Iowa State students document the freshman-year experience through photos

Exhibit of last year's photos opens as new participants are announced

AMES, Iowa -- Last year, 11 Iowa State University freshmen documented their new college lives through photography. Now, as 55 of those photos go on display, 12 incoming freshmen have cameras focused on their first-year experiences. It's all a part of Iowa State's distinctive Fresh Fotos project, one of only a handful of similar photo-documentary programs at colleges nationwide.

The exhibit, "Fresh Fotos: My First Year Experience," will be on display from Friday, Sept. 11 through Sunday, Oct. 11 in the Gallery of the Memorial Union. A reception at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17 will celebrate last year's participants and serve as the kickoff for the new group. The exhibit and reception are free and open to the public.

What it's really like

Fresh Fotos was developed last year by Jennifer Garrett and Letitia Kenemer, Student Activities Center program coordinators. The project is a way for first-year students to create associations with new people and places, and share their journey with others.

The students receive digital cameras on loan, along with some training on documentary photography techniques. They shoot everything from intramural games and library study sessions to late night pizza parties and bus rides to the mall. Selected photos are posted on the Student Activities Center web site and updated monthly throughout the school year.

"The main purpose of Fresh Fotos is to give students a connection to ISU right away," Garrett said.

"The photos show common, everyday experiences of what it really looks like to be a student here--not the brochure view. Other students can relate and see themselves in the photos, too," she said.

Finding value

All participants found value in their Fresh Fotos experience, Garrett said.

Chelsee Rohmiller, a psychology major from Hinton, said she loved being able to share her Iowa State experiences through photos.

"I could illustrate aspects of organizations that I'm involved with that people might not know much about, such as choir and Greek life. I learned that every college student's first-year experience has vast differences, yet are amazingly similar," Rohmiller said.

"My favorite part of Fresh Fotos was the chance to take pictures of anything that we thought meant something to us," said Ismael Pinto, a psychology/pre-med major from Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. "The hardest thing to adjust to at ISU was being away from home and friends. Everything is just so different here: the lifestyle, people and food. I learned to appreciate my surroundings and the people I call my family at college."

For Nick DeGroote, a biology/pre-med major from Ogden, the Fresh Fotos project helped him adjust to college life and make friends.

"Beginning college was overwhelming at first; it was a whole new lifestyle. I was surprised that most of my time went toward studying," DeGroote said. "Throughout the course of my first year, I gained new friends and found myself becoming more sociable. I even found one of my best friends through the Fresh Fotos group."

This year, 133 students applied to participate in the project. Garrett and Kenemer selected students with a diversity of majors and hometowns based on the quality of their applications.

Fresh photographers

The new Fresh Fotos photographers, their hometowns and majors are listed below. Their photos will be posted online at beginning Saturday, Oct. 10.

David Bowles Edwards, Bettendorf, vocal music
Kristina Colley, Manchester, open
Jennifer Cunningham, Wylie, Texas, ag business, political science and economics
Kelsey Gill, Sioux City, industrial design
Hanna Johansen, Jefferson, advertising
Marquise Jones, East Orange, N.J., electrical engineering
Emily Meese, Excelsior, Minn., kinesiology
Sameer Mohd, New Delhi, India, aerospace engineering
Tyler Mootz, Clinton, music education
Hannah O'Connell, Fremont, graphic design
Christopher Stolte, Lino Lakes, Minn., electrical engineering
Yige Wang, Anyang Henan, China, pre-business