Frosh week is when I realized that this was something special. The stories, the people, and the diversity. Skule took me in without hesitation and opened up a new world of possibilities and a social web to weave myself into. Hearing all the different background stories of my fellow frosh, I was eager to share them with everyone else around me. You travelled all the way from India for ECE? And you play the violin while dropping your pants around campus? How the heck is no one paying any attention to you?! Being the initiative taker that I am, of course I had to do something.
Humans of UofT. No, that’s already taken. How about “Humans of Skule”? Ya … that sounds cheeky, fits into the wholesome vibe … let’s do it! At the same time, I joined the Skulebook photography team. Photography is super cool, and if it weren’t for me liking science as much as I do, I wouldn’t have cancelled my applications to go to film school. Turns out Skulebook also wanted to do this initiative. They piloted it the year prior (2014) with great feedback and wanted to start again in 2015 – my first year! So all the more reason for me to get this going.
Without asking, I grabbed three of my friends in the Track One common room and interviewed them with my camera. Why don’t we have a facebook group at this point? Let’s push to get that going. Eventually, Skulebook gave in and we got it up that very day. How many photos should I be posting? Twice a day sounds sweet. Let’s do that. Turns out that taking photos, editing, transcribing interviews, and posting is time-consuming. Let’s slow down the pace to once a day. Okay, I can’t keep up, let’s do a few times a week. Ok, that works!
In my first year, the Skulebook team and I posted 110 photo interviews ranging from professors to TAs to classmates to fellow Skuligans I’ve never met before. The Facebook page received tons of likes in under a month. We began receiving messages thanking us for putting a smile on their face and having something to look forward to every day. You can’t ask for better validation than that for your idea, now can you? Apparently you can, since “Get on Humans of Skule” was a featured item in the following year’s Havenger Scunt. Luckily, Skulebook got us a spread in the yearbook, so clever engineers got the point and stood on top of the book.
Come second year, the burnout kicked in. After a hype first year and time-consuming summer job, I was not ready for more non-stop action. That year, the posting fell back onto me and I got up just over 30 posts: a 70% reduction from the prior year. My interest in Skule was dwindling, while my extracurriculars now included building a satellite in UTAT and marketing events in YNCN. Third year of Mech – the 2nd year ECE equivalent – hit even harder. Down to 8 posts by the end of the year. At this point, I didn’t have the motivation to put in work and get back up to the level I wanted HOS to be at – it’s too late, move on.
After I decided to pursue a PEY in the States, I gave up all hope. Out of nowhere, the new Skulebook team reached out, and wanted to take over the posting. Great! Now I can be abroad, but still have the page going. It’s a tough task, but they got some good posts in that year. A year later, coming back from PEY, I realized this is not acceptable. The success of this page can’t be reliant on Mr. Addy. It needs to be driven by Skuligans who believe in the message and want to get other classmates in the spotlight.
That’s when I decided to convert this one-man show into a team wonder. Delegate delegate delegate. That’s what a good leader does, so why don’t I? I clearly don’t have time to photograph everyone, or reach outside my social networks to cover the wide array of students, or market across the community. A week before Frosh week, I put out a call for interested students. In two days, I got over 10 responses, and had to turn off the signups. This was proof that love still existed for this project.
Fast forward to today, and we have a robust photography team trained on taking consistent, high quality, candid photos of their friends and professors, as well as a dope marketing team to help redesign the brand and get our word out there. And the cherry on the cake? We’re on our way to getting recognized as an official club in Skule! Oh, and finally an Instagram account (we’re hip now).
The proof is in the pudding. In the first two months of school, we have posted 35 posts. At this rate, we’ll get to 140 by the end of the year – surpassing my first year peak! And when I do leave next year, I’ll be confident that this project will be transferred into good hands. There’s still lots of work to do. Like getting the HOS name ingrained in our community and seeing these posts all over our campus. Engineers deserve a spotlight, a beautiful portrait, and a moment to share their life. We are the engineers. We are humans of Skule.