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Between the over 400 visitors that opening night of the Marist Circle’s “For the Record” exhibition garnered, and the 25,000+ visitors to the complementary website, fortherecord2017.com, the “For the Record” project has arguably been The Circle’s most tremendous success in recent history.

The initiative featured 74 students and their unique stories, who were first photographed and interviewed. From there, articles were written about them, highlighting their individual achievements. “For the Record” then debuted as an exhibition in the Steel Plant Studios on Monday, Feb. 13, and the stories were also available to be read online and in print magazines found throughout campus.

Since its inception, the project has blossomed and gained considerable momentum, therefore leading to much discussion amongst the student body. Of course, in order for this project to be possible in the first place, there had to be “featured students” selected, and many on campus are intrigued to know how these students were selected.

“We started thinking about this idea back in May 2016, when Goodman [Lepota] came on as our Creative Director,” says Senior Bernadette Hogan, the Circle’s Editor in Chief. “He pitched to us this idea of highlighting students that are influential and it correlated with our features section, and I thought, we could definitely make this large scale.”

According to Editorial Manager Gabriella Gamba, a senior, “We started this back in the Summer of 2016. Goodman and Bern started looking into it, and they did so by emailing professors, emailing the deans of different departments across the entire campus, and even the heads of athletics, all just higher up people…we were able to get a huge, probably close to 200 people list of names. So once we got this list of names, we had to find out what exactly they were nominated for.”

This list was carefully dissected.

“We were really concerned about the integrity and credibility more than anything else,” shares Lepota. “The first stage actually was when we asked people to recommend names. From this data, we went into the research process…when we were trying to figure out if what we know about the students was true. And after that, we had another stage and that was sort of the most important and that was why it took us seven months and that was the vetting process.”

According to Lepota, this was when the search team reached out to students who were nominated to be part of the project and were potentially going to be featured. Then, students provided the team with information on who they are and what they are doing that is noteworthy. After, there was the interview process. Finally, selected students went with a photographer and got their portraits taken.

Each name was given careful consideration. “You don’t want to cut someone without giving a second look, they’re on the list for a reason so you need to be really specific and careful,” says Gamba.

At the same time, the staff knew what they were looking for: students with fascinating stories.

According to Hogan, “We wanted to highlight students that were doing things that maybe you didn’t know about that were kind of quirky, but also just interesting facts. We’re not trying to focus on your academic record.”

The idea of finding students that did something beyond the classroom was an idea that was echoed by both Gamba and Lepota.

“[This project is] the only place where somebody that is doing something in the arts, or something in the sciences that does not have a 4.0 is being celebrated and that’s what we wanted. We wanted students from different backgrounds doing really interesting things beyond the classroom. We wanted people that were pushing their own boundaries and that may mean different things to different people,” says Lepota. Gamba added, “Our big thing was that we weren’t choosing people that only did ‘Marist’ things. So if you did a really cool project for a class, and presented…that’s awesome, but we wanted things that were outside of Marist, so I think a lot of people don’t realize that.”

Of course, the staff knew that there would inevitably be some push-back from students that were not featured, but they urge those who were not featured this year to not focus on that.

“I think that…and I am very adamant about this…if you are saying to yourself, ‘I should have been featured,’ you are looking at the wrong project for you,” says Hogan. “If you think that you deserved to be featured then you need to foster some humility, because everybody that we featured and spoke to…if you speak to any of our staff that interviewed people, we all just were shocked at the level of humility and graciousness that we received from these candidates. We’re not awarding them and saying, you’re the best, we’re saying, hey, will you be so kind as to share your story with us and the entire student body? The level of humility was really inspiring.”

Lepota would agree. “This idea was really not about who got it and who didn’t get it,” he says. “I think that if it becomes about that, who got it and who didn’t, then that’s going to be problematic because our goal was really to inspire other students and say hey, look at this kid that’s doing this really interesting thing. And we hope that you see that and that will inspire you in some way.”

Gamba had a similar idea, and reminded those who were not selected to “Just keep doing what you are doing, because you’re obviously doing it for a reason. You’re not just doing it to be on this list. You are doing it because you’re passionate about it and I think the passion that drives whatever has been accomplished is what puts on you in the list.”

Video Edited by Matt Zofchak.

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