A group of five BLI Alumni, Mya Harris (‘20), Raeruth Oleshansky (‘18), Jon Rubenstein (‘18), Patrick Mullan-Koufopoulos (‘17), and Clara Li(‘18), were featured at the Alumni Panel on March 4th. The alumni on the panel represented a wide spectrum of BLI programmings such as the Mindful Leader Program, Program Assistant (PA), Peer Facilitator (PF), and Capstone cohorts. During the event, they discussed how their BLI experience translated into their professional and educational pursuits and how they continue to practice leadership beyond Michigan.

The panel began with quick introductions followed by questions surrounding the BLI and how it had helped the panelists begin their professional lives. The panelists' advice to BLI students provided fantastic, from book recommendations to practices for a healthy work-life balance.  
Patrick, emphasizing the effects the BLI has had on his professional journey, shared his experience that his post-college life working at a refugee camp and as a teacher has been like one big group project. An experience he is well versed in from his time working with the BLI. 

Rae, echoing Patrick's sentiment, highlighted the importance of working to grow by seeking feedback from superiors and colleagues, "I’m very thankful that the BLI enabled me to understand that I'm still learning. I always have a willingness to receive feedback." Rae, as a PF in the BLI, was continuously giving feedback to students in the lab, even when it was a difficult conversation at times. 

Mya, when discussing how students can most take advantage of the BLI program, highlighted the importance of building relationships and collaboration within the workplace, "You have such a unique opportunity to observe team dynamics and observe other people's strengths and use that in a phenomenal way and boosting your project to a different level, everyone has their own unique strengths and just being able to understand that can have a huge difference." 

When speaking on how the BLI influenced his current leadership role as a teacher today, Jon stated, “One of the biggest things the BLI did for me was to provide a toolkit for ways that you might approach making big decisions or when you come to forks in the road in your life.” 

Clara emphasized the importance of getting to know one's community, a concept instilled in her through the BLI. “I was able to find volunteer opportunities through established programs in my workplace, this has made all the difference, as I have been more cognizant of how I’m spending my time and what spaces I am in.” 

This panel was extremely informative and a valuable experience for attendees. Some main lessons learned were the importance of feedback, taking advantage of networking opportunities in the virtual world, and identifying and evaluating your strengths and weaknesses.

Throughout the Alumni Panel, many habits were referenced by the panelists. Some key mentions include Start Small, Value Difference, and Pause & Reflect. BLI founder Dave Barger emphasized the importance of being able to step back and reflect on your vision, “the habit that over time I wish I would have learned earlier was Pause and Reflect.” Leadership learning is a lifelong habit, and we are very grateful to the alumni for coming to the event and sharing their stories.