For some, approaching strangers on Binghamton University’s campus is slightly unnerving. Even more daunting might be the idea of approaching these strangers with personal questions. But for Rachael Wang, this abandonment of apprehensions has become a hobby of sorts.
Wang is a freshman majoring in computer science and the sole administrator behind the Humans of Binghamton University Facebook page.
The page officially launched on Feb. 15. It was inspired by the Humans of New York (HONY) blog, which features stories and photos of — well, humans — around New York City. Wang has taken up a mission to tell the stories of the 16,000 students attending BU, one conversation at a time.
“I wanted to start Humans of Binghamton University as something for the community,” Wang said. “I’ve met a lot of really cool people in Binghamton … it’s only been half a year, and my experience has been amazing.”
Though Wang makes no claims to being an expert in photography or journalism, as of now she is the page’s only photographer and interviewer. She approaches students, faculty and staff in the hopes of getting a glimpse into their lives.
“I do tend to ask some specific questions, but most of the time, it’s really just a conversation,” Wang said. Her questions touch on work, school, hobbies and plans for the future.
The first locations Wang explored were the New University Union’s Marketplace and Glenn G. Bartle Library, though she said she would like to expand.
“I just want everyone to be different because in the end, no matter what race or age you are, you’re still a human of Binghamton,” Wang said.
Wang has been denied an interview only once. Otherwise, students, faculty and staff have been open to her approach. Individuals looking to be involved in the page’s administration have contacted Wang, some even offering her compensation to expand the page.
Wang said she hopes to see the page carry on past her graduation, but for now she will remain the sole administrator.
“I’m not really about getting the money,” said Wang, who has denied these offers. “I just told them it’s more a personal project where I want to show the uniqueness of all the people in this area.”
Students like Jessica Hoffman, a junior majoring in English, said that they appreciate the acknowledgement of BU’s diverse student body.
“It gets people to think about others outside those whom they associate with,” Hoffman said. “We often forget that there are people here from completely different backgrounds, and Humans of Binghamton University gives people a chance to see a different side of the University.”
Calvin Wong, a sophomore double-majoring in management and marketing, was one of the first students to be featured on the page, and while the interview caught him off guard, he said he was on board with the concept of the page.
“It was certainly an interesting experience because the interviewer was really interested in hearing me out during that time and asked pretty insightful questions,” Wong said. “It certainly gives a little insight into the lives of common people like me.”
As the page continues to grow in both its popularity and reputation, Wang expressed concern in maintaining the quality of her output.
“I’m kind of feeling the pressure of getting the same level of [attention for] the images and the stories,” Wang said. “People did give me positive feedback, and I don’t really want to let them down. I’m still a novice, and I can easily mess up or not do something as great as my other photos.”
As for now, Wang said she would like to continue to receive feedback from community members. And for the future, she hopes to be known for the legacy of Humans of Binghamton University.
“The following people who I eventually recruit will be part of a great project just to promote humankind,” Wang said. “I want to showcase the greatness of people.”