Craig Hayes smiling in before and after photos
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Watch: The Pitt Time Capsule Project tracked the Class of 2021 from start to finish

Tags
  • Alumni
  • Students
  • Division of Student Affairs
  • Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences

In 2017, Craig Hayes began his collegiate career at Pitt, eager to combine his passions for music and English. In 2021, the Houston native graduated with a major in English writing concentrated in poetry and a secondary education minor.

“I didn’t realize how much I needed to learn and how much I was going to change,” said Hayes in a video filmed during his last semester.

Hayes is one of nine students who participated in the Pitt Time Capsule Project, a Division of Student Affairs initiative launched in 2017 to document undergrad experiences over four years. Participants were interviewed, photographed and filmed during the fall and spring semesters of their first and last years, respectively.

While every student has a unique journey at the University of Pittsburgh, the usual complexities of college life were compounded given that the Class of 2021’s time at Pitt also spanned a pandemic.

“It’s been a long journey,” said Hayes. “Both music and writing have been especially important during this last year. I’ve been able to use those things during really dark times.”

The project was led by Vice Provost Kenyon Bonner, who was inspired after reading a New York Times article that profiled nine students around New York City.

"I've always been interested in the stories people tell about their lives," said Bonner, who was also dean of students at the time. "I loved the idea and thought it would be great to see how Pitt students change and grow over time." 

 

The Pitt Time Capsule: Craig Hayes

The first video was released on Oct. 21, 2021, and featured Anisa Benbourenane, who came to Pitt from Thailand and the United Arab Emirates. Like Hayes, she arrived intent on pursuing one path but discovered another.

"I was always fond of tiny things and wanted to explore the tiny world you can't see with your naked eye," said Benbourenane in her first video. She hoped to study molecular biology.

In her final video, Benbourenane discussed her shift to neuroscience, civic engagement and personal development, adding that Pitt "exceeded my expectations" by enabling opportunities for her to hone her leadership skills.

The making of the series

“This is an internship where students are heavily involved,” said Di-ay Battad, video production coordinator for the series and advisor to five interns working on the project. Students assisted with every aspect of production including pitching, interview design, direction and filming.

Delaney Greenberg is an intern and senior film production major in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences who has worked on the project since 2018.

"This has been one of my favorite projects in the almost three years I've worked here," said Greenberg, who described the time capsule content as "positively emotionally charged."

In a way, Greenberg has grown up with the subjects. She’s resonated with their challenges, accomplishments and doubts because they’ve reflected her own.

“Freshman me would’ve been so pacified watching one of these videos,” said Greenberg. “The overall message is that you're not alone as a student, and your entire life doesn't rest on you finding out who you are in one year.”

With spring graduation on the horizon, she was comforted to know the nine subjects, recently in her position, didn’t have all the answers.

“Putting these videos together and watching other seniors discuss subjects we wouldn't otherwise talk about has been healing and comforting,” said Greenberg. “It's been the coolest thing to watch people make changes that led to greater happiness.”

Hayes shared insights in his final video that aligned with Greenberg’s takeaway.

"I’m still not sure of who I am, the exact thing I want to do or where I want to go,” said Hayes, who upon graduating was accepted into New York University’s MFA program. "But I’m so much more confident. I can say these last four years were not wasted."

For Battad, the value of the project has been undeniable and personally rewarding.

“Everyone has their hopes, dreams and expectations for the path they’re going to follow,” they said. “We’re telling the stories of individual students and letting others know and see there are many different paths out there. It’s something I hope the main audience will take away.”

While the videos offer something for every Pitt community member, they are for and about students.

"If you're the kind of student that scrolls past the University Instagram or doesn't pay attention to the ads, if there's any video you should give a 30-second shot, it's one of these," said Greenberg. "It's your peers talking to you about what they've been through and probably what you're going through as well — it's real."

Watch the time capsule series. The final video will be released this week.

 

— Kara Henderson