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Ahead of the Fall Showcase, Michigan Ross Student Storytellers Share Why They Love Participating in Story Lab and What They Learn From the Extremely Popular Program


To be an effective leader — at work, in the community, in personal life — one must be able to communicate with impact.

That is the motivation behind one of the most popular programs of students at the Ross School of Business. The Sanger Leadership Center’s Story Lab program develops executive-level presence and communication skills through storytelling workshops and events. Through the programming, students learn to tell stories that are meaningful — using the rich language and expressive style of a seasoned storyteller.

Designed to spotlight diverse voices, while also teaching participants about courage and leadership, Story Lab’s latest event will bring University of Michigan students and other Michigan Ross community members together to listen to powerful, authentic stories told by students on stage. 

“Through storytelling, students learn how to communicate with impact, and they leave our program with an experience that accelerates their own leadership development,” said Jeff Domagala, managing director of the Sanger Leadership Center. “Students are invited to take the stage and share their most authentic selves with their peers. It’s a transformative experience that increases their confidence, charisma, and credibility -- helping students forge an impactful personal brand.” 

Ahead of the Story Lab Fall Showcase later this month, three of the Ross student storytellers shared what inspired them to participate in Story Lab and what they hope to take away from the experience.

Allison Winstel

Story theme: Building close friendships can evolve into family-like relationships with mutual love.

Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio

Program/year: MBA/MPP ’22

Post-graduation career interest: Facilitate collaboration across public, private, and nonprofit organizations to drive community-level change

I grew up in a family of incredible storytellers, but never considered myself one. Coming to Michigan Ross, I knew I wanted to find new ways to process my experiences and share them with others. Story Lab helped me build my confidence in crafting engaging stories. I have always told myself that I'm not a great storyteller and let that false narrative get in the way of sharing my experiences with others. The Story Lab Workshop gave me the tools to feel more comfortable identifying what parts of my experience to share and how to present it in a way that brings the audience into the emotional experience with me. Story Lab gave me the opportunity to reflect on, and articulate, the important role my friends have played in my life.

Allison Winstel, MBA/MPP ’22

Jason Donaven

Story theme: True progress requires letting go.

Hometown: Lake Orion, Michigan

Program/year: BBA ’23

Post-graduation career interest: Business, music


I have been playing instruments and singing since I was 8 years old. However, it wasn’t until three months ago that I even began to find my true creative identity. Story Lab marks the first time that I use music not to perform, but to share my journey with others. Story Lab has been an incredible experience because it has forced me to take a deeper look into how my relationship with music has changed over the years. Not only has Story Lab been a great opportunity to tell my story, but it has also allowed me to understand what my story actually is. Music has always made me happy, but I never really thought about how I could share those emotions with others, to help them understand my journey. Story Lab has been the perfect event to not only share my journey but to hear incredible stories from others.

Jason Donaven, BBA ’23

Jessica Liang

Story theme: Advocacy; proving doubters wrong

Hometown: San Francisco, California

Program/year: MBA ’23

Post-graduation career interest: Entrepreneurship


There are so many people who have shaped me along my journey. Often, those most important to us are never told just how much they mean to us. Repeating a story to even just a few people reveals how each person reacts to different segments of the narrative. That process and Story Lab coaching have helped me hone how to frame and deliver my story in the most impactful way. I’m hoping to come out of Story Lab as a stronger, more influential storyteller.

Jessica Liang, MBA ’23

The Story Lab Fall Showcase will be on Tuesday, Nov. 30, from 5-6:30 p.m. in the Robertson Auditorium at Michigan Ross. RSVP here.

Hear more from Michigan Ross students about Story Lab