illustrate possible career paths and academic requirements for their students.


BLI Fellows: Ben Freiband, Rachel Menge

ArborHacks is a student organization that is focused on encouraging computer science skills in all groups and all ages. Through workshops and other events, our mission is to give those with the desire to learn computer science and related subjects an environment in which their passion for and pursuit of knowledge drives them to greater academic heights. ArborHacks’ goal is to host a high school programming competition for 200 students on March 10, 2018 at the University of Michigan and to directly address the gender gap issue in Computer Science. In alignment with the coding competition’s mission, ArborHacks is offering $800 in transportation compensation to ten high schools who bring 50% women or whose responses show a respect for diversity. They will also offer gender equality workshops for teachers during the competition to continue raising awareness 

IGV Intelligent Ground Vehicle 

BLI Fellow: Adarash Mishra
Team: Madhav Goli
The University of Michigan Intelligent Ground Vehicle is a new student design team working across three pillars to 1) create the first student-led autonomous ground vehicle to compete at Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition held at Oakland University, 2) pilot the first-ever introduction to robotics course, and 3) create a unified student-led robotics group at the University of Michigan.They believe in a hands-on, educational approach to enlighten students and our communities about autonomous and robotic systems. Ultimately, their vision is a premier robotics team at U-M that is a place where anyone regardless of their background can get involved in robotics and a catalyst for spinning off entrepreneurial and social ventures.


BLI Fellow: Kiley Judge
Team: Aaron Ngo, Rahul Bejarano 

Kraken has identified a ​twofold problem, ​every​ ​year​ ​millions​ ​of​ ​people​ ​struggle​ ​to​ ​choose​ ​healthy​ ​beverage options​ ​and​ ​simultaneously​ ​billions​ ​of​ ​pounds​ ​of​ ​food​ ​go​ ​uneaten.​ ​To address this problem, Kraken Foods has created their​ ​Tart​ ​Teas​ ​&​ ​Fruit Elixirs​.​ The Tart Teas & Fruit Elixirs ​uses​ ​“ugly”​ ​fruits​ ​(currently​ ​focused​ ​on​ ​apples)​ ​to​ ​create apple cider vinegar (ACV).​ The ​quirky​ ​apple​ ​cider​ ​vinegar​ is then mixed ​with​ ​fresh​ ​fruit​ ​juice,​ ​spices,​ ​and​ ​herbs​ ​with​ ​a touch​ ​of​ ​sweetness. Kraken’s ​goal​ ​is​ ​to​ ​launch​ their ​Tart​ ​Teas​ ​&​ ​Fruit​ ​Elixirs​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Ann​ ​Arbor​ ​area​ ​and to continue to raise awareness about food waste. ACV​ ​has​ ​been​ ​used​ ​for​ ​thousands​ ​of​ ​years to​ ​flavor​ ​drinks​ ​and​ ​enhance​ ​beverages.​ ​In​ ​the​ ​last​ ​several​ ​decades,​ ​ACV​ ​has​ ​been​ ​used​ ​as​ ​a metabolism​ ​boost​ ​to​ ​help​ ​support​ ​healthy​ ​diets​ ​and​ ​promote​ ​natural​ ​energy. Kraken believes bringing the Tart Teas & Fruit Elixirs to Ann Arbor will be the perfect fit.

2016 Summer Cohort

Aequora: Michigan
Ayla Wing and Evan David

Our project will bring Aequora, an after school program that teaches Classical Latin to elementary and middle school students in struggling school districts, to southeast Michigan. We will be partnering with Eastern Michigan University's Bright Futures program, which brings other after school programs to various schools around the region, and Estabrook Learning Community, a K-8 school in Ypsilanti, Michigan. As Latin education students, we are very excited to share our passions with a young audience, and we will hopefully expand our program to multiple sites in the upcoming year!

Internet Friends

Jonah Beck and Zachary Beck

What comes to mind when you hear the word “gamer?” Is it a sweaty, socially inept man of indeterminate age ranging anywhere between 16 and 40 years old? Is it a bunch of kids shooting digital avatars of each other? Or do you recall the overt sexism of certain media scandals such as Gamergate, perpetrated by individuals who claimed to be defending the gamer identity? All of these concepts factor into how we understand what a gamer is today, and thus how games are made and played. Our leadership project wants to get to the heart of these issues in order to re-examine them and give forum to new discourse on gender in video game communities. After researching online gaming communities, we are beginning work on a student-developed video game that will synthesize our data into a role-playing game that explores themes of sexism and gender norms in online communities. The player will be put in the shoes of two characters who frequent online forums and message boards to connect with others who share their passion for video games. We hope that our game will give players new perspective about one's words and actions online, and what it means to be a gamer.