Launching in the winter of 2015, Humans of Wayne State University, inspired by Humans of New York, was created as a way to capture students’ thoughts and personalities.
Aya Elsherif and Madison Lewis, co-founders of the organization, are both sophomore public relations majors at Wayne State. They decided to combine their love for their hobbies and public relations into one: Humans of Wayne State University. The project offers a creative outlet for not only themselves, but also students who are featured on their page.
Meet the two masters behind their craft: Elsherif, also majoring in political science, has a deep-rooted passion for photography and Lewis, a fashion enthusiast, who jumped to help Elsherif expand her project when she heard about it.
Elsherif explained that whether students’ interest is in politics, fashion or photography, they want to hear what they have to say.
“We approach people and ask them ‘Hey, do you know Humans of New York?’ and most of the time they don’t really know, so we explain the process to them,” Lewis said.
Interviewing those who catch their attention or stand out on campus, Elsherif and Lewis begin their interviews with a simple, “Could you tell me about your day?”
Elsherif explained the process, “First and foremost, anyone who is interesting and captures our attention, we talk to them. We see people with aerial silks and people pulling out their violins and guitars in the middle of campus,” she said. “If students don’t have headphones and seem friendly enough, then we talk to them.”
Freshman Ali Shahin, majoring in urban studies, was one of the many students featured on Human of Wayne State University’s Facebook page. He discussed his struggle as a person of color at a predominately white institution and the lack of comfort and safety in being vocal about racism.
“The whole idea behind (Humans of Wayne State University) is getting everyone to have an outlet to share their ideas, opinions and voices without any discrimination or judgment,” Elsherif said. “People can share anything, even if we don’t personally believe in it, we don’t censor it.”
Through this project, Elsherif and Lewis explained how they’ve improved their communication skills by talking to strangers on campus and expanding their marketing skills.
For the co-founders, WSU’s diverse student body and unique campus culture plays a major role in the success of Humans of Wayne State University.
“We’re very, very, lucky,” Elsherif said. “We’re on Wayne State’s campus, it’s diverse and I think that in college the culture is awesome. Everyone has an interesting thing to say and a different perspective, people usually bring up what they’re really passionate about.”
Telling the stories and thoughts of passionate Wayne Staters is exactly what the two strive to do.
“Everybody has something that moves them, whether it’s their family or a cause,” Lewis said. “We walk around campus every day, and we never think twice about what goes on in (other students’) lives. We want them to share what they think the world would want to know.”
Lewis explained that when interviewing, they avoid asking students about what their majors are.
“We want to know the person, not the student,” Lewis said.
The next step for Humans of Wayne State University is to expand and continue to grow even after the co-founders graduate. Hoping to recruit dedicated students to their team, Elsherif and Lewis plan to search for just the right contributor to aid their growing project.
“Once I graduate, I want to hand it down to someone, I want it to be my legacy,” Elsherif said.
Photo courtesy of Humans of Wayne State.
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