Monday, Feb. 23 was a day to throw away stereotypes and embrace the beauty in flaws for all of those who attended Project U, an occasion filled with positive messages and pride for individuality.

Project U was created to help students see that they are unique and beautiful and they shouldn’t be so quick to judge others.

According to the flyer, it was an event that challenged the audience to think critically about social constructs in a variety of ways.

Ashley Rivard, a resident director on campus, was one of many volunteers who helped organize and run the event, which was hosted in the Mabel Brown Room.

Kyle Bailey / Photo Editor

Kyle Bailey / Photo Editor

“Project U was a collaborative event by a campus-wide programming committee that consists of the Center for Health & Wellness, the Counseling Center, the Diversity & Multiculturalism Office, KSC Champions and the Residential Life Office,” Rivard explained.

Rivard, who is the liaison member from Residential Life for the Programming Committee, worked a table at Project U called “Body Talk.”

“At the table we were encouraging participants to identify a part of their bodies that they are hypercritical of and allow us to take a close-up picture of just that body part. Then we would print out the picture and they would hang it up on the wall and re-frame how they think about it and have them describe it by using a positive message,” Rivard said. Rivard continued,

“I started off the wall with a picture of one of my body parts and wrote something positive about it to lead by example for others and to make it less intimidating.”

“Mostly women took advantage of this table but the array of pictures covered almost an entire person with the various body parts,” she explained.

“Students are struggling with the how they view their legs, chest, stomach, butt, their smile,” she said.

Rivard continued, “When you look at the completed wall with the pictures and the positive words next to them you can’t help but smile and think, ‘What if we thought like this always?’”

The event, which also included a modeling portion, had attendees walk down a runway with a poster board.

Models didn’t need any previous experience and were encouraged to sign up at the door.

While they did their strut down the runway the models carried a poster board.

On one side of the poster board, they were asked to write how they think society views them.

On the other side, how they view themselves.

Phoebe Buckman, a sophomore at KSC, was one such model who took to the runway.

“I modeled because we were asked to.  I didn’t really know what it was before I agreed to do it,” Buckman admitted.

Buckman continued, “It was pretty easy to come up with the negative terms to put on my board, which is actually pretty disturbing.”

“It wasn’t hard for me to think of the positive things either but it’s pretty sad how easy it is to think of what society knocks you on,” she said.

In the end, Buckman described the modeling as rewarding.

“[Project U] was a welcoming environment and so I’m glad they offset the typical perfect model for a more realistic version,” Buckman said.

Maureen Moran, also a KSC sophomore, attended Project U along with the Active Minds organization on campus, which she and Buckman are both members of.

“I modeled because my friends were also modeling, so we were all in it together. When it came to expressing the negative views that people had of me, I realized how tired I was of people perceiving me this way,” Moran said.

Moran added, “I seem shy, but I really am not and I want people to see the more confident side of me.”

The modeling portion of Project U helped Moran project this to the audience that attended the event.

Project U also featured a table hosted by Active Minds, which was working to promote Operation Beautiful and National Eating Disorder Awareness week.

As part of this movement, positive post-it notes were stuck on the mirrors in bathrooms across the KSC campus, including the ones in the L.P. Young Student Center and even some residence halls, according to KSC student and Active Minds President Allison Sonia.

“Most people attending college are young adults who are constantly getting the message that they need to be something they are not in order to be accepted,” Sonia said.

Sonia, who is a psychology major, added that society sets unrealistic expectations for how people should look and act. Sonia believes that “everyone deserves to feel good about themselves,” and the positive post-its were one such way to help get the message out there.

Moran agreed with Sonia, adding, “It is important to spread these kind of positive messages across campus because people can be so negative about themselves.”

She continued, “College can be stressful and the last thing we usually think about is how special we are in the world, and that is something we should never forget.”

“Project U is about positivity and having the strength to be yourself in our society,” Buckman reflected on the night.

Buckman continued, “It’s about having the courage to do what makes you happy regardless of what anyone else says should make you happy.”

Though the event was only hosted for one night, Rivard believes it will have lasting effects.

“We are not going to wake up one day without stereotypes or media expectations on how we should look, act and think, but rather change will occur by individuals making choices to better themselves and the world around them through their actions and thoughts,” she explained.

“Then their positive change will affect those around them and the cycle will continue to pay forward,” Rivard said.

Rivard added, “I truly believe for change to happen it is going to be a water drop effect.”

As attendees, Sonia and Moran were able to offer their own perspectives on what they took away from the night.

“To me, Project U means embracing who you are and not who society or anyone else thinks you should be,” Sonia said, “It’s about celebrating individuality and imperfection.”

Moran agreed, “To me, Project U means taking pride in who you are and showing the world that sense of pride.”

Since Sonia and Moran left the event with such positive mindsets, Rivard was able to consider the night a success.

Rivard said, “Project U was just simply asking you to think: think about how amazing you really are, think about all of things that you are grateful for and are blessed to have, make the choice to view yourself positively and more importantly, to actively stop judging others and placing labels on them.”

She continued, “Be an active participant and catch yourself when you start to judge or place a label on another person; not to feel bad about yourself, but to autocorrect the thought process.”

She concluded, “Be the change.”

Rivard added, “In the end, this will not only make the world a more welcoming place for others but also for you. Spread the joy.”

Jill Giambruno can be contacted at

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