Mount Ida College is now one of 83 campuses in 23 states designated as a “Voter-Friendly Campus.” The initiative, led by national nonpartisan organizations Campus Vote Project (CVP) and NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, held participating institutions accountable for planning and implementing practices that encourage their students to register and vote in the 2016 general election and in the coming years.

The mission of the Voter Friendly Campus designation is to bolster efforts that help students overcome barriers to participating in the political process.  Mount Ida was evaluated based on a campus plan about how they would engage student voters in the fall of 2016, how it facilitated voter engagement efforts and a final analysis of the efforts.

Mount Ida College recently created the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) and under its auspices launched a months-long effort to promote civic engagement, the right of each citizen to vote  and what it means to accept that responsibility.

“The faculty and staff of CCE worked alongside the Mustang Involvement Center, Library, and Associated Student Government to implement this plan throughout the fall semester and beyond.  Initiatives included workshops, lunch and learns, and a mock-voting day,” says Gregg Grenier, Director of Community Engagement.    “We sponsored 26 programs that reached 832 participants (students, staff, and faculty) and worked diligently to help our students become informed, registered and also assured transportation to and from the polls on Election Day.  We offered opportunities to view the Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates in our campus theater and convened on election night to watch as the results came in.”

“Recognition of our community as a ‘Voter Friendly Campus’ is important on so many levels: as confirmation of the growth of our civic engagement program and the involvement of our students at this crucial moment in the history of the republic,” says Barry Brown, President of Mount Ida.

The institutions designated Voter Friendly Campuses represent a wide range of two-year, four-year, public, private, rural, and urban campuses, with a total enrollment of nearly 1.4 million students.

The designation is valid through December 2018.

With more than 100 stunning photographs adorning the walls of the gallery in the School of Design, award-winning photographer Lou Jones sat down with Barry Gaither, Director and Curator of the Museum of the National Center for Afro-American Artists to discuss how his decade-long panAFRICAproject came to be.

Moderated by Professor Jim Fitts, they delved into the origins of the project, Jones’ path to photography and the impact he hopes the photos will have.

“I read an article in the New York Times 15 years ago that the African Union was going to censor Western access to their continent because of the slanted view that was presented,” said Jones.  At first, he was outraged. “Censorship is a four-letter word to me, but then I realized they were probably right and that was the embryo of the idea.”

From the beginning, Jones worked to find a way to portray the real Africa.  “My colleagues were all in Africa to win Pulitzer Prizes and it is images of conflict and pestilence that win awards.”  That was not the real Africa to Jones.

Gaither echoed the sentiment.  “The image of Africa in the Americas were often dreadful and depressing.  One of the things that warms the heart enormously in the panAFRICAproject is that Lou has given real imagery to an Africa we have wished to see.” Jones has shown that “each country is different and they manufacture stuff there, there are kids with their bright eyes who are as excited to learn as in any part of the world.  Lou is giving us a view into that world.”

To date, Jones has visited at least 10 countries.  He starts by making connections before visiting. Then, arriving without a plan, not knowing where he is staying or where he will travel, he makes more connections, until he gains access.  “I have to talk my way in once I get there, but it’s been amazing that almost all people answer their cell phone.  The CEO or the student. “

Jones considers photography a universal language and instantly understandable.  “We use photography as a currency.  We give some of the photographs to the organizations we shoot.  One hospital used our photographs to raise funds. “ But, it is a challenge, he adds, to bridge the cultural divide, since not everyone always agree on what a photo represents.

Jones also spent a vast amount of time working with people to gain intimate access to interior spaces; homes, living rooms, work spaces and community spaces where people gather. “Most images people are used to seeing (of Africa) are of the outside.  I wanted to take pictures of the interior.  Not just the buildings, but the interior of their minds and mine as well.”

When asked about his career path, Jones, who started out studying physics and was a rocket scientist, decided instead to pursue his love of photography.  He is a successful award winning commercial photographer based in Boston an the panAFRICAproject is his passion.

“I’m interested in what African people are dealing with and that comes from a lifetime of being black.” However, he quickly adds, “it’s where my heritage started, but I’m from the United States, so It’s not about me going home. I am not African.  I am just sympathetic with the issues of a continent unjustly maligned.  Africa has entrepreneurship, innovation, music and culture.  That’s what I’m going for.”

When a member of the audience asked him to reflect, Jones said “I’m’ a kid from the ghettos of Washington., D.C. “I have exceeded my dream.”

Co-curators of the panAFRICAproject are School of Design Professors Alison Poor-Donahue, Jim Fitts and Brian Wilson

The exhibit, co-sponsored by Panopticon Gallery, will be on display through April 16. Learn more about the exhibit here. 

In April of 2016, Fashion Design student Christine Gallart took her bows when presented the Critics’ Choice award at the annual Fashion Futures runway show for her travel collection. The movement and colors in the hand painted tiles found in Spanish architecture inspired her designs and presented a youthful and versatile look that embodies a chic nomadic style.

This year, as she walks across the stage at the 2017 Mount Ida Commencement, she will do so with confidence knowing she has parlayed her award-winning talents into her dream internship at Anthropologie.

“I submitted last year’s collection and a few items that will be on the runway this year, hoping to be considered for this prestigious paid summer internship at Anthropologie, whose designs speak to my aesthetic,” says Gallart.  “I was called to their headquarters in Philadelphia where I met so many creative people and many others who were vying for positions at the company which includes Free People and Urban Outfitters.”  Christine was half-way through the spring semester, when she got the call.  The internship was hers and she would be starting out in knit and loungewear.

“It’s not an area I know, so I’m very excited for the opportunity.  And, upwards of 75 percent of those who intern at Anthropologie get hired.  It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Christine, who is from Maryland, knew as early as middle school that she wanted a career in fashion design.  “My sister was in fashion merchandising, my grandmother brought us to sewing classes and my mother, who is a graphic designer still inspires me every day with her creativity .”

Christine came to Mount Ida College in 2009, studied for two years and played volleyball, when she decided to return to her home area to attend college in Virginia.  “But, the curriculum was not as hands-on and I left to travel and explore a bit of Europe.”  After spending time in Florence, being on her own and with horizons broadened, she decided to return to Mount Ida to continue her studies.

“I have to credit Professor Aleta Deyo for inspiring me and for mentoring me.  When she sees me struggling she helps me out and when needed she’s kicked my butt.”

Gallart is looking forward to her time in Philly, to learning everything she can.  Her long-range plans are to become part of a design team creating clothes that are for the young and adventurous who enjoy traveling and seeing the world.  “It’s how I would describe myself.”