Humans of Rutgers captures diversity of campus
If you are ever stopped by a student carrying a Nikon D3200 camera while strolling down College Ave, do not fear. You are most likely being approached by Jeremy Berkowitz, creator of Humans of Rutgers University.
Humans of Rutgers University is a blog created last May by Berkowitz, which he refers to as “his baby.” The page, which is modeled after the widely popular Humans of New York blog, posts photographs and quotes of the characters that inhabit New Brunswick.
“I’ve always been interested in meeting and talking to new people,” said Berkowitz, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. “When I started seeing the Humans of New York page, I got interested in doing something similar at Rutgers.”
Berkowitz, an aspiring photojournalist, has spoken to more than 100 students in the past eight months for the project. He walks around the five campuses and randomly approaches students, faculty or the average George Street pedestrian.
By sharing different perspectives, struggles and future goals of Rutgers students, Berkowitz has garnered more than 4,200 "likes" on his Facebook page and over 600 Instagram followers.
One reason Humans of Rutgers University has received so much attention is because the blog visualizes the diversity of a university with more than 40,000 students, Berkowitz said.
“(Humans of Rutgers University) shows that students are different, but at the same time you can see the same humanity within the people,” he said. “You can see how everyone is human, even though we are so diverse.”
Larry Jacobs, a professor in the Department of Psychology, was quoted and photographed by Berkowitz for a profile. Berkowitz considered his interview with Jacobs, who was born deaf, to be his most memorable thus far.
“(Jacobs) told me why he loves teaching. In between his slides, he shares inspirational quotes,” Berkowitz said. “Even though he was born deaf, he speaks to a whole lecture hall.”
Christopher Lou, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, has also been featured on the page. He said the interview felt more like a “pleasant conversation” and not forced in any way.
The University is large and many people walk through its streets every day, but Lou believes Berkowitz has connected students from all five campuses.
“I might see somebody's picture and think ‘I thought I was the only one that felt that way’ or ‘I see her every day and want to get to know her,’” Lou said.
In addition to mimicking the format of Humans of New York, Berkowitz added an original twist to his page called “Secrets of the Sole.” He posts a photograph of someone’s shoes alongside a secret they share.
He came up with the idea while talking with a friend about how shoes can showcase a person's personality. “Secrets of the Sole” makes his page more unique and allows people to remain anonymous, Berkowitz said.
The inspiration for Humans of Rutgers University, Humans of New York, recently raised $1 million to pay for college trips and tuition for middle-school students in Brooklyn. The fundraising was spurred when the blog's creator, Brandon Stanton, photographed a Mott Hall Bridges Academy student alongside an inspirational quote about his principal.
That student, Vidal Chastanet, along with Stanton met President Obama at the White House after the post went viral. The two were also invited as guests on the Ellen DeGeneres Show this month.
Alissa Godwin, a social media intern for Rutgers Department of Media Relations, said social media is the main focus of today’s world and is a powerful tool.
“With the 'Humans' pages that people are doing, if social media has the power to help someone that truly deserves it, that’s a pretty positive thing,” she said.
Although Berkowitz doesn’t foresee meeting Obama anytime soon, he has visions for the future of Humans of Rutgers. He hopes to begin a Humans of Rutgers club at the University that will bring diverse views, backgrounds and personalities to one common meeting place.
Berkowitz said students in the club would “work together for the greater good,” whether that be rallying support for a cause or assisting fellow members of the Rutgers community in fulfilling a goal.
A lot of us are in the never ending cycle of “class, study, party and sleep,” but Humans of Rutgers University encourages students to do exciting things and stand out from the crowd, Lou said.
“We are all interesting people. Our voices and ideas don't get heard unless we execute them,” he said. “Don't just exist, live.”