Borrowing from NYC blog, student profiles 'Humans of Williams'


WILLIAMSTOWN -- A Williams College student, inspired by a blog that features the stories and photos of people in New York City, is putting her own spin on the idea.

Sophomore Susie Paul has created a Facebook group called "Humans of Williams," which profiles members of the college community.

"I wanted to share stories that didn't necessarily belong to campus celebrities -- the ones that send all the emails, the ones who organize everything," said Paul, a sociology and chemistry major from New York City.

The Facebook page, which Paul runs herself, has gained just over 1,100 likes since she founded it on Dec. 26.

"Humans of New York," which spawned her idea, was founded by Brandon Stanton in the summer of 2010. The premise is simple -- Stanton conducts a man-on-the-street interview and posts the conversation with each subject's portrait. The blog has close to 3 million likes, and a book based on the blog was published in 2013 and is now a New York Times bestseller.

Paul said she was a big fan of the Stanton's project and has met him on two occasions. The first was during her senior year at Hunter College High School as a photographer for the school newspaper.

"It was when [the blog] was just taking off," she remembers. "It had just passed a million likes. I wanted to get a photo of him and make that the last photo of my career at Hunter.

Stanton responded to an email asking him to come to the arts and theater school, Paul said.

"I didn't get the chance to take a photo of him," she said. "I actually left my camera at home, which is one of the biggest regrets of my life... but he spent a lot of time with us talking."

The second time was on a subway train in New York City this past December, which sparked the idea for her own blog.

"I thought, if a guy can do that -- carry his camera with him, take photos and upload them -- why can't I," she said.

Paul's Facebook page has featured many Williams students as subjects in addition to a number of faculty and staff.

"I couldn't help but feel the dining hall workers didn't get the attention they deserved," she said, noting that her father works in food service. "They're great people, and I see my father in them sometimes. ... I wish kids at Williams were like me and wanted to learn their names."

Past questions on the Williams page range from, "What activities do you do on campus," "What's the one thing you wish you had known when you were a freshmen," and "When did you first get your ear pierced?"

The interviewees often reveal thoughtful comments on the Williams Community and their own passions, Paul said.

"You can't really tell where someone's been or where someone's going just by looking at them," she said. "I've had some of the most interesting conversations."

Paul said she plans on continuing the page, and may recruit other students to help her.

In the meantime, she has set a goal of increasing likes on the Facebook page. She hopes to earn 1,500 likes, she said.

To view the Humans of Williams Facebook page, visit

To reach Edward Damon:

or (413) 663-3741, ext 224.

On Twitter: @BE_EDamon


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