USF student’s photo in The New York Times

This photo by University of St. Francis student Shannon Olsen was selected and published through a contest sponsored by The New York Times.

The photography of University of St. Francis (USF) student Shannon Olsen, from Las Vegas, Nev., was featured in The New York Times‘ Readers Photos: School Is in Session edition published Aug. 28, 2012.

A contest sponsored by the paper was marketed to photography students by Chester Costello, chair of USF‘s Art & Design program. It caught Olsen‘s attention—not only because the topic was appropriate, but also because the opportunity to have work published in The New York Times was enticing.

Students were asked to submit a photograph that expressed their feelings about the college experience. They were asked to visually interpret what they learned and how college might have changed them. Olsen‘s work is a ―layered‖ photograph featuring fellow student Korie Andrews, who is depicted in several outfits while wearing a masquerade mask. Each view of Andrews represents a different persona during her college journey. The starting point is Andrews, far off in the photo. Her image re-appears closer and closer to the viewer, until the final, front-most image shows Andrews with the mask off and diploma in hand.

The photo statement revealed Olsen’s inspiration. “Most entering college students are going off into a new world. They are entering a new school with new people. So, most people take that as a chance to start over. To completely ‘re-create’ themselves into someone more likeable, more fun, or even more daring. It is a mask that almost all college students put on that first time they step foot onto their new home for the next four years. Through their time there however, the college student starts learning. Not only in the classroom, but outside the classroom where life lessons are learned and where you start to truly mold into the person you will be for the rest of your life. Until one day, the mask can finally be taken off.”

Olsen was in Ireland when Costello wrote to tell her that her work had been selected for publishing, having just arrived for a study abroad program that she’ll be participating in this entire fall semester. “I was in Ireland and had just found out I had a photo published in the New York Times!” said Olsen. “Honestly, I still can’t believe it.”

The Semester at Sea program will bring her to various countries in Europe, Africa and South America via a cruise ship that serves as a floating campus. According to Olsen, when the ship is in port, students are able to go out and meet the people of that country, see the sites, and do whatever they want to do to embrace that countries culture and various traditions. “Being a photography major, I felt it would be an amazing experience for me to take some great photos as well as meet some interesting people along the way,” she said.

Olsen is majoring in photography with a minor in business marketing and plans to graduate next year. She loves being a USF student.

“The reason I chose USF was because of the Art Department. The professors are the best and they truly care about what you are working on. Their doors are always open when they are there, and you can sit and talk to them about any problems you are having with a project. They will spend as much time as you need to help you. I know some people at the main campus think taking courses down at the Rialto is a challenge, but it is what pulled me to USF… I couldn’t be happier to call it my university,” she said.

The University of St. Francis in Joliet serves 3,400 students nationwide, offering 44 undergraduate programs, four degree-completion programs and 15 graduate programs, including two doctoral programs. Programs are offered in arts and science, business, education, nursing and health care and social work. For information, call (800) 735-7500 or visit