Passionate Student Pursues Project


Interview by Kathleen Hansen

Round Table: So what is the title of your project?

Lauren Nelson: It’s called the Passion Project.

RT: What is the project?

LN: I’m just interested in what people are passionate about. That could be a topic; it could be a hobby. At first, I was going to interview people about the hobbies and interests that they have. But I was talking to my friends, and I decided that was too trite and that’s not really what I’m interested in. I mean, I want to know what, when people are doing it, what makes time dissolve. What when they’re doing it is the only thing that exists. What just makes them want to tell the whole world about what they’re doing. And, you know, maybe someone is passionate about making sandwiches. It doesn’t really matter what it’s about: I just want to know what people care very deeply about.

RT: What are your goals for the project? What do you ultimately see it becoming?

LN: Well, I want to definitely archive the interviews in the archives here. But I’d also like to possibly put something on the Terrarium.  I’d like to possibly write something about what I find. If I don’t get a lot of people that are passionate, well, I’ll write something about that: how no one has passion. That would be very sad. I’d like to take photos, too, of the people I’m interviewing.

RT: Are you doing this for your personal interest or is there academic credit involved?

LN: Yeah. I’m doing it as a special project.

RT: Are you working with Fred [Burwell]?

LN: Fred’s advising it.

RT: How did this project come about?

LN: Well to backtrack a little bit, I took a journalism class last semester and it just sort of reinforced my understanding that I love to interview people. I love hearing peoples’ stories, especially good story tellers. So I wanted to do some special project. Interviewing people in a more freeform, creative format. And I met this guy over winter break who was also wanting to do something similar. He brought to my attention this One in Eight Million New York Times project where they just wanted a snapshot of the community. The only criteria for them was someone who had never been interviewed by the New York Times and someone who was doing something interesting. I wanted mine to be a little more focused than that. I just loved the work they did. They had one women who was a blind taste tester for wine. One man dug up treasure in peoples’ backyards. They had a series of slideshow images of people doing the things that they are interviewed about. I thought it could be good to do something similar and from talking with my friends, I got it narrowed it down to what people are passionate about. I’ve also just been thinking a lot about passion. I’ve noticed in myself I used to be a lot more passionate about things, like as a kid. I’d always have projects going on. I remember in the 3rd grade I was determined to learn how to fly, and I checked out all these books from the library and I spent all day like constructing models of wings or I found a poet I loved and I was going to memorize all of his poems. And I just thought what happens? I’ve been in school so long, why don’t I have that energy? So I’m I guess trying to find that in myself and wondering where other people still have that.

RT: Has anyone got in contact with you about this project yet?

LN: I interviewed Carl Mendelson about classical music. And there’s a group of men called the Buffalo Boys who meet at 10:30 p.m. in Pearsons. Some of them are interested in helping me out, but I haven’t actually interviewed them yet.

RT: So if you had to say something to the Round Table readers what would you say to convince them to get in contact with you?

LN: Oh that’s a good question. I guess I would say that I think everyone has a story that they want to tell and something they feel very strongly about. Maybe besides close friends they don’t have anywhere to put it. Maybe not even in classes because it’s very academic. It’s an opportunity to tell people what you’re actually passionate about. I think everyone loves talking and being heard. Maybe it takes a little while to get it out there. I think so much of our day-to-day life is spent in classrooms being very reasonable and intellectual, but I want to know what sort of cracks people open beyond that. I think people want to talk about what they’re passionate about, but they’re scared.

RT: Do you expect with your project to find weird, interesting passions?

LN: I hope so. I mean, I guess I’m trying to not have any expectations for what I’ll find. I’m really hoping there are people with good stories to tell.

RT: Do you hope that this is something that is done periodically? So then in the archives there is a comparison between what the Beloit College community is passionate about at different times?

LN: I never thought about that, but that would be really awesome.

RT: Is there is a timeline for this?

LN: I’m going to be gathering interviews over the next couple of months. I’d like to have all my interviews done by April 1. And I’d like to have about 10 interviews, but I’m sure I’ll actually do more than that because not all interviews end up being great ones.

RT: Is there anything else you’d like to share about your project?

LN: I suppose just that I think that sometimes when I say that I’m interested in what people are passionate about people think it means what they know most about or they might be curious in a very intellectual way about something. But I want to know something beyond that, much more, I guess, emotional. Something that makes people feel very deeply. I want people to realize that passion is important.

Interested in being interviewed? Contact Lauren Nelson at nelsonle@beloit.edu



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