The 26 student leaders representing the Faces of SSU campaign at Sonoma State University want you to know something: "We are more than what you see."
The goal of Faces of SSU is to raise diversity awareness on campus. That includes diversity of ethnicity, gender and experiences. "Not everyone's experience at SSU is the same," says Mo Phillips, director of Campus Life at SSU. "Faces of SSU is an opportunity for us to look a little deeper into a student's experience. It's an opportunity to see past who you think I am, and see who I really am."
The project has taken different forms since it began in 2013. It started as a set of banners hung around campus, followed by a travelling art exhibit earlier this year, which finished with a one-month stint in the University Library Art Gallery. The current incarnation includes a set of digital postcards online and a new set of banners posted around campus featuring a photo and summary of the students' involvement at SSU. The banners were posted in April and will be up through July.
"It was definitely a culture shock coming from a diverse atmosphere like Stockton," says Faces of SSU participant Katie Perry, a community service advisor and peer mentor. "It makes me happy to see programs like Faces of SSU helping to promote diversity awareness on campus."
Senior Nick Moore is another familiar "Face." "I wear a lot of hats, at SSU," he says, including president of the Queer-Straight Alliance, working at the HUB on campus, and supporting the Vagina Monologues club and other campus groups. Telling his story for Faces of SSU gave him time for reflection. "I don't write about myself very often, and this was a way for me to recognize that I've had an impact with the projects I've been involved in," he says.
Moore has been stopped several times by students in front of his banner, which is in a well-travelled area of campus. Those he talks to want to know more about his involvement with Sonoma State and the Faces of SSU project. "It helps incoming freshmen form a connection to the campus before they start school," he says.
Fame isn't the motivation behind the 26 students involved in the project, says JaQuay Butler, a first-generation college student who is a peer mentor and volunteer with JUMP (Join Us Making Progress) on campus.
"It's not about the recognition, but about people realizing what you've done and appreciating that, and wanting to know more about how you got there," says Butler. For new students especially, it shows what is possible and connects them with student leaders while they walk around campus during summer orientation. "I hope it inspires other students to do what we've done and more," says Butler.
Jaclyn Karpiak, a Faces of SSU participant who graduated in spring 2015, says the banners help show that leadership and being involved in the community is cool. "When I came to campus, there was this rumor that there was nothing to do at Sonoma State unless you joined Greek Life," says the sorority member. "But that's not true at all."
She joined Associated Students her senior year and got involved in the Marketing and Creativity team as a graphic designer. Karpiak says she wishes she'd joined earlier. "Brainstorming with students was the best experience I had at SSU. There's more to life than social media."