Voices of Penn captures individuals' stories
Anonymous creators decided to replicate project called Humans of New York on campus
September 30, 2013, 7:18 pm · Updated September 30, 2013, 8:34 pm·
Voices of Penn, a brand new organization that is gaining popularity, is connecting the campus one photo at a time.
Voices of Penn’s aim is to create a more communal and appreciative atmosphere between the wide varieties of people at Penn, its founders say. Since its first post on Sept. 13, the group has featured one person a day during the week on its Facebook page with a photo and a caption telling a part of his or her story.
The idea came about this summer. The two creators, who wish to remain anonymous because they want the focus to be on their subjects, came together and decided to replicate a project called Humans of New York on Penn’s campus.
In its first month of existence, Voices of Penn has captured 14 people’s individual stories. The quotes the creators chose to publish under each person’s portrait range from humorous to profound, and the “voices” belong to professors, students and University employees.
The online venture is also connected with the upcoming TEDxPenn conference, Creating the Sound, that will be held on campus on Nov. 2. Both founders currently work as marketing directors for the student-run-and-organized TEDx talk.
According to Claire Zhang, TEDxPenn 2013 curator and second-year candidate for a master’s degree in education, both TEDxPenn and Voices of Penn will “focus on story-telling to highlight some of the individual voices that make [Penn’s] community so unique.”
“We really enjoy talking to people that we would have otherwise never approached,” one of the creators said. “It’s about finding out what matters to people, promoting compassion and mindfulness and understanding that everyone has a story.”
At first, the creators approached people with a few questions in mind and a vague idea of where they wanted the conversation to go. However, the process soon became more organic — they choose a person at random, started with introductions and let he or she do the talking.
Arame Niang, a College sophomore, was the first person featured on the Facebook page.
“They didn’t have clipboards or fliers, so I wasn’t hesitant. I felt like I was rambling but when it was published I realized my ‘ramble’ was something people needed to hear,” Niang said.
At Penn in particular, both creators said that people are often too busy with everything from OCR to clubs to Greek life to stop and recognize the importance of every voice. “We want to humanize Penn,” one said.
Victor Galli, a 2012 College graduate, was stopped and interviewed by Voices of Penn after playing tennis with a friend. “One thing that strikes me about this type of engagement … is that the subjects are asked questions demanding a level of sincerity and introspection that otherwise people don’t share very frequently. I think this project is especially suited to showing us the wealth of human experience on campus that walks past us every day on Locust Walk,” Galli said.
The creators, who are seniors, hope to pass down the program so that it continues after they are gone. They plan to keep it small, because as one said, “We don’t want to seem exclusive or that we are leaving people out, just want to keep it authentic.”
“Voices of Penn could possibly serve as a new resource for incoming students [on] how an actual member of the Penn community looks and thinks. And I must say, based on the posts so far we have some beautiful people,” Niang said.