By LAURA SILVERMAN
Published February 1, 2023
College is more than an education. For many students, it’s their first taste of independence, their first opportunity to truly explore who they are, what kind of people they want to associate with and what they want to do with their lives. It can be, and typically is, a time of remarkable growth.
Four years ago, University Communications decided to document this evolution in video. Now, as the team is editing the footage and compiling the results into a website, it is becoming clear just how transformative the college experience can be, particularly at an institution like UB.
“We knew we’d get some great stories,” says UC photo/video manager Douglas Levere, who shot the videos for the project. “But even we were surprised by how life-changing this period was for so many of our subjects. And it was largely a result of the environment at UB — the wealth of opportunities, the diversity of the community and the tremendous level of support. Together, that’s a potent catalyst.”
The Student Journey Project began in the summer of 2018, when members of the project team set up a table at multiple orientation sessions to recruit students. Those who expressed interest were taken into the Student Union Theatre to do a short introductory interview and get their photo taken.
Students selected for the project were then interviewed twice a year for the next four years. A few left UB, or were unable to continue the project, but most were eager to share their experiences. While the pandemic threw a bit of a wrench into the process in year three, it didn’t stop the momentum. The team simply set the students up to shoot their own videos at home and submit them — and those DIY videos turned out to be a valuable addition.
“In the same way the pandemic inspired people of all ages to take a closer look at their life choices, it helped many of these students determine what they wanted out of their lives and careers,” says UC photo/video design assistant Meredith Forrest Kulwicki, who coordinated the project.
Sixteen students. About 40 hours of footage. To capture both the breadth and depth of the stories, the team edited the footage into two types of videos: personal journeys, documenting each individual’s trajectory from orientation through graduation, and the “Let’s Talk About” series, which combines footage from all of the videos into themes, such as “friends” and “clubs.” Finally, there is a slideshow of each of the students’ before and after pictures, which tells a story in itself.
The work is ongoing, as it is no easy feat to edit hours of footage into two-minute videos. Ultimately the plan is to have all of the personal journeys up on the website, along with several more thematic videos.
In the meantime, Forrest Kulwicki says, “It’s worth spending some time with these videos. They really help you understand the magnitude of the college experience and how what happens at UB can shape lives.”