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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Humans of Grinnell College showcases connections


Lily Bohlke, Copy Editor

Through his well-known Facebook page “Humans of New York,” Brandon Stanton shares a combination of intimate photos and stories of the strangers he meets on the streets of New York and around the world. Inspired by the success and fame of the original, Grinnell College’s Student & Alumni Connections Committee has created a similar page on Facebook, Humans of Grinnell College, to bridge the gap between students and alumni, showcasing Grinnellians’ relatable experiences and encouraging conversation.

“One of our core missions is to connect students to alumni, which is hard on Grinnell’s campus because most alums don’t live near Grinnell,” said Michelle Czarnecki, Assistant Director of Student Programs.

Humans of Grinnell College Graphic

According to Jun Taek Lee ’18, a member of the committee, there is often a generational gap preventing students and alumni from feeling like one community. While brainstorming ways to change this, committee member Emily Porter ’18 came up with the idea to create the Humans of Grinnell College page.

“The mission, the goal of this page as a whole, is to … put a face on the other group so people feel more connected to Grinnell’s community as a whole,” Lee said.

Hopes for the page include student and alumni networking opportunities, as well as increasing alumni participation in the Grinnell student community. The committee plans to post on the page once a week, switching off between portraits of students and alumni.

“When it gets to more personal experiences or stories, there is the power of social media in the sense that people will start a conversation with somebody saying, ‘You’re interested in this, I was too, let’s talk about it,’” Porter said. “We model it after Humans of New York where it’s just a conversation, asking them about their lives.”

To gather portraits, the committee reaches out to Grinnellians by starting a conversation with a student or alum and asking to take their photo and feature it on Humans of Grinnell College.

“What we try to do is approach random students without asking them beforehand to meet … saying, ‘We’re Humans of Grinnell College. Can we interview you and take a picture?’” Lee said.

The questions they ask depend on the person they are interviewing. For alumni, they may ask questions like, “Why did you choose Grinnell in the first place?” or “Why do you give back to Grinnell?” — where giving back to Grinnell can mean time, money or anything else.

When interviewing students, they typically improvise questions based on the situation and the surroundings.

“For the Vice President of Academic Affairs, who I recently interviewed, it was more Grinnell-based,” Porter explained. “Whereas if I see two girls sitting outside drinking coffee, I might ask about their friendship or how they met and that will lead to other conversations.”

As the 2015-2016 academic year eases towards its end, the Student Alumni Council has also begun wrapping up its current projects, but it is well prepared throughout the summer with content. According to Czarnecki, the committee has put together enough portraits to post one per week until the fall of 2016. Next year, they will pick up where they left off, continuing the task of bridging Grinnellians current and past.

“Sharing stories about students [and alumni], or their experiences at Grinnell, allows people to see there’s a shared experience and we’re all one community, whether [alumni] are in China or Chicago, and we’re in Grinnell,” Porter said.

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