When I first joined the Barger Leadership Institute, I had no idea how great of a role it would end up playing in my college experience. I took the Leadership Lab in the first semester of my Sophomore year and was immediately attracted to the way the class was run and the types of people who were both in and facilitating the class. From the get go, I could tell that the BLI was an inclusive, innovative, and friendly space which, unfortunately, is sometimes hard to come across on campus. 

    My enjoyable experience in the Leadership Lab inspired me to become a Peer Facilitator for the class, which I did for three semesters. Through this experience, I grew immensely as a leader. I had a better understanding of my strengths and weaknesses, was more confident in my public speaking skills, and felt like I really knew how to help guide and facilitate group discussions and community-oriented projects. It was also just really great to see all the cool work and ideas that students were creating to address community issues that they were passionate about. Learning about the process of how to connect them with stakeholders and guide them through the steps to implementing a successful project was not only helpful for them, but also taught me a great deal about campus resources and project management. Plus, I got to work with some awesome groups of other Peer Facilitators each semester — it was so much fun getting to see how each individual puts their own spin on leading the class. Overall, being a Peer Facilitator was a great learning experience, and I am so glad that I was able to take part in it. 

    Throughout my three semesters as a PF, I learned that there was so much more to the BLI than just the Leadership Lab, which is why I decided to become a Program Assistant. As a part of the Grants and Funding team, I learned a great deal about the BLI community because I had the opportunity to read over all of the small and project grants that students were submitting, which was a really interesting way to learn about different communities and issues that I may not have learned about otherwise. I continued working on my public speaking by presenting to different spaces on campus about our funding opportunities. The part of being a PA that stands out the most to me though was that I was able to collaborate with and just get to know the other wonderful PA’s. Outside of our weekly meetings, many of my favorite memories from my time with the BLI has been sitting on the 8th floor of Weiser with my coworkers as we chat about our work and our lives. Together we’ve created award-winning Halloween decorations, put on a successful DeStressFest, and have come up with new ways to collect, combine, and create and come together as a team. 

    As a graduating senior, I will so miss the warm, energetic, and innovative community that I’ve gained from the BLI. I hope that in the future I will not only maintain the relationships that I’ve gained from the BLI, but also take with me the habits and lessons I have learned over the past three years about communication, teamwork, and leadership.