ELISA AKI BERGER FOR THE HOYA Clockwise from top left: Eric Scheetz (COL ’17), Frannie Murray (SFS ’17), Brett Treacy (MSB ’15), Demetrius Cooper (COL ’16), Taylor Soergel (COL ’17), Zoe Gadegbeku (COL ’15), Megan Schmidt (COL ’15), Julian De La Paz (SFS ’15), Latazia Carter (COL ’17) and Daniel Varghese (SFS ’17).
Clockwise from top left: Eric Scheetz (COL ’17), Frannie Murray (SFS ’17), Brett Treacy (MSB ’15), Demetrius Cooper (COL ’16), Taylor Soergel (COL ’17), Zoe Gadegbeku (COL ’15), Megan Schmidt (COL ’15), Julian De La Paz (SFS ’15), Latazia Carter (COL ’17) and Daniel Varghese (SFS ’17).

Anyone who follows Georgetown University on any form of social media could not have missed the intriguing new videos of students posted over the last 10 days. Born out of a call by alumni to see more examples of individual student experiences on the Hilltop, the university’s new project, Georgetown Stories, plans to follow 11 students over nine months through photos and videos that they post of their daily life.

Joannah Pickett, assistant vice president of Annual Giving and coordinator of the project, explains that it was initially inspired by a desire to find a way to connect alumni to students currently on campus.

“It felt like a natural idea that came from a number of ideas about how we ensure the alumni can get the best of what they know of Georgetown reinforced and refresh their view of what is new so that they fully understand,” Pickett said. “And it is also meant to create a new opportunity for the entire student community to, through photos and videos, reconnect with their lives here and how they feel about Georgetown.”

While the project was initially meant to feature just three students, 11 were picked out of the 55 who applied over the summer. The result is a project that will unpack a multitude of elements that make up a variety of unique, yet relatable, individual student experiences.

Assistant Student Producers Brett Treacy (MSB ’15) and Megan Schmidt (COL ’15) both credit their enthusiasm for this project to their love of storytelling.

“Stories are vital. So often in life we misunderstand one another because we don’t take the time to understand who we are or where we come from,” Treacy said. “If we don’t take the time to share, to learn and to understand, we can never grow as people, as students or as a university. In my mind, being men and women for others starts with telling and listening to stories.”

Schmidt concurs, adding that her love of art and all things creative makes this project all the more important to her.

“Storytelling is my life. As an artist, everything I do is about conveying something,” she said. “Stories are how we can all connect to each other and break down our differences. They’re very powerful tools.”

The theme of conversation was one frequently used by the student participants to describe the project, whether it was with prospective students, alumni, current students or people from back home. This desire to create a dialogue meant that using a social media platform was clearly the best option.

“It has to be a social media project because there’s no other way to engage everyone in the greater community,” participant Daniel Varghese (SFS ’17) said.

This is partly done through a feature on the website that allows anyone to submit their thoughts on what they would like to see addressed in the student videos and photos.

By asking these 11 students to tell their stories and get specific about what makes up their lives here at Georgetown, the project has also opened up a discussion about what it really means to be a student here and whether there is a mold students are expected to fit.

Latazia Carter (COL ’17) emphasizes the project’s ability to prove a number of student stereotypes false.

“According to college rating sites, the typical Georgetown student is wealthy, white and addicted to pastels. I definitely do not fit those characteristics. However, I do see a group on campus that fits the description well,” Carter said. “What the sites don’t tell you is about everyone else. I appreciate the differences between us because we can all learn something from interacting with different people.”

Zoe Gadegbeku (COL ’15) agrees, admitting that when she was an incoming freshman arriving from Ghana she expected to be faced with the stereotype.

“When I first got here I was actually really scared because I saw that stereotype and thought that’s what it was going to be and I was like, ‘OK, pink shorts, let’s go,’” Gadegbeku said. “It’s obvious to say that appearances don’t tell the whole story, but that really is the truth here at Georgetown. People have been through so many cool, crazy experiences, have lived in all these different places and bring so many things to the table that aren’t immediately apparent. That’s what’s so cool about the project, because you hear the whole story instead.”

While the stories of these 11 passionate individuals clearly show that Georgetown is not replete with the presumed Vineyard Vines stereotype, it does pick up on one key similarity.

“If there is one thing that is similar about us, it’s that we’re all passionate about our passions,” Varghese said. “We try to pursue everything that we think is interesting in the most complete and full way possible. That means all of us are really busy, but personally I think that’s a good thing.”

Julian De La Paz (SFS ’15) agrees, comparing the expectations of a typical School of Foreign Service student to his own experience.

“I’m a culture and politics major, but my primary interests do not lie in international relations. I’m actually really interested in pop culture,” De La Paz said. “So I wanted to let other students know that … Georgetown is not just a school for international relations. Everyone always tells me, ‘Why did you go to Georgetown when you should have gone to NYU or something?’ And I tell them that here anything is possible as long as you have the drive and are determined to make it [happen].”

In order to achieve the project’s aim of showing all aspects of life, the students ensure that they do not just record the obvious highlights of life on the Hilltop.

“I want [those watching] to feel like they’re here with us at Georgetown,” De La Paz said. “For instance I did a barbecue with friends two weeks ago, and it was just a really great time for friendship and bonding and being with my second family here at Georgetown. “

With this desire to capture student life in the most candid and honest way possible, Frannie Murray (SFS ’17) notes that it is hardly ever her planned videos or photos that end up being the most successful.

ELISA AKI BERGER FOR THE HOYA Assistant Student Producers Brett Treacy (MSB ’15) and Megan Schmidt (COL ’15) .
Assistant Student Producers Brett Treacy and Megan Schmidt.

Brett Treacy (MSB ’15) and Megan Schmidt (COL ’15)

“The best videos are the ones that have happened organically,” Murray said, “There are so many events or things that I’ve just stumbled upon through campus and those are the ones I want to share.”

This also means that while the videos and photos currently tend to convey the students’ excitement about starting a new academic year, they will not shy away from showing their struggles too.

“It’s part of the Georgetown story,” De La Paz said. “We all struggle, but we all know that we have it within ourselves to continue on. We are going to show every experience that makes up the Georgetown story, the good and the bad.”

Eric Scheetz (COL ’17) also emphasized the importance of providing context to all the incidences, including the difficulties that they face.

“Yes, I’m up to 4 a.m. writing a paper. But I’ll explain that that’s because I procrastinated on it, not because my professors are ridiculous and then explain how I turned in a paper and hopefully got a good grade on it,” he said.

Still in its opening stages, with the first introduction video posted Sept. 17 and individual launch vlogs still being posted, the project has already had incredible success. The main videos, posted on the website, Facebook and Instagram, have already received over 27,000 combined views.  On top of that, the students involved have received a great deal of positive response from alumni, students and people back home.

“I’ve heard a lot of feedback from students especially,” Demetrius Cooper (COL ’16) said. “I’ve been in Leo’s and had students ask if I’d sit down and have lunch with them and talk about things, asking about my experiences coming to Georgetown originally as a government and econ major and switching to music, asking about the time when I considered transferring and why I decided to stay. It kind of shows that it’s accomplishing what it’s supposed to accomplish — getting students to think about all the different pathways and all the different things you can do at Georgetown.”

The desire to have the Georgetown community engage in the dialogue of the Georgetown Stories project is ongoing, and the hope is that more and more people will join the conversation. Everyone is invited to contribute their stories throughout the year by using the hashtag #georgetownstories on their photos and social media posts.

“I think the biggest questions that we ask, as student ambassadors for this project, is ‘What is your story?’” Murray said. “I’m just excited to see how, even though we’re all in the same book together, we all have different plotlines and they’re all interweaving. And it’s fun to be part of such a dynamic group of people.”

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