Florham student projects bring about a WaVE of change

by Andrew Remeniski

A poster created by graphic design student Andrew Remeniski for the current WaVE exhibit, "Slavery in the 21st Century: A WaVE Exhibit of Writing, Art, and Activism."

By Kaidi Ilves

On April 15, a student exhibit — created to bring awareness to modern slavery and called “Slavery in the 21st Century: A WaVE Exhibit of Writing, Art, and Activism” — launched at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Florham Campus. The exhibit is part of an ongoing project to elicit societal change, put in motion by the College Writing Program.

“The story of WaVE is a heartwarming example of how different departments at the University have come together to create change and become agents of societal transformation,” says Kathryn Douglas, director of the College Writing Program and senior lecturer in college writing.

WaVE, a writing and visual expression exhibition space in the Monninger Center, showcases the combined efforts of students in the College Writing Program and those studying graphic design — and each visual display is dedicated to a cause.

by jocelyn larnickPoster by by Jocelyn Larnick.

Past themes have included animal welfare and childhood AIDS. Artwork from the latter, “Gestures of Love: A Student Writing and Design Exhibit,” created in the fall of 2015, is being donated to support the AIDS Resource Foundation for Children.

Jennifer Cannella, a sophomore majoring in psychology who wrote for Gestures of Love, says, “The goal is for children to understand that they are not alone and that others have gone through the disease and come out the other side.” Participating in this project had a tremendous impact on Cannella. She says, “When a person is doing what they can to help other human beings, they are able to witness the alterations first hand. There is nothing that comes close to the feeling of seeing a difference made within a person’s life.”

Janet O’Neil, the director of FDU’s graphic design program, who had long aspired to get the students in her program to create work for a cause, and Jacqueline Regan, an instructor in the College Writing Program, teamed up with Douglas. Douglas visited the graphic design class to frame the project, and created a drafting blog to create a space for student collaboration. Student writers use the blog as a drafting space to post research and generate text and poems based on the current theme. The graphic design students then interpret the poetry and prose and translate the words into illustrations.

Katie Tedesco, a senior majoring in graphic design, made a comic-style poster for “Gestures of Love.” It depicts historical figures known for their work in the fight against AIDS. “I want to honor actual people who gave their lives to the cause… I hope when people, especially those my age and younger, look at the piece I created, they will take time to look up the names of the heroes depicted, so that they can read and be inspired by their stories as well,” she says.

trio of wave

Posters by Amanda Dayer (left), Kevin Rennie (middle), and Christopher Milo (right).

Every two years, the College Writing Program sets new themes, which form the basis for reading and writing assignments in the program’s classes. “At the core of it all, we want to teach our students literacy, communication, and how to work with texts,” says Douglas. “With these themes, we get them involved in analytical thinking about real issues in today’s society, and bring their work in front of a real audience — which is key for providing them with context and relevance for writing.”

The current exhibit also includes a poetry wall, which reflects the thoughts of Regan's writing students. Their words are inspired by the slavery-related imagery that the graphic design students posted on the drafting blog. On the day of the exhibit launch, students participating in the project had a chance to meet guest of honor Conor Grennan, an anti-slavery activist who is single-handedly responsible for rescuing more than 500 Tibetan children from modern slavery. Grennan, author of “Little Princes,” a New York Times and international-bestseller, gave a talk on racism and slavery.

For more information about WaVE, contact Kathryn Douglas at douglas@fdu.edu. Read more about WaVE initiatives and student experiences here.