co-collab: Summer Reflection – Barger Leadership Institute

co-collab: Summer Reflection

As a team, co-collab’s mission is to foster meaningful experiences through collaborative, interactive, and playful activities. Our three major summer activities were1) consolidate and present our identity as a team and as a brand; 2) collect inspirational and empirical support for our fall implementation plan from literature and case studies; and3) collect stories on how alumni have connected with the campus and their college
friends, and share them with the U-M student community using a cultural probe method. For activity #1, we branched off from our team charter and laid out a high-level concept of our goals for the team as well as experiences we deliver. Additionally, we explored our visual identity, including typefaces and colors that represent our playful and vibrant core identity. This explicit, shared definition of our brand has been a powerful guidance that we hold ourselves up to as well as a public visual image that is consistent across our marketing channels. For Activity #2, Bre did the majority of the heavy lifting when it came to research. I discovered 33 artists/designers to use as case studies, read 13 research papers, 10 books, attended 3 conferences, and visited 3 art museums. One of the biggest research questions I had was “What is Socially Engaged Art?” (which encapsulated the research goals of meaningful connections in the modern age and the psychology behind great
conversations). I can report back and say that, no one person has a clear definition of it, it’s such a new movement (past 5 years it’s grown in popularity) that it’s still trying to find its shape. For activity #3, we designed, printed and assembled postcard kits as our cultural probe.
This was a definite highlight of the summer as we collected a huge variety of data on where, when and how friendships blossomed, from alumni that graduated in as early as the 70s.

When reflecting on the high level of engagement of this project, a few reasons came to mind: 1) although we had difficulties collecting alumni listservs, getting features on departments’ alumni newsletters received a lot of attention; 2) as everything transitioned into a virtual environment, receiving and filling out a physical postcard was a particularly pleasant experience; and 3) it brought up nostalgic feelings especially for older alumni. The biggest takeaways from our summer research has been to stay flexible and to expect challenges. The world has been constantly changing and has had us pivot endless times from our original vision, think on our feet, and come up with multiple solutions to a variety of unseen and unexpected challenges. Going forward, we learned to not get too attached to any one idea (no matter how good it is) because it may be unfeasible to execute in the future. As of now, we are implementing bi-weekly creative challenges that provide a hands-on, simple experience for participants to explore their creativity. We hope that these challenges serve as a peaceful escape from the chaotic world we are in.

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