Mikaela Gerdes

Mikaela Gerdes

I'm a Journalism and International Relations double major at the University of Denver, class of 2018. I also minor in Spanish and Studio Art. Some of my interests include writing, reading, drawing/painting, photography, and being outside.

QSA: a student lead organization promoting acceptance



The photos I chose for this audios-how assignment all represent QSA, its members, and some of their significant events/activities. I start off with the QSA logo and other graphic design made by members to represent the group as a whole. I also include lots of pictures of meetings and QSA members holding messages/signs. I asked them to do this because I thought it would be a great way for them to show their messages within this project, and they had already made the signs and backdrop for another photo-shoot. I think the group shots are especially important because they represent individuals coming together to proliferate acceptance and support. Other pictures I included were flyers/announcements that involved events QSA had/has coming up (since I couldn’t be there to shoot these events) because this was a good way to show some of the work/things the organization has been doing on campus.

My topic involves a profile of a student organization on campus, the Queer Straight Alliance (QSA). I’m covering/focusing on this because I think it is important for all types of people and sexualities to be accepted on college campuses. I think that QSA does good work to provide a safe place and bring people together. They promote awareness, support, and acceptance here at DU. I intended to communicate that acceptance of all different types of sexualities is crucial so that students can feel welcomed and safe in their academic and often home environments. The story here involves this student lead group that is doing important work to help/support people of all genders and sexual orientations.

I believe that all of my photographs represent what Queen, the president of the org is taking about. The pictures represent the group as a whole, show different students coming together and spreading their messages, and also visualize some of the events and messages themselves. I placed the slides in a specific order to try and best represent what Queen is saying. For example, when she talks about the Valentine’s Day dinner, Drag show, or painting event I include flyers created by QSA for that event. I try to best visualize the work and positivity that QSA embodies. My audio is based off of one interview, however she is the president of the org and had so many useful/good things to talk to me about. I feel like she gave a great overall description of QSA’s accomplishments. I didn’t include text in most of my photos because I thought most of the visuals and audio clips spoke for themselves, however I did add a couple to clarify information about some photos. Integrating audio took much longer than I thought because it was hard to cut down a whole interview with an abundance of great information into a 2 minute video. Text was also difficult because I found it hard to edit the text how I wanted while also making it easy to read on the screen.

I think what really worked for this project was going to the meetings and getting interviews with important members. For the most part, I think my pictures and audio make an interesting profile. I also thought it worked pretty well to have pictures of different messages/events/announcements to create a comprehensive representation of the organization. What was difficult for me was the editing not the collection of raw materials. I think that it would be a good idea to keep practicing with premier to become more advanced in the future. I found it hard to create text especially, and sometimes I would make mistakes and have to immediately undo them. Next time I would like to get more voices and ambient sounds. I would also like to be better with titles and captioning at that point! I did learn a lot about editing audio, creating different photo effects (Ken Burns) and generally using how to learn premier. I liked the type/variety of pictures I got, and would take similar photos if doing another organization profile. Overall, I learned a lot about editing, recording good quality audio, taking photos that visualize a story, placing photos and ideas in a sequence that makes sense, and how to represent a group of people in an unbiased way that also showcases their activities.

College drinking and student health

This slideshow is all about drinking, detox and student health. This topic is significant because drinking is so integral to the college experience, and can be considered almost a ritual. I’m seeking to show how prominent alcohol is here at DU, but within college campuses across the country. Due to this massive consumption, I also seek to highlight the negative consequences of drinking. Underage drinking is seen as a public health issues, and can affect almost every aspect of student life. I also think its important to emphasize the services and or policies that are in pace to help over intoxicated students, which I attempted to do through this slideshow as well.

For this assignment I chose to photograph a campus security car, the campus bars (Crimson and Gold Tavern and Angels Landing), the RA desk at Nelson a sophomore dorm, red solo cups, beer, shot glasses, and friends of mine participation in drinking games (shotgunning and beer pong). I feel like all of these photos speak to drinking culture and campus as well as student health services. I wanted to show students actually participating in drinking culture, and I think that the pictures of my friends playing beer pong and shotgunning beer are good examples of that. The images of beer, the red solo cup, and the shot glasses are also physical embodiments of drinking culture. I think it is also important to show campus security and also the RA desk to illustrate the people who are there to help overly intoxicated students. Also, it was important to depict the spots and bars that students frequent to drink around DU.

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Drinking, detox and student health


Hard liquors like these are often preferred by college students, especially within greet life or sporting events

It is easy to say that drinking and the college lifestyle go hand-in-hand. Alcohol consumption is an integral part of social life for college age students across the country. Drinking is seen as a ritual within the higher education experience. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH) stated “harmful and underage college drinking are significant public health problems, and they exact an enormous toll on the intellectual and social lives on campuses across the United Sates.”

According to a national survey by the NIH (here) almost 60% of college students ages 18-22 drank alcohol in the past month, and almost two out of three students engaged in binge drinking (four-five drinks within two hours).

There are serious consequences involving harmful and underage college drinking. About 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including car crashes. Approximately 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking, and about 97,000 students report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault. 20% of students develop an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). One in four college students report academic consequences from drinking, including missing class, falling behind in class, doing poorly on exams papers. Other consequences include suicide attempts, health problems, injuries, unsafe sex, and driving under the influence of alcohol, as well as vandalism, property damage, and involvement with the police.

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