Contributing Writer

It has been said a picture is worth a thousand words, and so it would seem. This summer, the new Office of Student and Post-Graduate Development (OSPGD) held a photo contest that asked the question “How do F&M students spend their summer?”

The contest was inspired by Beth Throne ’95, associate vice president for student and post-graduate development, and her team.

With the use of social media, students submitted many interesting and impressive entries including pictures of working on a dig in Tuscany, working as a Hackman Scholar in a lab, being a DJ in Israel, and standing under a sign in Italy that reads, “get lost a lot.”

The diversity of the entries captured the array of opportunities available to liberal arts students.

“[Our goal was] that we accurately depict what F&M students can do with their summers,” Throne said. “It’s beyond working in an office; it’s beyond working in a building; it’s accurately depicting the many different things in many different environments that the students can spend their summer doing and have a valuable, transformational experience.”

Each week a winning photo was picked based on the number of likes the photo received on Facebook, with that student being awarded a $20-$25 gift card.

To conclude the contest, the OSPGD picked a Grand Prize winner from a random drawing of all submissions received. The recipient was Malu Malhotra ’14, and she received a $150 American Express gift card.

“I spent the past six weeks studying and working in South Africa,” Malhotra wrote in the brief description she submitted. “I studied education in the context of South Africa’s post-apartheid policies, and I worked at a school to see how these policies are manifested.”

One photo, submitted by Laura Heller ’13, received over 100 likes on Facebook, more than any other photo submitted.
Heller, along with Dani Roth ’14, who assisted with the picture-taking for the pair’s collage, spent the summer doing research in the chemistry lab. The collage depicts a stuffed dinosaur named Spartacus in various locations throughout the laboratory with the witty caption, “Summer research is never dull when you have a dinosaur by your side!”

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“Honestly, upon first hearing about the contest, I didn’t plan on participating because I knew that everyone would be posting these amazing photos documenting their experiences abroad, seeing the wonders of the world, and helping underprivileged youth,” Heller said. “I spent 10 weeks in a chemistry lab, so in direct comparison it may not sound like much. But I loved my summer experience on campus, more than I thought possible. I learned so much and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Throne believes this contest exceeded the expectations of the team, with the OSPGD Facebook page hits skyrocketing from double to triple digits in just a couple weeks. Its success has the OSPGD considering making the photo contest an annual event as well as inspiring many new ideas for the OSPGD, which recently absorbed Career Services and is looking to draw students in and make interesting new changes.

While the OSPGD does four things—it helps students clarify what potential career pathway they could pursue, prepares students to compete for extraordinary opportunities aligned with their interests or developing interests, exposes students to different pathways and opportunities so they can redefine what they want and helps students really take hold and sustain success as alumni—there are many other programs to help prepare students to find success after F&M.

The office is in the planning stages of developing new competitions like the successful photo contest and is working to improve the new DipLink system, which recently replaced the F&M Connect database.

The OSPGD is soon releasing a mentorship module for all students, creating a network including over 650 alumni and parents who agreed to help students by serving as contacts and by building a support system for students.

Inspired by students and faculty, the office is also working on a new online tool where students can see what alumni did with their degrees from F&M. To date there are over 800 responses with a variety of great examples. This tool should go live sometime in September.

All the new features of the OSPGD and the incredible pictures submitted to the photo contest can be found at

Questions? Email Meghan at

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