There are almost 40,000 students who attend The University of Alabama, and as easy as it is to label those students by a year and major, one Instagram page emphasizes the importance of remembering that they are all human. The @humansof_ua Instagram page showcases the diversity and backgrounds of various students on campus by sharing daily posts.
What started out as a small account for a JCM 380 semester project turned into something more. Christina Ausley, a senior majoring in journalism and psychology, created the Instagram page this past January. Ausley interviews students throughout the week to post a daily insight on the page, and each week she posts a profile of a student on her website.
“This project was not just for me,” Ausley said. “Like, this project is to like, raise awareness for like, the diversity and, you know, the groups of people on this campus who feel as though, you know, they can’t identify with anybody else, but they can. And so like, now I’ve kind of realized that this project, like, it goes way beyond me, it goes way beyond JCM 380. The whole concept is something that like, needs to continue going in Alabama whether I’m here or not.”
Ausley said since it was her last semester at the University, she wanted to create something that was truly hers and something she could experiment with during her remaining months on campus. With the concept of the @humansofny Instagram page in mind, Ausley wanted to recognize students on campus and identify them beyond their studies.
“There’s times when I will just randomly walk up to somebody on campus and be like, ‘Hey, this is a project I’m working on. Can I ask you a question about where you grew up?’ or ‘Can I ask you a question about your major?’” Ausley said. “Like, the whole page is not people that I know. The whole page is people that I run into on campus, and that’s kind of the purpose, it’s, like, running into random people on campus and being able to strike up a conversation and possibly identify with maybe how they were raised or what they’re studying or what they want to do with their lives.”
Ausley was anxious in the beginning to approach students, but she soon gained confidence week to week as she saw how excited students got when asked to talk about their hometown or themselves in general.
“Ninety-five percent of the time they said ‘yes,’ and so I think that kind of speaks to campus that, like, people are not afraid of being approached by other random students to ask them questions about themselves or to get to know somebody else,” Ausley said. “We have a very social and engaged campus who, like, it’s full of people who want to make friends and want to, like, share their ideas.”
Ausley said the campus is full of people who want to make friends and share ideas with one another, whether it is what they’ve been through, fun facts about their hometowns or finding their passion. She said it is okay for students to reach out for help and that even strangers are more than happy to speak.
Although the University is in a particularly small town, it is still one of the largest college campuses known nationwide. Ausley said students usually do not get to know their peers beyond the classroom. Since creating the page, Ausley has met students from various states and countries around the world.
“This project is also just, like, an opportunity for me to get to know so many more people on this campus that I’ve passed every day, and I want all students to have that opportunity,” Ausley said. “Maybe you feel out of place, or maybe you feel you don’t know a bunch of people, or maybe you feel like you don’t know what your passion is. Well, there are people who feel the same way on campus.”
Ausley demonstrates the reality of students on the Instagram page and shows followers they are not alone when it comes to feeling anxious when finding a job or making friends on campus. Ausley believes it’s the matter of finding those people or knowing they are out there who feel the same way as you or have been through the same circumstances.
“I want people to know that there’s other people out there who feel the same way that they do on such a huge campus,” Ausley said. “With college there just comes so much pressure in so many different aspects, you know, in terms of ‘Should I study abroad? Should I have a job lined up? Should I know what I’m passionate about? Am I taking the right classes?’ Like, there’s so much pressure with college. And I feel like what most got me through my anxieties with, you know, being in college was realizing that there were are a lot of other people who felt the same way that I did about applying for jobs or trying to figure out what enjoy doing.”
When Ausley pitched the idea to Tom Arenberg, the professor who oversees the project, she said he immediately welcomed it. She said he has exemplified the genuine care professors should have for their students and has selflessly allowed her project to soar.
“He’s just been amazing,” Ausley said. “He’s been so helpful and such a mentor and somebody that I so look up to in the whole college of communications and on the University as a whole. And he’s just been nothing but supportive.”
Megan Ingram, a senior majoring in interior design, was approached by Ausley while in history class to be featured on the page.
“I haven’t heard of the Instagram page until she told me about it, and so then once I went on there, I thought it was a really cool idea just to get to see other people’s experiences at UA and the things that they’re interested in,” Ingram said. “I think it’s a good way for other people to also see, like, a variety and the diversity at UA.”
Ingram said the page allows students to see opportunities that interest them that they may not know about, whether it is organizations on campus or new places to travel. She was featured on the page about her studies, what she enjoys doing and places she has traveled to.
“I think it definitely inspires other people to do great things,” Ingram said.
Carsen Rooney, a senior majoring in telecommunication and film and political science, said Ausley is doing a good job of including students from all different backgrounds and paths of life on the page.
“I just think it’s a great way to recognize some of the different people and share some of the stories that you might not necessarily know about the people around Tuscaloosa unless you sit down and have a conversation with them,” Rooney said “Which obviously it can be difficult to sit down with everyone on campus, so this kind of shares a little bit of the unique side of campus and how many different backgrounds and perspectives we have here.”
Rooney was posted on the Instagram page as a daily post and on the website as a feature about her experience with pageantry and how it has shaped her as the person she is today.
Since creating the page, Ausley has learned various stories about students on campus with hopes that the followers have identified with her posts and share similarities while grasping an insight on the diversity the University has.
“I hope a big takeaway that others have from the website and from the Instagram page is really just how diverse our campus is, you know,” Ausley said. “I think you can look around and think, ‘Oh, campus is just all people in oversized t-shirts and shorts going to and from class,’ when in reality, like, this campus is full of people from other countries, other states, very different backgrounds, vast backgrounds, different colors, different ethnicities, different beliefs, and yet, like, we all coexist on this campus.”
Ausley is motivated to hand off the account to another student after she graduates so the page will continue to grow.
“To see people, identify with some of the quotes from some of these people is really encouraging for me to keep doing this and, you know, when I graduate to maybe hand it off to somebody else,” Ausley said.