Photo by Kelsey Brown of By The Free Photography

Bethel students are making social media, well, social. In September, more than two dozen Bethel students, alumni and other professional artists from the community gathered for the Center for Career Development and Global Engagement’s latest Instagram Takeover. During the Takeover, students explored Chicago, where they photographed Green Street Smoked Meats, the Robey Hotel and Low Res, a community-building creative arts studio. 


Representatives from each location shared their stories and advice with the group. Nathan Michael, the founder of Low Res, whose podcast “The Creative Muscle” includes interviews with recording artist Andrew Belle and marketing guru Seth Godin, told students to pursue their passions with patience. 


“It took 10 years to build what Low Res is today,” says Michael. He also encouraged them to use innovation to develop their artistic style. “Be a first-rate version of yourself, not a third-rate version of someone else.”


Students immediately put his advice into practice. On these trips, everyone plays both photographer and model, an unnerving idea for Takeover first-timers. However, with the help of professional mentors and peers, students dove in, posing, shooting and learning from their successes and mistakes. 


“At first I didn’t think much of [the trip]. Every club I went to at my school was all about talking and not taking pictures,” says Freshman Erick Contreras. “This was a whole different situation. We talked a little bit, but we took so many pictures.”


For Mathew Stackowicz, the Director of the Office of Career Development, the trip’s practicality is vital. “Standing behind a professional photographer, watching their shot and then stepping into their place to practice it. You never get that in a photography class,” says Stackowicz. “….This is essential knowledge that you only get on the field.”


There is more to the Takeovers than education, though. Senior Miranda Terry, a student worker for the Office of Career Development, highlighted the community she’s found through Bethel’s Takeovers. “These trips have opened my eyes to other creatives on campus,” says Terry. “I’ve made relationships with people in many different majors.” 


The diversity among the students who attend each trip is significant. Saturday’s expedition included students from Biology, Sports Management, English, Worship Arts, and Pre-Med majors. 


There are millions of ways for students to connect and learn from each other, so why Instagram Takeovers? To Stackowicz, they are the perfect way for students to spread Bethel’s name to businesses and young people. But beyond that, they give students tools they can use to tell meaningful stories through platforms their generation connects with. This, Stackowicz says, is a concept he hopes more Christian colleges grab on to. 


“We need to be the best storytellers,” says Stackowicz. “We could inspire a nation, but if you have a great story with bad visual content or a tacky video, the message is lost.” 


By introducing students to a creative community and equipping them with artistic skills, Bethel students are empowered to use social media platforms to share more stories than selfies, allowing them to impact their workplace and their world. 


Students can participate in the Grand Rapids Takeover coming in April, 2018. For more information, visit the Center for Career Development and Global Engagement in AC 346.