GT Joy Campaign hopes to change campus culture

Photo courtesy of GT Joy

Beginning on March 23, the Office of the Arts launched its GT Joy Campaign. The campaign, envisioned by Director Madison Cario, aimed to start a movement of positivity on campus given that finals are fast approaching.

“You could say the campaign is in response to the reports and conversation and buzz around campus about how difficult and challenging things are here,” Blake Buford, Marketing Specialist for the Office of the Arts, said. “We wanted to shift the conversation from students talking about what they dislike, stop them for a few minutes in their day and ask them to think about what brings them joy, what makes them happy.”

To help live up to the Joy Campaign’s name, Alli Royce Soble, photographer and native of Atlanta, was recruited to lead the slightly ambitious project. Before taking their respective photos, Soble asked all Joy Campaign participants a simple question: “In three words, what brings you joy?”

As simple as it sounds, Soble says, sadly, many participants struggled when asked that question; they drew a blank when thinking of something that brought them joy. The participants that did respond, however, gave unique answers. For instance, one participant said “the color red and all kinds of potatoes,” while another answered “understanding friends and second chances.”

Soble writes students’ answers on a dry erase board, and the students hold their answers when posing for the portrait. Although she changes the colors occasionally, the portraits seek to provide a consistent but diverse art to represent various Tech students from all the different majors. Moreover, Soble explains that the expressions students make when photographed are seemingly beautiful, as they are thinking about what gives them joy. Even though she never expected her career to take her to Tech, Soble feels that it is “rewarding to be a part of the university system and to be a mentor to students.”

Although students are usually caught off guard when they are asked the joy question, they have responded positively to the experience.

“It was a nice surprise to run into GT Joy and have a moment to reflect on something positive during stressful times,” Nejlia Dezanic, second-year CE major, said.

One week into the project, the online photo album has reached over five thousand people and received seven hundred “likes” on Facebook. Buford affirms that the response from students has been consistently positive; his favorite online comment on the album was, “ I think this is the first uplifting use of whiteboard photos I’ve seen.” He believes that the online viewership numbers will continue to increase as more photos are added to the Facebook page.

Soble also firmly believes the GT Joy campaign is attaining its goal of “celebrating positivity, diversity, and spreading joy” while raising awareness for the Office of the Arts on campus. After photographing three hundred and sixty-five students, the Office of the Arts hopes to create a projection of the photos on the outside of its building during dead week for everyone to see. Furthermore, a long term goal for the project is to create a coffee table style book including all the portraits.

“Hopefully, with funding, this is a campaign that we can do year after year,” said Buford.

Students who have participated in the campaign understand the importance of the goal, especially at a challenging school like Tech.

“It’s important to ask the simple questions in life like, ‘What makes you happy?’ We often forget to be happy at places like Tech, but we need to remember happiness is an attitude that needs to be bred in us,” Theruni Pethiyagoda, third-year BME major, said.