This past weekend presented an experience that was nothing short of extraordinary, a confluence of leadership, learning, and legacy, all set against the football game during the homecoming week at the University of Michigan. As a student of U-M and beneficiary of the Barger Leadership Institute (BLI), I was privileged to be invited by Dave Barger, a remarkable alumnus and an ardent supporter of our university since 1987, to watch the game in a setting that was entirely new to me - the suite. This wasn't just any game; it was a tapestry of camaraderie, inspiration, and unforgettable moments.

From the onset, the atmosphere was palpable with excitement, the stadium thrumming with energy unique to U-M games. However, the true highlight of the experience was the rare opportunity to interact with Dave Barger, whose commitment to our institution is both profound and far-reaching. With donations exceeding $18 million across various sectors of U-M, including LSA, athletics, and Michigan Medicine, Dave's contributions are tangible in every corner of the campus. But it's the Barger Leadership Institute, founded through his foundational gift, that holds a special place in our hearts as students.

Being in the suite was a surreal experience; it provided a vantage point not just for the game, but for observing the qualities of true leadership. Dave's enthusiasm was infectious, his insights invaluable, and his journey from being part of JetBlue Airways' founding team to his current roles at Connor Capital and the Oaktree Transportation Infrastructure Fund, was immensely inspiring. The setting was informal, but the lessons were profound. Through casual conversations and anecdotes laced with wisdom, Dave underscored the essence of effective leadership—vision, resilience, and, above all, generosity.

Our involvement with the BLI has always been about growth beyond the classroom; this weekend was a testament to that. The institute's emphasis on student-driven initiatives and action-learning projects has been instrumental in shaping us. Seeing the real-world impact of our efforts, like the installation of solar-powered utilities in remote communities, amplifies the significance of our work and the institute's role in our lives.

The Leadership Fellows program, the core co-curricular initiative at BLI, has encouraged us to delve deeper into our potential, and this weekend, we saw the fruits of such labor. From the thrill of the game to the warmth of fellowship and the enlightenment from our interactions with Dave, every moment was a lesson in leadership.

I left the stadium with a heart full of gratitude. It was my first time watching the game from the suite, an experience so special that it will forever be etched in my memory. We are more than just students; we are burgeoning leaders, and thanks to Dave Barger and the BLI, we are well on our way.