Northwest Association of College & University Housing Officers

Diversity & Inclusion Committee Photovoice Project

By Ashlee Norris

Every student has a story to tell about their college experience.  At times we focus our assessment efforts on surveys, and less on the student’s narrative. The Diversity & Inclusion Committee would like to share a unique assessment tool that encourages participants to document their experiences, while telling their story of how their identities intersect with their environment.

The assessment tool is called Photovoice, which is defined as “. . . a process by which people can identify, represent, and enhance their community through a specific photographic technique” (Wang & Burris, 1997, p. 369). Photovoice is designed for participants to answer questions about their experiences through photography. The participants become action researchers in collecting data, which is then followed by an interview or a focus group to find themes about the participants’ experiences.

One of our committee members, Ashlee Norris, used Photovoice as a tool to collect data for her dissertation. Her qualitative study was grounded in Baxtor-Magolda’s theory of Self-Authorship which focused on how undergraduate students who self-identified as LGBTQ attending a public 4-year institution made meaning of their college experiences. Participants were excited to document, reflect, and share their experiences on campus through the lens of their LGBTQ identities.

Findings from the study include, “The Photovoice process allowed participants space to reconnect with the people in their lives who affirmed their LGBTQ identity” and “The Photovoice process allowed for reflection on participant’s challenges and successes as self-identified LGBTQ undergraduate students.”

The study revealed that use of Photovoice helped LGBTQ students to feel seen, heard, and validated, in particular when individual interviews were incorporated:

  • Seen: self-portraits were used to demonstrate that their identities were not invisible
  • Heard: the story-telling was free from judgment
  • Validated: peers and family members appearing in their photos affirmed the students’ experience and identity

The Diversity & Inclusion Committee would like to invite you participate in our Photovoice project. The goal of the project is for you to document your experience as a student affairs professional at your campus through the lens of your identities. You will choose from one of seven prompts, and attempt to answer that prompt through photography. You may take and submit as many photos as you like. If you include a photo of another person, the committee requests that you ask their permission first. You will then submit your photo through an online tool, with a brief statement about your photo(s). The committee hopes to present their findings online and at the upcoming NWACUHO conference. Instructions on how you can participate will be available shortly. If you are interested in learning more about Photovoice, here are some great resources:

The Diversity & Inclusion Committee is looking forward to your participation in our Photovoice project. We hope this post sparks some creativity in how your share your story.

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