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Humans of the GI Milestone

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Flora Grabowska was the first Human of the GI, on June 16, 2017.
LJ Evans

The Geophysical Institute social media channels reached a milestone last week as they featured the 75th installment of Humans of the GI. Chris Fallen, whose profile was posted last week, is the latest subject of the series since it began with a photo and profile of Flora Grabowska on June 16, 2017.

Josh Hartman proposed a Humans of GI series on Facebook soon after he started working as a student assistant in the GI Public Relations office that summer.

“I was trying to think of new social media projects and I wanted to do something that would highlight the humanity in science,” Josh said via an email interview from California, where he now lives.

“I think there are a lot of stereotypes about scientists and that has an impact on how the public views science overall as well as the scientific institutions and humans behind that science.”

Humans of the GI, or HoGI, has become a popular element on the GI social media channels and is featured on Facebook and Instagram.

“It’s our most popular social media product,” said Fritz Freudenberger of the GI Public Relations office. “The posts help humanize and put a face on the science, both for the community at the Geophysical Institute and for the public in Fairbanks.”

“It shows that we’re people, too, which I think is sometimes overlooked,” he said.

Hartman says he was inspired both by Brandon Stanton, who created the original Humans of New York portraits on Instagram and Facebook, as well as the many similar portrait series that the original spawned.

“I thought it would work well at the GI because I'd met so many passionate scientists who have cool hobbies and interests and lives,” Hartman said.

Hartman developed a general template for HoGI, with a list of questions the interviewer could at least start with.

“My most favorite was something like: ‘Has there ever been a turning point in your life, some event or situation that helped you get to where you are today?’ That was one of the questions that I think gave me the best stories.”

HoGI subjects have represented all aspects of the GI. Scientists from across the disciplines represented within the institute, administrators, HR and Business Office staff, Machine Shop and Administrative Services Staff, and even GI Director Bob McCoy have all been interviewed and featured.

Hartman noticed a few common themes.

“A lot of people I interviewed mentioned hiking as a part of their lives, including several people who said it was one of their main reasons for moving to Alaska,” Hartman said.

“Also something that happened a lot while making the series was that the interviewee would say something like ‘I don't have any good stories’ or ‘I'm not that interesting.’

“Oftentimes these people were the ones who gave the best stories or the most interesting anecdotes about their life,” Hartman said.

Recently, Public Relations staff considered whether HoGI has run its course, if everyone who is willing to be featured has been included in the series, and whether it was time to let the series go.

The conclusion was that there are always new staff members, new grad students, new researchers coming into the GI who can be introduced to their colleagues this way. And when the statistics make it clear the HoGI posts are the Geophysical Institute’s most popular, it seems the series has a future.

Check out the album of all 75 interviews at https://www.facebook.com/UAF.GI/.

If you haven’t been featured in HoGI yet and are willing to be, contact the GI PR office at uaf-gi-public-info@alaska.edu.

Photo below: Josh Hartman was one of the news anchors for an online broadcast from Poker Flat Research Range in January 2018. Photo by LJ Evans