By: Carley Milligan, Arts & Life Editor
Towson’s campus is full of individuals with one thing in common: They are all students.
A new project on campus known as Humans of Towson is dedicated to finding a way to bring students closer together and providing a glimpse into the lives of total strangers, showing them that maybe they have more in common with each other than they originally may have thought.
“The whole idea behind it is to take the time to interview complete strangers, get to know them in a way that goes beyond the surface, and be able to share that with the community,” junior and mass communications major Rachel Ungvarsky said. “It takes faces that we walk past everyday and makes them more relatable, ultimately, more human.”
Ungvarsky and a group of students first came up with the idea for the website after being assigned a final project in their honors seminar class called Mr. Rogers 101: Why Community and Civility Matter in the 21st Century.
“By the end of the course, students realize that civility is about much more than random acts of kindness or simply being polite,” Andrew Reiner, the professor for the course, said. “They learn that community is a much more complicated and demanding thing to create outside of their friend tribes than many of them initially imagined. Perhaps most important, they learn why ideas like civility and community matter more than ever in a world that increasingly has little patience or tolerance for either.”
Students were assigned to work individually or in groups to find a way to change and improve upon some aspect of Towson’s community. Ungvarsky said that they were inspired by the work done by the popular site Humans of New York and felt that a similar approach could work on campus.
“It gives people a chance to really connect to each other. It’s interesting to read about a little piece of who someone is and be able to relate to it or to appreciate how real and true it is,” Ungvarsky said.
Nursing major and junior Beth Stephens also worked closely with the project and said that Humans of Towson will help to bring students on campus closer together.
“I feel like we are all really split up because everyone goes home on weekends and everyone is in these different cliques and this and that,” Stephens said.
She said that the goal of the website is to highlight a random student by posting a picture of them above a single quote that shows the readers who the individual truly is.
“It is just every few days highlighting someone. They may not necessarily be who they look like, they have a different side to them,” Stephens said.
The photos and quotes are chosen carefully in order to reflect who the person in the picture really is. This is why some of the photos are straightforward headshots, while others feature students doing their favorite activities such as hula-hooping or working on an art project for class.
The quotes come from an interview conducted by a member of Humans of Towson from which the most powerful quote that sums up the essence of that person is chosen.
“I can say having done interviews first hand for the page, it’s one of the best experiences and probably like nothing you’ve ever done before,” Ungvarsky said. “You’ll get butterflies and you might even be an awkward fool trying to approach someone out of the blue for the first time, but that’s human. You’ll end up learning so much more about human interaction and other people, and you’ll get to see how a little thing like that can make a community feel so much stronger.”
Reiner said that Humans of Towson allows viewers the opportunity to learn something about a fellow student they may have otherwise never known and allows strangers to engage with each other if only for a few minutes.
“In a world where we walk around campus with our eyes glued to our phones or where we look for reasons to ignore people we know in public who aren’t part of our small circle of friends, this is no small thing,” Reiner said. “What’s more, this platform takes down the walls that many of us keep up, day in, day out…It’s a terrific first step at building community here on campus with no sacrifice required.”
Humans of Towson has a WordPress website as well as a Facebook, however the Humans of Towson Instagram is run by a separate group of students, who Stephens said recently contacted her to express their desire to operate separately from them due to differences in ideas for the organization.
However, Stephens said that they are currently hoping to expand the movement in other ways.
“We are looking for people to help out and join. [Humans of Towson] is fairly small at the moment,” Stephens said. “We are not an exclusive club, we don’t have a president or anything like that so try to make everything a group decision because it’s about Towson, it’s not about one person. The essence of it all is highlighting the students; we are not really trying to become some big grandiose thing.”
Reiner said that he hopes that students will continue to keep Humans of Towson alive, even after the founding members have graduated, as it is a natural community builder on a campus that he feels is often fragmented.
“I think it just brings us all closer together because if you see someone walking down the street, you know nothing about them. But if you saw them on Humans of Towson the day before you’d be like, ‘Hey I saw you mentioned that you like this or that, I also like this or that,’ it just opens a little bridge between people making people more recognizable to each other instead of just a bunch of strangers,” Stephens said.
Ungvarsky also spoke about how she feels Humans of Towson is an easy way for students to get connected and relate to each other better.
“When you’re upset or feeling down, it can show you that you really aren’t alone in your struggles because it’s all just a part of humanity,” Ungvarsky said. “When you need a laugh, you’ll certainly find one. It’s real and meaningful, and everyone can relate to it in some way.”