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GV Now

"Connected" exhibit links shared Laker experiences

  • Photo by Jess Weal
  • Photo by Jess Weal
  • Photo by Valerie Wojciechowski
  • Photo by Jess Weal
  • Photo by Jess Weal
  • Photo by Jess Weal
  • Photo by Valerie Wojciechowski
  • Photo by Valerie Wojciechowski

Posted on August 31, 2016

Entering or returning to the world of college life can be an intimidating endeavor, especially for first-year students. Many have left their comfort zones for the first time to live and learn on their own, independent from their roots at home.

While the college experience can be stressful at times, a new exhibit in the Mary Idema Pew Library is helping students understand that they are not alone in their doubts, fears and discomforts, and that "everything will be alright."

Erin Fisher, library program manager, explained that "Connected: An Exhibit of Shared Laker Experiences" is an interactive exhibit focused on cultivating a sense of belonging among students.

The exhibit, located in the library's Exhibition Space on the atrium level, features eight different watercolor portraits of Grand Valley students, all of which were painted by Grand Valley alumna Ellie Lubbers. Beneath the portraits are placards that tell a bit about the featured students and obstacles they have faced throughout college and life.

Visitors can also listen to audio clips showcasing interviews with ten additional students, during which they talk about their majors, personal lives and struggles they have encountered.

Students and other visitors aren't only encouraged to view the exhibit, but also to engage with it by contributing paper dots painted with watercolors based on how they feel.

"The participatory element of the exhibit is the most special because it allows visitors to not only consume the content, but participate in the creation of that content, thus reinforcing that their voices are heard and valued," said Fisher. "Participatory exhibits strengthen the sense of community by allowing visitors to make deeper connections with their peers."

Collecting and selecting interviews for the exhibit was no small task. Fisher and her team of library staff called upon the "Humans of Grand Valley" student organization to help bring a more genuine feel to the exhibit.

To accomplish this, Jaclyn Ermoyan, HOGV co-creator and photojournalist, said that the interviews were not arranged in advance.

"HOGV prides itself on sharing pure and genuine stories, similar to Humans of New York, so we do not arrange interviews in advance as that allows people time to think of answers and choose their words before they say them," said Ermoyan, a senior majoring in advertising and public relations. "Rather than 'interviews,' we like to think of it as just having conversations."

Ermoyan said she specifically jumped at the chance to help develop this exhibit because her first year as a Laker helped shape the rest of her Grand Valley experience.

"I want people to know that no matter what they are feeling, they aren't alone. You never truly know what a fellow Laker might be experiencing," Ermoyan said.

The exhibit runs through September 22, and is open during normal library business hours. For more information, contact Fisher at