UNCG Campus Weekly

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Voice Through Photos

041311Feature_PhotoVoiceThose attending the April 6 Faculty Senate meeting expected to hear about the budget, resolutions and a number of items on the agenda. As they entered Alumni House, they experienced more, as they saw and heard some perspectives of African-American male students on campus.

PhotoVoice provides a way for everyone to express themselves – through pictures and captions – and in doing so, to make a difference.

Dr. Robert Strack (Public Health Education) first began using PhotoVoice projects as a research approach about 12 years ago in Baltimore to engage groups and communities to be advocates for positive change. Dr. Robert Aronson (PHE) has been the faculty leader for this “UNCG Through the Eyes of Black Male Students” PhotoVoice exhibition. It is conducted by the Brothers Leading Healthy Lives Project, funded in part by the Centers for Disease Control. The project helps in HIV prevention among young African-American males. Aronson is co-PI. Regina Pulliam (PHE) is project manager.

Strack, Aronson and Pulliam greeted early arrivers to the senate meeting, speaking about the students’ exhbition.

“It pulls people in,” noted Pulliam.

Strack said that taking picture, creating captions and exhibiting them is only part of what the students’ PhotoVoice projects hope to achieve. “It needs to inform our campus community and lead not only to changes in campus social norms but also to new policies and procedures that might improve campus life for our students.”

Aronson said, “The students feel they have a voice.”

The captions, written by the students, present perspectives and impressions many faculty, staff and students may not have considered.

“About 20 percent of Psychology professors are black – but most are women,” read part of one caption under a photo.

Warner McGee, a PHE doctoral student, was instrumental in gathering the students involved. The 10 black male students took a total of 600 pictures, which McGee and the participants culled to a small number for the exhibition, which is currently on view in McIver 161.

Senior Stephen Rountree, an art major concentrating in graphic design, opted for pen and ink representations of some of his experiences. He will likely start a design bureau with others, for local businesses when he graduates next month. He has been freelancing since his sophomore year. One of his works show what appears to be a chained man near the center, representations from news stories around him – including from the Japanese earthquake/tsunami. “All of this is coming from inside him,” Rountree explains. “A lot of my inspiration comes from Japan,” he said, as anime and Pokeman were early influences on his drawing.

In a different PHE PhotoVoice project, Dr. Kay Lovelace (PHE) has led a group documenting the experience of homeless women. But in the photos in Alumni House, most were scenes from around campus, with thought-provoking captions.

Such was the case two weeks earlier, at Public Health Education class HEA 331’s PhotoVoice exhibition documenting tobacco use on UNCG’s campus.

They showed some of their work in EUC’s Kirkland Room.

Graduate student and class instructor Chris Seitz said that most students in Public Health Education do not smoke. “[They’re] all about health, so largely against smoking,” he explained

The rule at UNCG is that smoking is permitted 25 feet or more away from a building. He explains there is no enforcement policy for this rule. Guilford County Department of Health’s Rebecca Rice, the regional College Campus Tobacco Prevention Coordinator, noted that within the UNC system, four campuses have a 100 foot restriction.

One photo showed the Bryan building interior courtyard, with a “No smoking on patio” sign. Nearby is someone smoking.

Seitz’s grandfather died of lung cancer, he explains. “Smoked unfiltered Camels his whole life.” He has had a passion against smoking ever since.

The day’s event was part of a course project – and an IRB approved research study.

His students like that “it won’t just die in class.” He said that members of Staff Senate, Faculty Senate and UNCG Administration had visited the exhibition that day.

He picks up a sealed bucket of cigarette butts. Last year’s class, as a project, had cleared away all the cigarette butts within 25 feet of seven particular buildings on campus. It was hard, meticulous work. The Guilford County Department of Public Health had provided them gloves, goggles and lunch for the endeavor – which continued when they came back 30 days later to see if there were any new butts that needed to be picked up. There were. 7,861 new butts, on the ground, he says. Those are kept sealed in the bucket, as a display. “They don’t degrade,” he says. “The filters are made of plastic, not cotton.

Nearby, two students in the class, Alyce Rice and Emily Moore, spoke with those looking at pictures. A senior, Moore plans to become a nurse, hoping to work work in pediatrics or oncology. A junior, Rice would like to work to stanch the rise in PTSDs. Reginald Summers, a senior interning with Guilford County Public Health, spoke with attendees as well. He’d like to manage a hospital someday.

Dr. David Wyrick is the associate professor for the class. Seitz is helping him teach it. Seitz notes Strack’s help with this project.

The class project is experiential. And it’s a big learning lesson.

One thing the students learn is that you can make a difference. You can teach and help others learn.

“They can have their voice heard,” Sietz says. “Here’s a method to have it heard.”

By Mike Harris
Photograph by Mike Harris

Visual:  Reginald Summers, Alyce Rice and Emily Moore (l-r)