A huge part of how the Barger Leadership Institute (BLI) empowers student staff leaders is through bidirectional mentorship. As a Peer Facilitator, I receive mentorship from BLI’s professional staff and other students while simultaneously coaching student projects through the ALA Leadership Labs. Seeing leadership practices modeled by colleagues teaches me how to mentor my peers in turn—and to value the students I teach as teaching me as well. I often think that I learn more from the students and other Peer Facilitators each semester than they do from me, and that bidirectional flow of learning and personal development is what makes the BLI unique in its development of student leaders. This valuable dynamic became more apparent as I stepped into the role of a Lead Peer Facilitator, taking on the additional responsibility of helping coach other Peer Facilitators. We practice leadership by teaching it, and I know it’s been a successful class when I learn something along with the students—which happens every time, if I know where to look. Being a Peer Facilitator at the BLI means coaching yourself and your peers, practicing leadership habits by doing, and throwing ourselves into stimulating situations where we discover what leadership is by learning it on the spot. 

    One of my favorite parts of the BLI is how team-centric our work is. The student and professional staff collaborate with each other to learn. As a Peer Facilitator team, we talk through challenges, strategies, and ideas to improve and refine what it means to create leaders on a college campus. While our teamwork is very detail-oriented, it is especially valuable in that it teaches us how to think. Working through these exciting tasks teaches me how to make informed and sensitive decisions, solve complex problems I have never encountered, and think from perspectives that are entirely new to me. Changing how I think about problems has been an essential skill to build as a Peer Facilitator during COVID semesters. Throughout the lab, we experience the common challenge that everyone is facing right now: our capacity to do things is just not where it used to be. This has caused delays and challenges with the students’ projects but also provided me the chance to practice considering different perspectives. I have come to think about intersectionality and root causes to understand how people and organizations have been impacted. This, in turn, has led me to discover the layers to the world I live in that I had not considered. I often tell people I “woke up” in 2020. A lot of that process has been fueled by experiences and individuals at the BLI.

    I am excited that I have four more semesters at the BLI. When I was applying to colleges in high school, I thought carefully about what universities would provide me the opportunity to challenge my thinking. I told myself that I would know that I had picked the right school if something blew my mind once a week. Working at the BLI means thrusting myself into exciting, new environments, and I certainly discover something mind-blowing at least every week. Two more years at the BLI means two years of personal growth, mind-altering discoveries, and self-exploration. College is always described as the time to figure out who you are, and the BLI has provided me with stimulating opportunities to do this. I don’t know what my future at the BLI will look like—that’s really the exciting part of working at a leadership organization—but I am certain it will be full of discovering who I am and what it means to be a leader.


Becky Woolf (she/her) is studying Sociology of Health and Medicine at the University of Michigan and is currently a Peer Facilitator at the Barger Leadership Institute. She is interested in pursuing a career working towards health equity on a national level, using public health and leadership to create a more accessible, fair health system. She had experience as the Co-Chair of ImproveCareNow's Patient Advisory Council, where she coordinates initiatives to improve the quality of care for patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Becky is also a Focus Group Leader for Women's Organization on Rights to Health (WORTH) on campus. Outside of class, you can find her studying on central campus or looking for the nearest coffee shop.