Tonight at 8 p.m. in Devlin 008, UGBC will be hosting an unveiling event of the What I Be Project as part of its "Be Conscious" campaign. The event is expected to be extremely powerful, consisting of student stories, a question and answer session and a presentation from the creator of the project about his perception of Boston College's culture.
"The What I Be Project is an opportunity for our community to gain a better understanding of our student body on a more individual and personal level. Your story is important," states UGBC 's Facebook page for the event. "As students, we all know what it's like to deal with insecurities, struggles and illnesses, and the What I Be Project provides a unique avenue for us to see past the surface to acknowledge the diversity of our student body."
This project comprises a photography campaign featuring head shots of various Boston College students, each pictured in front of a stark white background with certain phrases written on their bodies. Each photograph is captioned with the statement "I am not my_____," filling in the blank with a word to represent the specific personal or mental health issue that the subject of the photo experiences.
Photographer Steve Rosenfield is the artist behind the What I Be Project. The empowering photo campaign began in 2010, when he decided to photograph his friend Amanda with the words "thunder thighs" written on her hand, alongside the statement "I am not my body image." Thus the project was born, and has now made it all the way to the BC campus. Rosenfield has been working on the campaign since October 1, photographing students to showcase their images and stories, all of which will culminate in tonight's unveiling event.
"By stating 'I am not my_____,' [these individuals] are claiming that they do in fact struggle with these issues, but it does not define who they are as a person. They are not denying their insecurity, they are owning it," said Rosenfield.
This project comes to BC as part of a larger initiative dedicated to fostering a necessary conversation about mental health on campus, which also includes BC Ignites and a blog dedicated to the cause. UGBC created the "Be Conscious" mental health campaign this past summer with three purposes in mind:
1. To connect students with existing mental health resources on campus;
2. To increase the dialogue surrounding mental health and illness on campus in hopes of reducing the stigmatization of such topics;
3. And to ultimately create a campus that supports students, both with institutional resources and with a positive, open community.
Lindsey Wilkinson, A&S '17, (pictured below) had an extremely positive experience participating in the What I Be Project.
"The What I Be Project was definitely cathartic for me," she said. "Last year I struggled through an abusive relationship, anxiety and depression. What I Be gave me a chance to bring these issues to light and show that I am stronger than them. It has definitely been a long process, but I'm getting better everyday and I won't let my problems define who I am."
With the amount of pressure that BC students are constantly under to be perfect in all aspects of life, it is understandable to want to hide any personal issues or insecurities that we may be facing underneath a brave exterior. In addition to starting a conversation about mental health, the What I Be Project also promotes authenticity and self-disclosure among Boston College students.
"I think that this project is necessary for BC as a university because it breaks down the notion that everyone who goes to school here is perfectly put together," said Wilkinson. "This project shows that there are people walking around campus that are fighting everyday... we realize that we are not alone in our battles."
To join in the conversation, attend tonight's event in Devlin 008 at 8 p.m., and like the "Be Conscious" Facebook page for updates about upcoming events and campaigns.