The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s University Program Council and the Office of Residential Life held the annual Dear World photoshoot in the Student Union Atchafalaya Ballroom Wednesday, Sept. 11.
Students, faculty and staff were all invited to attend. Attendees were instructed to write anything they wanted on their skin with a marker and pose in front of the camera.
“It’s really important — actually, I think someone said it earlier and I think it’s really beautiful — ‘When you come to UL as a student, you’re not just a number, you are an individual person with a story,’” Karli Sherman, the Assistant Director of Student Engagement and Leadership, said.
Sherman, who oversees the University Program Council, continued, sharing the significance of Dear World to the UL Lafayette family.
“And I love that we have the opportunity to showcase that on a very literal level in a fun, interactive way and a meaningful way,” Sherman said. “I think it’s very important in your collegiate career to do reflection, that’s where learning comes from, to do self expression, that’s where development comes from, and I think that’s what the whole point of higher education is.”
The photographer at the event, Andres Ballesteros, also shared his thoughts on Dear World and what it means to him.
“I’ve worked with Dear World for a couple of years,” Ballesteros said. “I like what the project brings to the table: It sort of lets people connect with each other, to capture part of each person, what makes them who they are, or just a part of their lives that brought them to where they are and kind of dictates where they could be. You walk in their shoes, know what they’re struggling with, or what makes them happy or sad.”
Ballesteros mentioned the importance of the event to the university specifically.
“How many people do we have here at this college? A couple thousand,” Ballesteros said. “And then how do you get all those people to interact with each other, and to a very personal level? What this exercise does is that it makes you open up to everybody and just share something that is part of you so people get to know you better.”
He also commented on the lasting effects he’s noticed regarding the Dear World events.
“It’s really personal; we’ve seen people make really good friends for years after they come to this event, and some people keep coming back, so there’s something there for everybody.”
Some students also shared their opinions on the event.
“It’s important because it gives people a voice without actually having to stand up in front of a huge crowd and say something … I think it brings a lot of people together,” Kimberly Rushford, a senior in the psychology program, said.
Rushford, who is also a member of UL Lafayette’s Track and Field team, opened up about a willingness to branch out.
“I’m an athlete, and I’m trying to get my voice out there, to mingle with the other peers at UL, instead of just being in the athletes’ circle,” Rushford said.
Another student, Mia Gamberi, a freshman in the kinesiology program, echoed Rushford’s views on the event.
“Everyone can kind of share what they want to say without having to say it,” Gamberi said.
Both students explained the quotes with which they adorned themselves.
“My quote is ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’” Rushford said. “So like the kind of message I want to put out is to always be kind to other people and especially to yourself.”
Gamberi, likewise, shared her own personal mantra.
“I put ‘Just be yourself. There’s no one better,’ and I kind of live by that because you come to college … and you want to find your true friends in life,” Gamberi said. “I think everyone can kind of remember what they are here for and prioritize.”
Gamberi expressed overall appreciation for the Dear World event.
“I feel like its good for everybody to do it and everybody is included … They feel accepted and get to put their words out there too,” Gamberi said.