New York City: What Dreams Are Made Of, And Discovered.

I went to New York City and attended Broadway shows that were nominated for Best Direction of a Play/Musical to experience artistic excellence. Along with this, I met with and interviewed numerous theatre professionals to get an inside look into what it takes to be successful as a director.

Once I arrived in New York, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was quite busy, seeing so many shows and meeting with professionals- however once there was time for me to sit down and reflect I learned a lot about myself. I always thought that I wanted to move to New York post-graduation, however I was unsure if I would be able to make it. After spending a week and a half in the city I felt immediately at home. I felt as if I belonged and was comfortable where I was.

Along with this understanding of New York was where I needed to be, I also learned a lot about the type of artist I wanted to be. For so long I felt that I needed to do Broadway shows in order to be successful, that that was what I wanted to do. After seeing a few shows on Broadway I soon felt empty and felt as if something was missing. One day I was unable to get a ticket to one of the shows I was supposed to see and decided to take a chance and see an off-Broadway show. That was the greatest decision I made, that night I ended up realizing that I wanted to work for Manhattan Theatre Club and felt that it was one of the greatest productions I have ever seen. I learned so much about myself on this trip, and definitely feel I have grown.

As I said, one of the major events that took place that caused this change was the fact I could not get tickets to The King and I. This was not something that was planned, or part of the itinerary however it was the event that caused so much change. I then ran that night to Second Stage Theatre and purchased a ticket to The Way We Get By a show I had wanted to see, but wasn’t supposed to have the time. Seeing this show felt more comfortable, it wasn’t some spectacle for audiences, or some crazy madhouse filled with tourists, but it was actual theatre. The audience was filled with folks who actually liked theatre, and wanted to see new work.

After this experience, I decided that I wanted the rest of my trip to explore other aspects of theatre other than Broadway. Having been to New York numerous times before, Broadway is all I have known. Soon I started exploring the city with a new light. I took a time to see another off-Broadway show, at Manhattan Theatre Club. I also began to explore off-Broadway companies, and talked to professionals outside of the Broadway scene. I felt more excited and confident after this change in my trip. I felt enlightened and I was more comfortable in making connections with people I was networking with.

While my original plans for my experience were exciting when I planned them, I soon learned what I was looking for and who I am as an artist. Once I learned this, I made the decision to start and make changes to my experience and fashioned it around what I needed/wanted. The city felt new and seemed less overwhelming once this change occurred. I now feel much more ready to conquer my post-graduation life and to move to New York.

As stated previously, this change is significant to my professional career because it made me understand myself better and what type of work I want to do. Once I had this better understanding, I knew what I needed to ask from my professors and those around me. I knew what I needed to do in my next two years at Ohio State. This new found understanding of myself and my work, because new motivation for me in my academics and in my work. Now that I have a better understanding of what I want to do over the next few years, I have a more organized and clear path for what I need to be doing. That is all due to my experience.

Opening the Third Eye: A Journey in Reflection

For my STEP Experience I embarked on an artistic endeavor. I have been drawing since I was a kid, so it made sense for me to pursue it further through STEP. I love to create artwork that is both visually stimulating and eerie; often blending multiple mediums in the process. I love to distort faces, abstract images, and even mutilate my art to create interesting and unusual textures. Hence, for my project I purchased art supplies, as well as instructional material to further develop my artistic ability and a camera to document my progress and works along the way.

  • What did you learn? This experience deeply fostered my growth as person. Through it I learned that art is more important to me than I ever thought. It is one of the purest expressions of me and I was able to connect with a part of myself that is often derelict. Moreover, the instructional material that I purchased further aided my growth as an artist by granting me a greater understanding of artistic techniques such as light, contrast, depth and shading.
  • How did this experience impact you personally? The experience allowed me to gain a better understanding of myself as I created artwork. Making the artwork was a deeply spiritual practice for me. When I created the art time ceased to exist and I was able to access a deep present energy within and connect with the divine in myself. Each piece took me to a level of consciousness where I was greatly at peace. I also learned to accept myself unconditionally. This was probably the greatest impact the work had on me. It taught me not to judge myself and be comfortable with my expression because with each piece I had to completely let go of expectations to create something extraordinary.
  • How did your experience impact your academic, personal, and life goals moving forward? The experience helped me realize that art is meant to be shared. After the experience I began photographing my artwork and created a Facebook page to share my pieces with my friends and family. From there on, I began posting my work on other social media sites such as Twitter and Tumblr. Furthermore, I opened an online store where I began selling prints of my work which further inspired me to start my own line of streetwear.
  • What was your favorite part of your experience? My favorite part of the experience was creating the artwork and seeing my ideas come to life. I was thrilled because what started out as a blank canvas, lit up right before my eyes. Each piece was a miracle on its own.


DSC_0132 DSC_01482012-06-09 18.23.26  2012-06-09 18.26.22 2012-06-09 18.28.32 2012-06-27 21.51.15

I Was Young When I Left Home

Alex Thesken

Bob Bierkenholz


9 December 2015

During May 2015, I traveled across the U.S. and Canada on Amtrak railways. By documenting my experiences with people and landscape, as well as by writing a narrative that combines folklore research, travel literature, and journaling, I explored my identity as citizen and artist in 21st-century America.

During my travels I reflected often upon the sense of individuality and self-reliance I was forging through planning and executing this big trip alone. For the first time, I got to be alone in not only a new place, but almost every place I got off the train. As I walked and talked my way across the country, the random happenings of life forced me to adjust my schedule often, visit different cities than planned, and stay in places I did not expect. Adjusting my STEP budget, travel itinerary, and  lodgings, all without an advisor or parent to guide me or offer their experiences, gave me the opportunity to trust myself in a new way for the first time and believe that I could make safe, responsible, and meaningful choices on my own.

While I explored this new independence, I also felt the ways in which this trip was offering me an experience not exactly unique to me as a young person. Countless narratives I have read in my Literature education follow young people setting off for the first time to a strange place and – unsurprisingly – discovering similar things about their self-reliance, independence, friendships, etc. While I have read my whole life about travel opening peoples’ minds and offering diverse experiences, actually experiencing those changes for myself became the way these lessons from literature made sense and instilled themselves in my being.

During the first leg of my travels, an Amtrak train in Philadelphia derailed, killing some and injuring many. The stretch of track damaged by this accident is a vital passage between the NYC / Northeast US area and the rest of the contiguous US. The night of the accident I was in North Dakota traveling towards Chicago to head towards New York the following day, but the Philadelphia crash forced me to reroute nine of my twelve train tickets and take an alternate route to New York and Montreal which I was intent on visiting. Family, friends, and even people I met on the trip who heard about my long odyssey texted, called, emailed, while I was out of cell range and had no WIFI, so responding to all my worried relations was a different kind of challenge. Lacking WIFI also made documenting parts of my experience and researching new questions that arose from my explorations difficult, so I learned to re-value the analog world of pen-and-paper writing, which has impacted my writing experience as an English major.

I fell in love on the train. As silly as that sounds, one of the first people I met was an Afro-Anglo-American design student from California who was visiting her mother in San Francisco. During the 18 hours we spent together in the observation car of my first Amtrak train, we talked to strangers, shared our lives, goals, and dreams with each other, discovered a mutual passion for poetry, and exhausted ourselves playing cards and trading stories with about ten other people under 27 who were all on the train with us. During the previous school year a significant relationship in my life ended, which sent me into a bad place for the rest of the school year, heavily complicated by my Seasonal Affective Disorder. Meeting Anicka in the liminal traincar space was such a restorative experience for me, because we both knew that this relationship would pass away as soon as we split for different cities, but that made the experience so much more impactful for me. I was uplifted by the fact that there are people in completely surprising places where I can find meaningful connection, romance, and experience with, and it didn’t matter that this person was not able to be a romantic partner for me, because people like her were in fact out theresomewhere.

Lastly, seeing brand new landscapes stimulated my aesthetic and spiritual wellness. Bob Bierkenholz asked me to take a camera along for selfies of all the new places I would see, but instead I had more fun. My freshman year roommate and I bought a toy in the Short North as a gag over winter break — a five-inch tall green wooden robot which we named Dennis. I took Dennis along with me and, instead of instagramming pictures of myself, took pictures of Dennis doing very basic tourist things — trying new foods, posturing in front of monuments, meeting new people — all in miniature. Dennis gained a small following of my friends, as well as studios and art galleries in the cities I visited, museums, as well as the official Instagram page for the company that produces toys like Dennis. I learned to be comfortable looking totally silly, squatting, kneeling, laying down on the floor, to take pictures of a toy in otherwise very serious places, to make me and my friends back home (plus throughout the US) laugh. Almost too many times to count, I encountered a beautiful coast, park, building, felt myself rejuvenated after a painful and taxing school year, and after a tearful joy passed through me, found a way to make it goofy with Dennis. As this current school year has progressed, I have found myself marrying this serious joy with silliness, which has benefitted my relationships, as well as uplifted me more through these various outlets for self-help.

My STEP experience taught me to prioritize travel as a way to rebalance, explore, and relax. The amount of logistical and financial planning to earn these meaningful experiences has allowed me to cultivate time management skills, detail-oriented planning, and communication skills with a diverse range of people and mediums. I have since begun to plan a trip to Paris with my best friend, as well as another larger-scale solo trip for the summer of 2016, using my student employment and various side hustles like church choir singing and selling plasma to fund my adventures. In addition, I have found several options to make a career out of travel and writing through organizations such as AirBNBs,, and Discovery Channel, which I am pursuing throughout the next semester as I plan my post-graduation plans.


Finding America: A Look Towards the New Deal West

Finding America: A Look Towards the New Deal West

For my STEP project, I traveled to national parks out west in order to conduct research for my undergraduate thesis, a novel set in the Great Depression. Originally, I wanted to determine how New Deal programs effected the landscape of the American West through looking into a variety of regions and at the remains of different New Deal projects. However, over the course of the summer I expanded on this idea of the “Great Depression landscape” through additional research and found a variety of new creative projects which I pursued.

One of the main components of my trip consisted of conducting research regarding some of the national parks out west. I wanted to get a better feel for the landscape as people in the 1930s would have seen it. Therefore I traveled to a number of locations that saw major renovation or work during this time period. In travelling across the west through a variety of states I obtained a clearer sense of what people trying to escape the economic crisis might have felt. I took several photos at different park locations which I plan to use as settings within my novel. Through my travels I found different locations which I thought suited the feeling I wanted my novel to represent. One such area I found unexpectedly was a small town outside of Dubuque, Iowa. These photos were taken in the town:DSC_1183DSC_1184

I hope to capture this town’s essence within my novel through the use of setting and visualization. These are just a few of the photos I took to help supplement my ideas of setting. I also came across some other regions I wanted to represent through the course of my novel. One of these towns was Kanab, Utah. The following photos were taken from the location:


Kanab proved to be a very interesting town as it’s feeling was very unique. To me the area seemed like the meeting of older conservative ideals against newer ideas. This clash of tradition and modernization became readily apparent as I toured the town. I came across a variety of opinions concerning government and ideology. All of this took place against a desert background which I found especially drawing. I want to capture these unique feelings through the course of my writing. The other cities and towns through which I traveled provided an interesting comparison in regional differences. Before this trip, I didn’t comprehend the regional differences can make in the U.S. cultural setting. Now, I can fully understand how the United States is more split between a variety of ideologies. My novel will try and reflect these differences using a combination of regional beliefs and language differences. I havea more complete understanding of the United States as an array of cultures under one flag, instead of a nation united in one universal way of life. Perhaps the most important site I found was Scott Lake State Park, which contained several CCC sites and the remains of old camps. This site saw the development of variety of New Deal projects including the creation of a reservoir to contain the flow of a local river. The following photos were taken at the site:



I found the park to be a valuable resource in establishing a pattern among New Deal project landscapes. This landscape worked especially well in the realm of setting. Through my stop here, I now have a greater visual image of what to create as an authentic CCC camp atmosphere. Details like weather and the history behind the park also helped me to establish this idea. I hope to properly display this through a proper rendering through my writing.


As with most novels, research must be conducted on the subjects of interest. This is especially important for a novel taking place during the Great Depression. I have titled the research of various sites and destinations as “subject Reference.” Through the course of my trip I found a variety of different subjects that would serve me well in the development of setting and realism for my novel. Many of these subjects were buildings from the 1930s or the remnants of old Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) sites.  I took photos of these sites to assist me in the development of setting and tone. Luckily, I found a restored CCC camp within Utah. The following pictures are from that camp. DSC_0306DSC_0313DSC_0325


This camp proved to be one of the most useful resource on the trip. This camp allowed me to see what a CCC camp could have actually looked like in its original state. As can be seen from the associated plaques, it can also be seen that the site provided great information of CCC camps in general. The camps unique construction along a hillside also allowed me to imagine some of the interesting aspects and stories within CCC sites. I feel I can now fully visualize a working camp within the setting of my novel. Mesa Verde National Park also had several park pieces stemming from the New Deal and the Progress Works Administration (PWA) of that time. The following photos are from the park:



The diorama pieces, displays, and scenery are just a few results of the New Deal programs upon this park. The impressive collection of materials and projects from the era allowed me to comprehend the scale of these New Deal programs. By looking at these pieces and touring some of the sites I was allowed the opportunity to research another possible setting for my novel. People viewing the old CCC projects also created an interesting sense of past meeting present, which I found to be an interesting subject. This subject continued to present itself throughout a number of photos from my trip.


Upon further research into areas of interest and the subjects of the west, I discovered more possible creative opportunities. I found out that a few New Deal agencies hired photographers to record New Deal programs in progress, and convince the nation of the positive affects they were having on the nation. Such photographs yielded a few famous results including “Migrant Mother” by Dorothea Lange. These photographers were given “shooting scripts” to follow in order to capture certain subjects. Many of these shooting scripts were kept by the library of congress and are fully accessible to the general public. I took several of these shooting scripts on my trip and captured modern images of what I believed could represent them in the modern age. I plan to take these shooting scripts and modern photographs and combine them with a set of creative stories relating the recent recession to the Great Depression. This “picture book” is a work in progress and requires additional work. However, I have a selection of the beginning available which I will publish here. The following is an excerpt from the book:


Long Live Frank the Capitalist

 “What do you think of Frank?” asked the young office worker. He sat back and took another sip of the frothy amber liquid. The noise started to pick up now that happy hour had begun.

“Frank, he’s an annoying son of a bitch, but what’re you gonnna do?” He poured himself another glass from the pitcher making sure to keep out as much foam as possible.

“You could do a lot actually.”

“Yeah, you could do a lot but you don’t want to get into any trouble,” Joe responded.

Anthony gave Joe a look of disgust and let his words out forcefully. “Who cares anymore? Work is hell all the damn time.”

Joe seemed taken aback. He remained silent and averted his eyes from Anthony’s. “I’m tired with all of it, just damn tired.”

After a short silence, Joe implored his friend. “Alright, what’s wrong? You pissed at the boss again or is it something else? Talk to me.” Anthony looked around in disgust at everyone around him. He started to roll up his work tie so it looked like a wheel of navy. Joe kept looking at Antony amidst the many sounds that started to fill his ear. The crackling of old pretzels and peanuts under the feet of various patrons did little to distract him.

“You see that clock up there?” Anthony said pointing to the far wall littered with various pictures of Chicago landmarks. The spire in the picture of a skyscraper pointed to a plain white clock above. The creamy boring face seemed out of place against the array of reds and browns on the wall.

“Yeah… but what does that have to do with anything?”

“Just humor me,” Anthony said, “What time is on that clock?”

“7:05 I think.”

“Right, now what if I told you that it was actually 6:55? What if I told you that you were completely wrong?”

Joe looked at the clock again and only felt more confused. “I don’t know. What does it –”

“Cause apparently Frank thinks it makes a world of fucking difference! Apparently ten minutes makes a company to go bankrupt!”

Joe tried to calm Anthony and gave him another full glass from the pitcher. “Simmer down, no need to get so angry over the boss.”

“Oh but there is a need! Someone needed to get up and tell him that our time is valuable, our time means something too. And ten minutes won’t cause a fire.”

Joe’s face became grave and his lively complexion started to fade. “What did you do?” Joe asked.

“I told him the truth. He needed to hear it.”

Anthony started to mumble softly. He looked down into the beer and watched his reflection. The ripples distorted the image and made him think about what he had become. He no longer saw the youthful image of creativity that inspired him every day. For the first time in his life, he seemed tired and restless. The bright images of his past were replaced with numbers and dollar signs of the accounting world. Short brown hair, green eyes, the narrow face: nothing brought back the old images despite the minimal changes in appearance since graduation.

“Why’d you say anything? Ten minutes doesn’t make a difference in the long run.”

“I couldn’t do it anymore, none of it. I walked over to the elevator with my things in hand and he was just standing there. He kept looking at that clock with a wide smirk; a smirk that could make a man vomit.”

Anthony paused again to finish off his second beer. Again, he waved his hand until the bartender noticed and brought him another full glass. He sadly glanced at the froth falling elegantly over the sides of the glass. He continued with his story.

“I tried to ignore him but to no avail. He started the same old employee-employer bullshit talk. ‘How’s this account coming?’ ‘Any exciting plans for the weekend?’ I was just about to leave when he asked, ‘Where do you think you’re going?’ I told him it was the end of the work day and I was going home…. Then he told me to look at that fucking clock.”

“Yeah, everyone knows about that. It’s not like it’s the first time this has happened.”

“It’s the third time this month for me; the same thing every time. He tells me to look and smirks when I see the clock has shifted back ten minutes.”

Joe shook his head in disbelief. He didn’t see the point in his friend’s reaction over such a short amount of time lost. He thought it mattered little overall. “Listen, just get past it and appreciate what you’ve got. A lot of people would kill for your security.”

“I never wanted this job; I never wanted the security and never wanted to be here.”

“What’re you talking about?”

“I’m not doing anything, nothing important at least. All I’m doing is crunching numbers and reading dollar signs. There’s got to be more out there than sitting in a cubicle for the rest of my life, slowly rotting away in a pile of reports and invoices. I wasn’t going to let this world enslave me.”

Joe looked at Anthony with a blank expression and chugged his beer. He noticed Anthony’s glass was already nearly empty.

“How much have you eaten today?” Joe asked.

“I skipped lunch.”

“Maybe you should slow down. I’m not going to be carrying you back to your apartment,” Joe said.

Anthony said, “Ah, don’t worry about me. For the first time in two years I feel free. I don’t care what Frank thinks anymore; I told him so myself.”

“Oh great, what did you say? Can’t you leave anything alone?”

Anthony started to break mini pretzels in his hand and line them up around his glass. The dry pretzels became soggy as they began to absorb the condensation. “Not this time. I’ve had enough of his BS for a lifetime. When he told me to go back to work, I just stood there and stared at him. For the first time, I saw more than an employer. I saw a bald man that was willing to cut time short for his own amusement.”

Joe rolled his eyes and ordered a blue moon. The noise continued to increase as drunks outnumbered their sober counterparts. Joe interjected, “You describe a typical boss, every employer and every superior anyone has ever met. It’s always the same in every single firm, company, and fast food restaurant. Someone needs to be on top, with someone on the bottom. We value the stability it offers; constant pay at a small price of little time and the sacrifice of minimal freedom. You know what they call that my friend? Capitalism, simple capitalism; you love it or leave it; appreciate it or complain about it. It depends on your outlook of the world…. so allow me to give you a suggestion: if you have a better idea, then I’m all ears. If not, enjoy the ride.”

For a mere moment, everything seemed quiet. There was no yelling or cheering for the static filled screens or the drunk that took his tenth shot. Anthony tried to think of the perfect utopian solution, but his mind remained devoid of any new sparks. Instead his mind continued to dwell on his own misery within the capitalist system. Anthony never wanted to go into the world of finance or work for one of the largest firms in Chicago. Finance became his marketable backup at the request of his parents. Rather he dreamt of pixels and paint; his mind constantly veered into capturing the world’s echoing spirit on strips of film.

He looked to Joe again with a similarly grave expression. His cold distant eyes suggested his content with the world of numbers while his prominent brow looked like that of a man satisfied with the world. Anthony sadly acknowledged the fact that his friend Joe was in reality an acquaintance with which he associated with to avoid lonely Friday evenings. Joe wasn’t a bad person, he simply differed in spirit from his creative counterpart, and Anthony always knew that.

“Come on now,” Joe said, “I think you need to forget about Frank and his bullshit.” He held up his glass and Anthony reciprocated likewise. “To getting through another week and drinking until we forget about it,” Joe finished. They both lifted their glasses and let the hoppy brew flow down their throats. After wiping their lips of the froth, a short silence fell between the men. Anthony felt himself changing from the inside out; his passions had finally gotten the better of him and unhappiness finally surfaced. He knew there were better things in store for him, and he felt his project was the answer. With a shaky grasp Anthony lifted his glass again and addressed Joe.

“To time and money, or as Frank told me today, ‘Time is money.’”

“Ha! That old bastard would say that.” Joe took a sip and lowered his glass. “Long live Frank the capitalist!” he jeered at Anthony.

Anthony snorted in amusement. “Yeah, more like fuck Frank the capitalist.” Each of them laughed aloud and drank some more. Joe let his mind run wild, while Anthony stared at the plain white face on the wall, a face that continued to haunt him.



Causation. The main causes of both crises lie in actions of the federal government. In the case of the Great Depression, the Federal Reserve, after keeping interest rates artificially low in the 1920s, raised interest rates in 1929 to halt the resulting boom. That helped choke off investment. Also, President Hoover signed into law the sky-high Smoot-Hawley Tariff, which stifled trade and damaged American exports throughout the 1930s. Finally, the President signed a large tax increase into law in 1932, which halted entrepreneurship.

The seeds of the Great Recession were planted when the government in the 1990s began pushing homeownership, even for uncreditworthy people, with a vengeance. Mortgage-backed securities built on dubious mortgage loans became “toxic” when the housing market took a downturn, and many American banks verged on collapse. The government’s urgent desire to bail out various banks and corporations created uncertainty and instability, and this may have widened the recession.

  • Burton W. Folsom, Foundation for Economic Education

A Welcome Title

            The orange needle hovered around the fifty on the circular face. To Anthony’s dismay, it only reminded him further about the clock in his office. However, the rural Wisconsin roads helped to alleviate any leftover angst from the weekend for he knew he was far away from any financial documents. A variety of new images clustered in his head; the hilly shades of green and the harmony of mooing helped him forget the dollar signs. Even the faint scent of manure from open fields was welcome compared to the familiar smells of coffee stains and cheap cologne. To Anthony, any time away from work for whatever reason could be called vacation, and he bathed in its sweet light.

“You know, my great-grandmother was a photographer for the Farm Securities Administration,” Anthony said. Zach shifted his eyes away from the window and readjusted the pillow holding his legs on the vehicle’s dashboard. He continued this slouched posture and took a loud sip from his Mountain Dew. “She had nothing when she left – her house had been repossessed and she lost her job like most of the others in the small Indiana town. When the Depression got worse, the fender manufacturer that employed everyone in town closed its doors in order to save what money was let in the business. Everyone later found out that the owner shot himself in his office a few days later.”

Zach rubbed the faint red stubble of his chin, probably a result of his Irish descent. “Interesting,” he said, “I’m surprised I never knew that. Is that what made you take the job in the first place?”

“Yeah, at first it was, but you know me. I’ve always been fascinated by the Great Depression. To me the day the market crashed was the same day something in America died. Not only were the investors ruined, but an old sense of Americana died too.”

Anthony focused on the images outside of the windshield. The ethanol, tractors, bales of hay, a blue sky: nothing here changed on that fateful day in 1929. Few knew the magnitude of financial losses and the ripple effect that it would have on every aspect of the American experience. He tried to imagine a poor farmer losing his barn months after the crash or a small family travelling through. This imagination always led him back to the images his great grandmother brought back from the west, all of those sad dirty faces with nowhere to go.

“Yeah, you really could go on all day about the Depression changing this or that, changing the feeling of hope in America or anything really. The real question is how you are going to capture that feeling. I’m a market analyst, not an artist.”

“You don’t need to be an artist to help me. All I need from you is loyalty. I’m sure you’ve got that covered.” A moment of silence fell between the two; the humming of tractors in the distance became audible and the crows louder. Zach broke the silence first.

“So what exactly are you going to do? Got any ideas?” he asked.

“I’ve got a couple. I’ve been e-mailing the guy back and forth for a little while now. Most of the stuff he photographed is old buildings from the 1930s or old landscapes changed by the New Deal program. It sounds interesting.”

“And why are we going to visit the parks?” Zach asked.

“During the 1930s Roosevelt got the idea to employ people through the park system as one method to stagnate unemployment. So he created a new program to employ young men within the parks called the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC gave the men a place to live and food. They spread their camps out across America’s parks and were put to work building roads, maintaining trails, and creating new structures.”

“You want to capture what’s left of the program.”

“There isn’t much left behind from the camps, but there are a lot of old structures still around. I want to find those old projects and take pictures of them. You know, kind of try and capture the legacy.”

“Yeah I get it, and you sound like a damn text book,” Zach said mockingly.

“Hey, I need to know about the subjects if I’m going to be taking pictures of them.”

“Whatever you say man. All I know is I’m looking forward to seeing Zion National Park; that one sounded cool.”

Anthony said, “You’ll like a lot of the parks. There should be some interesting things around those areas too. Never know what you’ll find.”

“Yeah, you got that right. Only time I’ve been out west was when my family flew out to California, haven’t been anywhere within the interior.”

“Same, it should be an interesting experience. I know it’s not exactly your area of expertise, but let me know if you think of any ideas for pictures or subjects.”

“Yeah sure, I’ll let you know.”

Once again, the silence fell on the two friends. One focused on the possibility of capturing history on a strip of film while the other thought about the exploration of new lands. The duo travelled like Columbus setting course for the New World; despite knowledge of the sites and lands in which they were going to travel the lands remained unknown to them. Freedom raced across the landscape and they chased it like a starfish following the receding lines of a midday tide.

“You know something,” Zach said shifting his legs again and letting his socks touch the windshield, “You’re pretty much an FSA photographer now. You’re trying to prove the New Deal worked much like they did. Welcome, the first new one in almost a century.”

Anthony responded with a chuckle. “Ha. I guess you’re right. Me, an FSA photographer.”

He nodded his head in approval and let the words roll smoothly off his tongue. He felt a sense of belonging he hadn’t felt while working at the accounting firm. To Anthony, the honor became a welcome surprise and he would grip to the title for the entirety of the trip.


The FSA Photographer

The photograph is no longer merely an illustration. Groups of photographs properly selected, edited, and captioned, are giving a new turn to modern journalism. The camera in the proper hands should become a worthy aid to government agencies. The Farm Security Administration has recognized this new trend in photography. It has accepted the camera as an essential aid in presenting the problems with which it has to work; and to convey to interested persons the progress made in dealing with these problems. In short, it has accepted the camera as its first class reporting mechanism.

The very nature of our file requires qualifications from our photographic staff far beyond artistry and mechanical skill. Alone in the field the FSA photographer must be able to interpret what he sees from many aspects: He must be a good deal of a social scientist, with some theoretical and much practical grounding; he is a social investigator with the camera as his notebook.


This sample is only a small portion of the work I have completed for the book. In later chapters I plan to include a number of photos along with shooting scripts. This photo-shooting script combination will come from the main character himself as a project which he will be trying to complete. The following picture-shooting script combinations are only a small selection of what I plan to have finished in the final product:


Before you touch your camera, look over the town carefully. Walk or drive the town. Look at the people, at the stores, stop at the street corners, and listen in at the filling station and the saloon. Then go back to your hotel and try to write an answer to this question, “Why does this town exist?”


Part II – Industry

1. The Factory, Its Processes and Workers:

A. Exterior Views of typical factories to show style of building, care of yards.



I stress once again that this is only a short sample of the photos and quotes which I plan to use. However, these two photos successfully display the two extremes which I plan to undertake in the representation of the various shooting scripts. Some photos will follow be paired with quotes allowing for more personal interpretation by the reader as shown by the first pair. Others will simply show the script along with the literal subject. I also plan to play with these two extremes and choose some photos that fit into each individual category.


One of the main goals behind this trip was to find research some of the ways in which the New Deal shaped the country. However, as I toured the country I realized more and more that I started to also undertake a general survey of the country and some of the ways in which it had changed. Along with finding a variety of buildings and structures from the 1930s, I also found a number of sights which seemed to represent lost ideas behind the old ideals of Americana.


Such photos as these made me reflect upon the purpose behind my trip. I started to document several of these feelings and notions through pictures such as these where the old west seems to clash with the encroaching ideals of new Americana. In the spirit of such pursuits, I also created a number of more interpretive photos in which I created a variety of signs using different materials. I inscribed some of these signs with old symbols used once by the hobos of the 1930s. (NOTE: I attribute the idea of signs with 1930s hobo symbols to Christiane Buuck, my STEP adviser. THANKS FOR YOUR HELP!) The following photos were taken with the help of my friend, Andrew Staggs, who accompanied me on the trip (Another thank you goes out to him!).


These more interpretive and artistic pieces will serve as side projects to the main project of my book. I plan to investigate other possible projects and ideas through which these resources can be used.


To conclude this short reflection, I’d like to say what an amazing experience this project provided. Through the trip I learned a lot about myself and about the country as a whole. I gained a wealth of research and knowledge to use in the creation of my STEP book. I also pursued additional pursuits such as the ones labelled in this report. I realized that the New Deal greatly changed the American landscape. It built up the natural wonders of the nation while employing thousands of hopeless men. However, it also did something else for America. It built into the very character of the American identity and helped to stimulate the hope that people needed. Through the course of my investigation into these matters I became continually inspired to create new projects and pursue a variety of new ideas. I look forward to working on these projects and finding new ways to go about displaying these more creative venues. The resources listed here are just a fraction of the materials I have prepared. I hope to have all the materials in use during the creation of additional projects.

Chinese Qigong

Name: Madison Hartshorn

Type of Project: Artistic/Creative Endeavors

Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

My STEP experience took place at the Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado. At the SMC, I participated in a five day meditation program called Traditional Chinese Qigong, where I learned breathing and movement techniques to create physical and mental stability and balance.

What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

During my week at the Shambhala Mountain Center, I had a moderate amount of time to examine my internal thoughts and actions. Through my observations of myself and others and the activities that I took place in, I began to understand the reasons behind some of my impulsive and impractical actions. I practiced breaking apart the thoughts that are often formed when certain events occur or certain words are spoken to me. Before my retreat, I found that I would get very agitated, uncomfortable, and upset when things were unexpected or didn’t go as planned. However during my experience, I learned to simply notice the thoughts that were produced during these times and to avoid acting on them right away. Normally emotions would instantly rise up and cause me to get upset and act rashly. Now I can let things happen and observe them for nothing more than they are. This has become an invaluable skill. It has significantly lessened the amount of stress and anxiety I encounter on a daily basis and allowed me to view the people and events around me with less hate and more compassion for the life I am living.

What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

Much of my time at the SMC was spent in my designated program learning and practicing Qigong. When not in my program, I had free time to visit the library, talk with others at the center, or meditate. During my stay, I read several books that taught me about how the human mind and body work. It gave me incredible understanding for the world I live in and how those around me communicate and think. It also gave me insight in my own thoughts and feelings and how and why they come about in certain situations. Talking with other program members was also a great learning experience. I had the opportunity to speak with many experienced people that gave me new awareness into how a peaceful mind thinks and reacts to life. At the SMC, there were people from many different states and countries with whom I had the chance to speak with. They gave me the opportunity to become more knowledgeable about other cultures and lifestyles outside of my own.

The Qigong program I participated in was an incredible experience. It was composed of one lecture class followed by multiple classes of learning and practicing the various body positions and movements with corresponding breathing techniques. I had practiced many different forms of yoga over the years and attempted some meditation, but Qigong was a whole new experience. It was awkward at first to learn this new practice, but after some time I found that it was very therapeutic and meditative for my body and mind. The specific form of Qigong I learned has been passed down through many generations, or lineages, of people who are entrusted to teach and inform those in the program of this sacred practice. Only those who took part in the program are allowed to practice Qigong and they are prohibited from speaking with others of what they learned. I am very honored to have had the opportunity to learn and practice Qigong.

The meditation aspect of my STEP experience was the most profound experience. The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya is located on the SMC grounds and was an incredible sight to behold. The stupa serves as an inspiration for peace and compassion throughout the world. The feeling when entering the Stupa is unlike any other. I felt all negative thoughts and feelings free from my mind and be replaced with a comforting feeling of peace and safety. Every morning I hiked to the stupa and spent much of my time sitting to meditate and contemplate.  For the first time in my life, I had felt at peace inside my own mind. I felt more connected to my body and experiences than I ever had before. I also used photography as a form of meditation during my retreat. Using my camera that I purchased for my trip, I was able to view landscapes and objects in different lighting and films that gave me a new perspective on what I take in through my eyes. It also allowed me to stop and take in my surroundings, which furthered my sense of peacefulness.

During my stay at the SMC, I kept a journal that I regularly wrote in during program sessions and free time. I kept notes while our program leader was speaking so that I could look back and use what she had said at a later date. I often went back over my notes at the end of the day and wrote my own reactions and comments to what I had discovered during that day. The journal was very useful for me to record my transformation that took place. Looking back through my entries after my retreat, I first came to the center frustrated and uncertain. I then continued to journal about my conversations with my program leader discussing the inability to quiet the constant chaos in my mind. Later, I was excited to write about the peace and silence I had experienced for the first time while sitting to meditate that day. This journal has now been very crucial and beneficial for me to look back through and remind myself the journey I went through. I know now that when I feel frustrated and overwhelmed by the chaos in my mind, it just takes is some patience and less aggression to feel the peace and silence once again.

Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? 

This change has been so valuable to me in my life. Upon returning home from my retreat at the SMC, I continued practicing Qigong and meditation for some time. Once the school year started, I found less time and motivation for my Qigong practice until I stopped it all together. Though I have neglected my Qigong practice, meditation and the knowledge I gained from my experience have continued to stay with me. Meditation has been incredibly crucial for me to find peace and quiet in the chaos of my mind and everyday life. I have been able to observe my experiences and actions in a different mindset, allowing me to react to them in a much more knowledgeable and calm manner than I would have before. I have found that the little pet peeves and annoyances of everyday life have lessened more and more with each day. The time normally spent annoyed and frustrated has now been replaced with compassion and love for the world and people around me.

Continuing on with my meditation practice will undoubtedly help pave a pathway for success in my future. Meditation creates space in my mind to feel at ease even when there is confusion and disorder all around me. This will be beneficial in all aspects of my life when there are unseen and unwanted events that occur; specifically in my job, relationships, finances, and home. Instead of reacting with anger, frustration, and regret, I can observe the events with a quiet mind, resulting in less pain and negative consequences in my life. Additionally, because meditation has resulted in more compassion in my life, I find it easier to enjoy living. I soon hope to regain the inspiration to continue my Qigong practice. Practicing this sacred art has profound physical and mental benefits that aid in longevity and peacefulness that will farther my spiritual practice.

The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya

The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya

The beautiful Colorado land

The beautiful Colorado land

STEP Reflection- “Oasis” Album

Oasis Full Album on Bandcamp


As I reflect back on my STEP experience, I can say with certainty that it was very successful, and with the help of the $2,000 dollars I was given I was able to bring my ideas to fruition. I have always had the dream of creating my own album, but due to insufficient funds such a dream seemed out of reach. What I appreciate about this program is that the STEP faculty was with us every step of the way, making sure that we were properly budgeting the $2,000 dollars for our project. Because of this, every aspect of my project was successful.

I released my album, “Oasis” on August 15th, 2015. As of today, Oasis has a total of 2,300 plays all across Soundcloud, Band camp, and You tube. I can honestly say that without the $2,000 Step gave me, I would n’t have been able to achieve these results. Through advertisements, I was able to reach a total of +300,000 individuals on social media. How this works is that on Facebook, you can set up your own advertising campaign. This campaign allows you to choose the amount of money you want to put down, the areas and individuals you want to target, and the duration of the advertisement. I strategically manipulated these parameters in order to get the best results. Although the results could have been better, I am glad it turned out the way it did.

With the rest of the STEP money, I purchased a new bass guitar, and some studio monitors. I play bass for my local church on Sundays. The issue was that I didn’t own a bass of my own, so I relied on the churches bass. Now that I’ve purchased my own bass guitar, I can play bass at various locations across the city, and I am no longer limited. The studio monitors I purchased were KVR Rockits. These are known to be top notch studio monitors with a flat frequency. This means that the audio you hear from the speakers is accurate and clean, and it allows the producer to pinpoint any artifacts within his music. This definitely has an effect on the way a producers music sounds. Because of the monitors, I was able to mix and master my music effectively, so that it sounds professional. I was also able to get a MIDI controller for music production. This gadget allows you to actively control and play the sounds that are installed in your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Although it isn’t necessary to have this, it allows the producer to have a more natural feel when creating music.

Overall, I am glad that I chose to be apart of STEP my sophomore year. Ohio State has truly given their students a wonderful program that allows them to achieve the dreams that they have always had. I can say that this was an experience that I will always cherish, and I would recommend this program to all incoming and rising freshmen.


Schokolade Mit Kris: A Blog on Austrian Chocolate

 1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.                             Photo 11

For my STEP experience I completed a course on chocolate science and I did an independent study abroad to Weiz, Austria to learn about the chocolate culture. During my 3 week trip, I sampled chocolate and chocolate desserts from the cities of Weiz, Graz, and Vienna, Austria. I also toured the Zotter Chocolate factory and learned about the manufacturing of chocolate. I created a blog to document my experience and my chocolate adventures.


2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

My knowledge about chocolate was insignificant before I began my step experience, though I have always had a strong curiosity for it. Before I traveled to Austria to learn about the chocolate culture there, I took Chocolate Science at OSU. This class opened my eyes to a whole new meaning of chocolate. I learned start to finish how chocolate was produced, and I even made it myself. Once I began my experience in Austria, touring a factory and sampling different chocolates was so much more enjoyable than before. Because I fully understood the effort that it took to produce those chocolates, it was no longer just a sweet treat for me. It was a moment of appreciation to the chocolatiers of the world.

Photo 2 (7)

Not only did I experience the science behind chocolate and taste the many chocolates of Austria, I got to experience a chocolate culture in a new country. Throughout my 3 weeks of sampling chocolate, I also observed the marketing of the chocolate and how it fit with the everyday lifestyles of the Austrian people. Being able to observe cultural differences in chocolate consumption opened my eyes to even more cultural differences. I became a much more excepting and appreciative individual for new cultures and new experiences because of this STEP project. My trip to Austria and my travels outside of my STEP experience also lead to an even greater personal growth of confidence, adjustment and independence.

 3. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

Photo 5 (2)

There were several events and activities that lead to my current body of knowledge about Austrian  chocolate and chocolate culture. My tour of the Zotter Chocolate Factory is something I will never  forget. When I arrived, I first watched a short film about the owner of the factory/company, where I  learned about the bean to bar production of their chocolates. For the first time, all the course  material I had learned was being put into a real life, visual representation. After that, I was given a  small glass spoon and sent off into the factory with a hand-held prerecorded tape (in English,  thankfully) of a play-by-play of every room I entered into or saw from behind glass windows.  Throughout this tour, I sampled and noted all the different chocolates and my interpretation of their  flavors. Mostly everything was in German, so I took photos of the descriptions of each chocolate I  sampled and translated it later. It was almost a sensory guessing game for myself because later I checked to see how close I was to guessing the many flavors of each chocolate.

Throughout my trip, I visited three different cities in Austria and explored the streets to see how easy it would be to find chocolate; it was! That was one of my favorite parts about this experience. Being about to be spontaneous and try new chocolates from different cafes or stores throughout all the cities was so much fun. I also explored the local grocery stores to see just how popular of a house hold item it was. From what I can assume, I would say that 2 full isles of chocolate in a small town store means it is in high demand. These experiences added to my impression of the chocolate culture that included the marketing and consumption of chocolate, but the most chocolate culture I learned came from my host families. Because I stayed with two different host families, I got to see how often they bought/ate chocolate and for what occasions they served it for. For example, one evening my host said that she was going to invite some friend over to hang out. I asked her what she had planned to do. Her response? Chocolate fondue. She said she does this often and that it is a very common thing for her and her friends and family. I found this extremely interesting because in America, most of us don’t even know how to properly melt chocolate, yet alone own double boiler for only chocolate fondue.

Not just my time in Austria contributed to my overall personal growth. Because of STEP, I had to opportunity to also travel before and after my project. In total, I traveled to 5 different countries in 7 weeks. This made me become a more confident, well adjusted, and independent person. My confidence grew specifically when I was in Austria because I was forced to speak German. I have taken 3 semesters of German and really enjoy the language, though I was always too shy or nervous to speak it. When I was in Austria however, most of the time, it was either I spoke up or I didn’t eat lunch that day. Asking for directions, ordering food and simply making friends allowed me to overcome my anxiety of speaking a new language and become confident in myself in a new way. Traveling to new countries every few days to weeks made me also have to learn to adjust quickly and deal with unexpected problems. However, from those unexpected problems or culture shock situations, I grew as an individual and gain a strong sense of independence from accomplishing this goal traveling the world and learning about the chocolate culture of Austria.   Photo 9

4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

This experience did change me as a person, but it also redirected some of my future goals and aspirations. Learning about chocolate, the process of production and how to properly taste it, had always been goals of mine. After traveling to Austria, achieve something I would consider to be a life goal of mine, has inspired me to keep setting new goals to work toward. Having to provide structure and a planning processes to a goal taught me how to use rational thinking and utilize resources to achieve any goal. I now want to continue to expand my knowledge of chocolate, if not learning more about the production process, than simply trying new kinds. I would love to try more chocolate from other places around the world and see if they vary.

This experience has also impacted my academic goals as well. As a student of German, the opportunity to travel to a German speaking country was amazing. Unfortunately, I was unable to take another German class this semester due it being my final semester, I have inspired to continue building my knowledge of German after graduation. I was able to practice my language abilities in Austria; using it to independently navigate and communicate throughout the cities. This has made me want to set new goals to create more opportunities to travel again and grasp the language even more.

My Nitrate Experience

Hello readers!

My name is Miranda Barnewall and I am a senior at The Ohio State University. During my sophomore year I was fortunate enough to participate in the STEP program. STEP gave me the opportunity to travel to Rochester, NY to attend The George Eastman Museum’s first ever Nitrate Picture Show. Categorized under the Artistic and Creative Endeavor experience, my project consisted of me learning about nitrate film and experiencing the medium itself (a very rare treat). At the festival I watched nitrate films, attended different book talks, met other attendees of the festival, as well as the staff at The George Eastman Museum.

Before I continue, I should state that my interest in film resides in film preservation and restoration. It is this interest that has led me to pursue a career in preservation after graduating from The Ohio State University. Before the festival, I had heard a lot about nitrate and its luminous glory. I am a firm believer in the usage of film rather than digital; I see a clearer image with film that I do not get with digital. I naturally assumed that nitrate would be just like seeing regular film but with a wider range of tones. Instead nitrate literally changed the way I see film.

I was not prepared for what nitrate film had to offer. In addition to the films’ range of tonal qualities, I was struck by nitrate’s life-like quality and range of depth. This was my initial impression, the thing that struck me the most. Was I wrong? Was I not having the correct nitrate experience? Shouldn’t I be more impressed by the colors? Nitrate film brings a physical sensation to the screen: in Samson & Delilah, as DeMille tracks up Samson’s wool coat, I could feel the scratchy texture of the wool against my back, in Leave Her to Heaven, when Stahl shows a close-up of Gene Tierney digging her blue satin shoe into the rug, I felt the cool slickness of the blue satin. Nitrate’s range of depth is absolutely incredible. I have never had an experience during a film where I thought I could walk right into the film, in this case, into the hallway of the nun’s convent in the Himalayas in Black Narcissus. It was that real. If I had one statement about my thoughts on nitrate, it would be that it really brings the movies to life.

Nitrate film was undoubtedly the main force in my transformation in this project. I count each film I saw on nitrate as what led to that transformation. One can talk and talk about nitrate, but the thing that changes you is what you see. What I saw was its depth. That was something that took me some time to come to terms with.

The transformation was not just this new visual perception, but also a transformation in my confidence. The beautiful thing about art is that every person brings his or her experience with her into the medium. For film, this is especially true. In such a visual driven medium, some people are taken with one image while others are captivated by another. Throughout the festival, I kept reminding myself of this. Everyone has a different experience, even in when experiencing something like a different bases of film.

Embedded in the festival were talks hosted by some of the film preservation field’s highly regarded, such as the silent film connoisseur Kevin Brownlow. To any silent film fan, Brownlow is an A list celebrity. He has made the silent era his life’s work, starting from his early teenage years to, now, at age of 77. It has always been a dream of mine to meet him, and at the festival I finally did. I must admit it wasn’t the actual event of meeting him that was life changing, but it was to seeing his enthusiasm for silent film that made an impression on me. He could talk about it for hours on end and not mind. He reminded me what is necessary for the field of film preservation and saving its history: passion.

At the conclusion of the festival, I felt confident about my experience with nitrate. My opinion is valid, for it is exactly that: my opinion. Any experience we have cannot be right or wrong. I am extremely lucky that I was able to attend the festival. The festival itself not only allowed me to experience nitrate, but also helped me in my professional career by networking with other cinephiles and meeting the staff of The L. Jeffery Selznick School of Film Preservation. After graduating from The Ohio State University, I plan to attend The L. Jeffery Selznick School of Film Preservation to pursue my certificate in film preservation.

Viewing nitrate film was a significant change in my understanding film as a medium and art form, but the festival itself was a significant change in my understanding of the world after college, a tasting of what I can expect when I attend The Selznick School and work in preservation. Overall, the festival was a success!

I cannot stress how grateful I am for the STEP program, as it allowed me to expand upon my area of interest and future study. For any potential STEP participant reading this, I urge you to think outside of the box! This is a rare opportunity. I would have never thought that any school would have funded me to go see nitrate film. Just the thought would have been out of this world! But now here I am saying that I did, in fact, get to do that.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my nitrate experience! I have included some photos from the festival for you to enjoy.


*If you would like to read the Nitrate Festival post I wrote for my blog (not in any way shape or form meant for the STEP project), click here!

This is me in front of the George Eastman house! It was absolutely beautiful that day.

This is me in front of the George Eastman house on the first day of the festival!

This is the picture that my mother took of me with film preservationist hero, Kevin Brownlow!

This is a picture of me with my film preservationist hero, Kevin Brownlow!

A poster for Black Narcissus (1947). This was by far one of my favorite films.

A poster for Black Narcissus (1947). This was by far one of the most visually stunning films I saw that weekend.

STEP Reflection

For my STEP project, I learned guitar over the summer of 2015. My reflection were the videos that I posted to YouTube as a blog. The documentation of the lessons has been uploaded to “Media” as “STEP_Lessons.xlsx”.

The distribution of the funds are as follows:

$596.47 – for the camera and related items to record the blog

$356.72 – for the guitar and related items needed to play and care for guitar

$435.00 – for the lessons over the summer with instructor Maggie Clem

$285.00 – for future lessons with instructor Maggie Clem

= $1673.19 = budget given from STEP for this Artistic and Creative Endeavor

Name: Heather Quinn

Type of Project:

1. My STEP Signature Project:

Over the summer of 2015, I learned how to play guitar. Under the instruction of Maggie Clem, I was finally able to learn how to play a musical instrument.

2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

Over the course of my instruction, I found that I was able to pick up guitar quite easily to my surprise. I had thought that it would be difficult for me to learn because of my age and inexperience with music but I was playing “Hotel California” before the first month was over (which had been my goal for the end of the year). It was so much fun to learn all about not just the guitar but also the idea of music and songwriting. I had not understood how difficult songwriting/composing actually was until I tried it myself. It taught me to respect the artists that not only sang but played and wrote the songs I hear every day.
Learning guitar also helped me connect with many people around me: I was able to find a common interest with most of my coworkers (who play more than one instrument, some even performing in bands) along with others around me, strengthening my friendship with other people.

3. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

I was actually very nervous about this project in the beginning. I had always wanted to learn how to play the guitar – I love music and guitar seemed a pretty diverse and universal instrument. My instructor Maggie Clem had been an acquaintance in high school. When I heard that she had started teaching, I thought to ask her about which guitar I should get and where I should get it, et cetera. I had always been very shy and high school had not been the high point of my life so I was worried about how she would respond. When she offered to give me lessons for a very low rate, I was thrilled that I could save money. I still had my reservations though.
Not even ten minutes into the first lesson, I knew that she and I would be great friends. We were so alike – both of us extreme nerds – that all my reservations went away. A different worry arose though: I didn’t want my newfound friend to think I was stupid if I messed up. This worry was quickly cleared away when she was impressed by how fast I was learning. When I messed up, she knew exactly how to help me. By the end of the summer, she became one of my most valuable friends.
During the summer, I worked at a movie theatre and a restaurant. Whenever it came up that I was learning how to play guitar, I was always met with eager smiles which were followed by in depth discussions of the beautiful instrument and music. I bonded with a lot of people from my work over the fact that I was learning guitar – they all started suggesting that I look up how to play certain songs and to listen to different bands. Since I absolutely love listening to music, I was thrilled to find a niche that was able to expand and enrich my passion (and my understanding of it).
Connecting with others through music wasn’t limited to my coworkers. In my friend group, I found out that people I had known for years also had an appreciation of music. I was able to talk to complete strangers in the music store and understand the conversation. A whole new world opened up when I started to learn and understand how to play the guitar and the possibilities became endless.

4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

I have found over my lifetime that music is very helpful in memorizing important facts. Jingles and rhymes and songs help things stick in my mind. As I plan on becoming a teacher, music is a valuable way to teach kids. The process of learning guitar for this project allowed me to better understand music and the necessities of writing songs. This project has allowed me to think about how to connect the material with future students. As a current student, I have already started using the guitar and the versatility of music to help me with understanding material taught in class. I find it very helpful to try to make a song about something I am learning – it requires an understanding of the subject to create a good song.
Socially, I have been able to build friendships based on a common interest (the guitar) and to expand my comfort zone. I’m still shy but meeting people who make the world interesting has drastically improved my chances of trying to meet others (as well as my outlook on humans as a whole). Overall, learning how to play guitar opened up a realm of possibilities that I couldn’t have imagined.

STEP Reflection

Name: Annie Craycraft

Type of Project: Artistic and Creative Endeavor

The aim of my project came in two parts. The first was to observe and photograph public gathering spaces in Bulgarian cities, and the second was to write about my observations and how the spaces displayed physical manifestations of rhetoric. These photographs and the writing were compiled in a Mixbook scrapbook.

What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? 

Going into this project, I foolishly assumed that it would be simple and straightforward – as if the implications of the gathering places’ designs would be immediately apparent to me. Frankly, I underwent quite the crisis when I started taking pictures in the first city I visited! I had to completely reconfigure the way I went about the project: I changed my mental definition of a gathering place, I started taking notes in ways that I hadn’t expected to, and I was constantly redoing pages (in my mind) in a book I wouldn’t be working on until I would return home two weeks later. My ideas of how a project of any sort is formed and completed were certainly transformed. I’d never expected something I planned for months to change so drastically in two hours of taking pictures and a few more hours of panicking and reflection. If anything was transformed in the process of working on my project, it was my understanding of how vital it is to be able to think on your feet and adapt to unexpected circumstances. The changes I ended up making brought my project to a much better state than it would have been in had I continued in my original planned path.


What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

As I said, my moment of panic led to the transformation. I spent a long night in a hostel rewriting my plans for the two weeks of photographing and exploring gathering places, and I bounced a lot of ideas off my sister, with whom I was staying. I learned a good lesson in asking for help: without my sister telling me to calm down and think straight for a few minutes, I would have wasted a lot of my time in the first few cities I visited! She helped me find the humor in my situation: months of planning for the whole thing to change at the last minute, which meant that I needed to make a few snap decisions, and I need two hours to decide what I want to wear for the day. What could I do?

My answer was simple, and it echoed what a lot of photography enthusiasts say: take as many pictures as possible so you have plenty to choose from. I ended up with about 1,500 pictures, and I wish I had taken more! That choice, along with my decision to write as much as possible, helped me recenter my focus. Instead of following the plan I had wanted to follow down to the last word, I let my process be more organic. I would arrive at a city, and I’d get lost almost every single time because I couldn’t always read the signs or I’d miss a landmark on the simple maps I used; these weren’t setbacks, though. Instead, I took pictures everything I could find and followed the flow of the city until I ended up in gathering places – typically the exact ones my sister recommended I visit. The physical rhetoric of the cities led me to the areas I was looking for, and that helped reinforce the point of my project.

This event was stressful at first, but it actually made the project a lot less stressful in the long run because it helped me realize how flexible I could be with the way I went about doing the project. It was more fun, and I ended up with some good stories (and pictures!) of my city wandering. I ended up with some great notes to work with and write from, and I’ve put thought to doing something like this closer to home – maybe in Columbus – just for the sheer enjoyment of such an undertaking and to compare things. This was a very happy crisis if there ever was one!


Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

I like things to be planned out and rigidly structured, and this project made me think on my feet because I simply did not have the foresight to plan for my entire project to change so drastically. Quick thinking is not my strong point, and this was a great way for me to practice it and put plans into motion through it. I had to be adaptable, and I’m typically not. It was a great learning experience, and it was such a good way for me to be pushed way, way out of my comfort zone. As I explained in the last section, I’d really love to do mini projects like this in areas that are familiar to me: Columbus and my hometown, for starters, as well as other places I happen to visit. This transformation is valuable because it’s inspired me to continue on with pursuing little projects just for the fun of it, and it’s also helped me in my planning for academics and making changes to better my work output. I’m actually writing a paper right now, and even though it’s almost done, I’m completely redoing huge portions of it because what I started out with just isn’t working. It’s a daunting task, but I like to think that my experiences with my STEP project made me a bit more open to changing projects to get a better product at the end.




Atop a mountain in Shipka (with a monument right behind me)


Mother Bulgaria statue