“Humans of SJU” prepare to meet HONY creator



“Humans of SJU” highlights different St. John’s members, whether it be students or employees. The aboved pictures showcase students who were photographed and shared their stories for the project.

Amanda Umpierrez, News Editor

Best-selling author, notable photographer and blogger Brandon Stanton will be speaking at St. John’s come Nov. 5, highlighting his journey in his Humans of New York (HONY) project and how it initiated a worldwide trend.

Associate Dean of Student Engagement Mary Pelkowski, who served as the steering wheel in organizing and coordinating the event, believes it will connect people in diverse ways.

“I think this speaks to a lot of different people at a lot of different phases of their lives,” she said.

Along with Pelkowski, Student Government, Inc., Alumni Relations, Multicultural Affairs, Residence Students Association, Campus Ministry, Career Services and Student Affairs collaborated in creating and constructing the event.

According to Pelkowski, 3,200 students have registered to hear Stanton speak as of Tuesday, with the maximum only managing to hold 5,000 seats.

Pelkowski’s interest in reserving Stanton as a speaker for the Academic Lecture Series stemmed in May 2015, at a time when various departments had already began to research lecturers.

“When we looked at him, one of the things that I’m always looking for is ‘does our speaker always speak to our mission? The mission of who we are as a University?’”

Ultimately the University, along with Pelkowski, trusted that Stanton would inspire students, especially at a time when college students may not always recognize what their aspirations are.

“I think that Brandon, coming out of college and not knowing what to do, I think every student in the room will be able to relate to him in some way, to see that ‘you know what, I can do this,’” Pelkowski said.

Stanton’s “Humans of New York: Stories” also served as this year’s freshman read book for the class of 2019.

His compilation of photos and stories has accumulated thousands of fans on his Facebook page since the beginning of the project back in November 2010, slowly transforming his series from a personal hobby to an international phenomenon.

“It’s such a simple concept, but it turns into something meaningful,” freshman Anisa Afiz said.

Freshman Tamara Garcia agrees and believes other’s stories hold a significant impact on society’s growth.

“I think it’s life changing to hear the views of others,” she said. “I really love the pictures themselves, and the idea of him having a quote from each person. It was really nice; it was different.”

HONY has galvanized individuals and groups since its 2010 release, from heartening people to building ideas. Earlier in fall, St. John’s released their own HONY, titled “Humans of SJU.”

The “Humans of SJU” perception was designed by Mary Pelkowski, in collaboration with St. John’s Marketing and Communications.

“The concept was a collaborative effort and takes a team to organize, photograph and release the posts every week,” Catherine Ravner, web producer for the digital media team in the Office of Marketing and Communication, said.

Ravner also aids as one of the writers for the series, while Siobhan Mullan, the photography assistant in the graphic design and photography team, served as the prime photographer.

Since the start of the project, 20 students, administrators and employees of the university have been photographed and have had their stories unveiled. Subjects range from any student to hallmark legends such as renowned St. John’s coaches Lou Carnesecca and Jack Kaiser, whose pictures and quotes have yet to be released.

   “It was great to ask coach Carnesecca the questions that everybody wanted to ask him,” Pelkowski said, who interviewed many of the series’ members.

Pelkowski and Ravner emphasized the aspect of allowing unrecognizable St. John’s members to talk about their stories. Pelkowski noted one Chartwells employee, Jimmie, who has been folding cardboard boxes in the D’Angelo Center for the past 26 years.

We took this opportunity to highlight everyone who contributes to our community, in their own way,” Ravner said. “Through this campaign, we’re able to introduce the campus community to people who play important roles, but may be unknown to most, as well as recognize those who don’t always get the credit they deserve for the unique things they do,” Ravner said.

During the event on Nov. 5, 25 “Humans of SJU” accounts will be displayed in a video that will commemorate the diversity in students, employees and stories throughout St. John’s. According to Pelkowski, the series will possibly continue for an additional year.

However, instead of speaking to random students at any spur of the moment, the St. John’s community may nominate each other to be featured. Currently, there have been 47 nominations. Students can access the nomination application in their emails, as a link was sent out to all, as stated by Pelkowski.

St. John’s graduate student Sarah Taorimo, who was nominated for “Humans of SJU,” is excited to attend the event, for she believes it will further draw the community together.

As a St. John’s student, we hear about serving other people,” she said. “This event will just bring us together as a community, and here we can serve each other in hearing our stories.”

Freshman Garcia concurs, and considers the essentialness in being aware of others.

“It’s good knowing about your peers, and knowing that you’re surrounded by a diverse population of students.”