New initiative works to highlight individuals on campus

Chloe Burdette

Managing Editor

Have you ever wanted to share your own unique story with others around you? Do you wonder if others in The College of Wooster community have shared a similar experience? Do you want to feel more unified with your classmates at the College? Wooster Threads was created with these exact ideas in mind.

Wooster Threads, an Instagram page created in the fall of 2019, is dedicated to giving individuals at the College a platform to share their personal stories to inspire others. The idea came to fruition through the efforts of campus photographer Matt Dilyard and Chief Communications and Marketing Officer Melissa Anderson. The idea is inspired by Humans of New York, a photography project created in 2010 by Brandon Stanton that highlighted the many stories of people who inhabited the city.

Anna Russell ’23 was a fan of the idea and decided to aid the creation of the page and make it her goal to feature Wooster students in their truest form. “I believe that everyone deserves a voice — an opportunity to share their story undisputedly,” Russell said. “The mission of Wooster Threads is really to highlight tidbits of individual students’ lives within the larger Wooster community and hopefully continue to unify the community.”

Each Instagram post focuses on one particular student or member of the campus com- munity. Interviewers consist of Russell, Kennedey Bell’21, Patrick Redrick ’21 and Yuta Nitanai’21.“I think the people I interview often surprise themselves with how much they are willing to speak about,” Russell said. “Life moves so fast and there is very little empha- sis on actively listening to others, but I think everyone just wants to be heard. If you ask people with genuine interest and show empathy, there’s very little they won’t share, even with a complete stranger.”

The project soon collaborat- ed with the Soft Power Project (SPP) to gain more traction. After hearing about Armel Lee ’19’s Independent Study — which focused on expanding cultural relationships on campus — SPP was conceptualized this past year. “Armel’s project inspired an entire organization dedicated to forming cross-cultural communication on campus with a desire to expand into the greater Wooster community as well,” Bell said.

The three branches of the SPP — WooStories, OpenTable and Wooster Threads — all aim at starting themed conversations between campus and community members to get a glimpse of peoples’ unique circumstances that may be different from their own. “[The SPP] hopes that people will begin to reach out to others who don’t come from the same racial, ethnic, religious, socio- economic, etc. background as they do,” Bell added.

The addition of Wooster Threads was a way for the SPP to have student stories become more individualized and allow students to learn more about people on campus even if they cannot make it to a panel or discussion. “We think interviewing gives a special look into peoples’ lives,” Bell stat- ed. “WooStories and OpenTable are both themed and require people to show up; with WoosterThreads, our inter- viewers go out and find people they may know well or not at all … with sharing on social media, viewers hear deep stories from people who they may never get to have class with or be in a club or in Greek Life together. Wooster students can take five minutes looking through the Wooster Threads page and connect with someone they may only see in Lowry.”

Wooster Threads has already made an impact on students at Wooster and has encouraged them to be vulnerable and share their stories. Liz Olsen ’22 is one student that is honored to have been featured on the page. “I was approached out of the blue and I didn’t really know what to expect or who would end up reading my story, so I had to be vulnerable,” Olsen said. “I’m glad now that I shared what I did; I think it’s a great way for people to tell as much as they want and allow others reading to relate and appreciate others’ differences.” Even those who work for the SPP have been influenced. “I believe that reading about and learning the complex lives of the people around us helps us grow and maintain empathy for each other, which ultimately makes us feel more connected to the community that surrounds us,” Redrick said.