HONY comes to WIU

Kayla Trail

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 Anthropology professor, Heather Mcllvaine-Newsad has localized the “Humans of  New York” project and created “People of WIU.”

 Mcllvaine-Newsad finds the “Humans of New York” project very captivating, from an anthropological view, and thinks students could benefit from partaking in the “People of WIU.”

 “Anthropology uses lots of methods to gather data and visuals,” Mcllvaine-Newsad said. “Photography is one of them. Couple that with interviewing, which is a method used by cultural anthropologists, and you have really interesting stories to tell.”

 Brandon Stanton started “Humans of New York” in 2010. On his website, humansofnewyork.com, Stanton posted with the intent to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers and then post their photos on a map.

 “I thought it would be really cool to create an exhaustive catalogue of New York City’s inhabitants,” Stanton posted. “I started collecting quotes and short stories from the people I met, and began including these snippets alongside the photographs. With over eight million followers on social media, Humans of New York now provides a worldwide audience with daily glimpses into the lives of strangers in New York City.”

 Mcllvaine-Newsad had followed the project’s blog and Facebook page then creating one herself.

 “I think of anthropology as being the discipline of storytelling from the insiders’ perspective,” Mcllvaine-Newsad said. “We all carry fascinating stories that we don’t often share with others. Simply taking the time to stop and talk to someone opens up the opportunity for learning from and about others — what brings (students) to Western, what we like about being here and so much more. This project also shows the importance of basic anthropological methods and how they can be used in everyday life.”

Katie Neill, a social work major at Western, follows the project and finds the “People of WIU” interesting, but thinks it should focus on covering students from all majors and having a wider range of student backgrounds.

 “I think it is really cool,” Neill said. “They should just get some people from all different majors and not just sticking to one area and different ethnicities too.”

 Ncllvaine-Newsad’s project has helped her students open up with not only her as a professor, but themselves and other students as well.

 “Taking photos and simply talking to people breaks down barriers that we culturally construct around ourselves.” Mcllvaine-Newsad said. “Many of them found out that they had much more in common with each other than they first thought. My current students are a bit miffed that this is not a project that they will be continuing this semester, but they will be participating in the StoryCorps, where they are tasked with interviewing someone in their grandparents generation.”

 She hopes that students can benefit from this project, and she has also been doing something similar to this with her students for the past 15 years.

 “For as long as I can remember, I have asked my students at the beginning of the semester to hand in a picture of themselves and tell me one interesting thing about themselves,” Mcllvaine-Newsad said. “I am constantly amazed at how fascinating my students are and how much they have lived already. I am especially impressed with our veterans and those who return to the classroom after have worked in another field for a while.”

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