Question 8 of the Truman Scholarship Application7. Describe one specific example of your leadership. (The writer of your letter of recommendation re: Leadership Abilities and Potential must confirm this experience.)
With the sand barely shaken from my shoes, I am back in Pittsburgh with a mission: design and mount a photo display in my dorm by the end of the year. It is March 2009, I have just returned from a week-long trip to Carnegie Mellon Qatar with the IMPAQT group. I had already posted my photos on flickr and blogged about them, but I wanted to reach a much larger audience: that of the 700-1000 people who walk through Morewood Gardens every day. With my beautiful borrowed camera, a loan from a CMU-Q student exemplifying Qatari hospitality, I had taken over 1000 pictures while in Qatar. With 10 people in the IMPAQT group, and most of them skilled photographers, we reveled in documenting our experience as we introduced ourselves to Gulf culture. Back in the states, the price of our documentary exuberance came due: we had to sort the photos.
I believe photos can communicate commonalities of humanity which speeches and textbooks cannot. That is why I and my team worked to choose the more evocative photos we could to help student in Pittsburgh .
The easy communication we had enjoyed on the trip started to break down as homework piled up—I found email communication was simply inadequate for the kind of group communication and compromise we needed to get this show up. I asked each member of the group to choose 30 photos to show to the group in one of our brief meetings, as I wanted the show to have a strong group vision. We ended up with 12 amazing pictures.
No one had ever tried to mount a gallery show in my dorm’s common space before. When I first proposed to use the space, its walls were covered with old movie posters and vintage ice-cream ads: no student work. As a team, we cut and spray-mounted the photos, and started hanging them on the walls. With one week until the end of school, everyone was terribly busy, but we made our deadline and the show was mounted.
It is nearly 7000 miles from Pittsburgh to Doha. But because of my team’s photo-show, CMU-Pittsburgh students have a common visual language with CMU-Qatar students. They have both seen the souqs (markets), looked at the Doha skyline at night, seen mid-day prayers. To be true global citizens, we need these commonalities.
“Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow.”–Lawrence Clark Powell