GU communications students try to go viral for capstone project | News


 “So, classmates, let’s do this thing called life. But let’s do it well. Let’s be like that cannonball. The one that comes blazing out of nowhere and creates something that is long-lasting and embracing in love and passion,” said 2018 Gonzaga graduate Molly Bosch in her commencement speech.

Bosch’s speech urged graduating seniors at GU to go out into the world and create change, and to be like the cannonball that struck St. Ignatius of Loyola, leaving him bedridden with no other option than to sit in contemplation, read and heal.

“[Without that connonball] there would be no Jesuit Order, and therefore, no Society of Jesus. And without any Society of Jesus, there would be no St. Aloysius of Gonzaga. And without any St. Aloysius of Gonzaga, there would be no Gonzaga University,” Bosch said.

This concept of being a “cannonball” was then merged into the statement “Be The Catalyst for Positive Change,” which was put on stickers and mysteriously distributed around GU’s campus over the past four weeks.

On Feb. 13, the first of many vague Instagram pictures was posted on the page titled “Going Viral” under the username @vsp_gu reading, “Have you gotten your sticker yet?”

The sticker created by this underground movement was left at the Hemmingson front desk, the Marketplace, the COG, Thomas Hammer, in books at Foley Library, 1887 at Cataldo and even with a group of Girl Scouts selling cookies in Hemmingson.

The sticker was available to students for free. It depicts the image of the St. Ignatius statue with College Hall and St. Aloysius Church. In the forefront is the St. Ignatius statue and St. Al’s church colored in blue, and College Hall is in the background and colored red. It has the phrase “Be the catalyst for positive change” written on it.

On March 27, the page posted the statement, “VSP doesn’t really stand for anything. Our central focus is to create a message that strongly emphasizes and encapsulates how our personal narratives as students shape our experience at Gonzaga. This is: Be the Catalyst for Positive Change.”

Other posts on the Instagram page are followed by #ZagCatalyst.

Throughout the various posts and random sticker distributions, this movement remained anonymous to the GU community. No apparent organization was affiliated with it directly.

The reason behind the anonymity is because the movement is part of a capstone project created by a group of four GU students majoring in communications. Kristen Jost, Alyssa Gwinn, Kira Costello and Rebekah Gagnon worked together to distribute and create this project with the goal of going viral. They then conducted an online survey, with the link provided on their project’s Instagram page.

“We decided to remain anonymous because on this campus everybody’s identity is their own,” Gagnon said. “Your experience is your own, if you see something that resonates with you, then you take it on as your own and it doesn’t feel like someone is influencing you to do something.”

Jost said they wanted this project to be an organic process rather than a forced one.

“We wanted to see what answer the students would create for themselves on how the sticker emerged, who created it, and why,” said Costello.

The group purchased 1,000 stickers together out of pocket and pitched in to spread them around campus.

The project developed slowly, according to the group, but as soon as the concept was brought up, the project shot off like a canon.

“I looked at [Gagnon’s] water bottle and saw all of her stickers, and that kind of sparked an idea,” said Costello. “We all have stickers that are a part of our identity that we find intriguing, that we want to display, and we think are aesthetic. So, I thought we could take a sticker, put it on Gonzaga’s campus, have students adopt it, and [see] if we could make it go viral.”

Costello, who came up with the sticker concept, said the project was much more impactful than writing a 20-page research paper.

“Basically, we are sitting in a circle in class, and Kira said, ‘I want to go viral with this sticker’ and I just dropped everything and joined her,” said senior Alyssa Gwinn.

The group accredits the formation of the idea for this project to their professor Melissa Click.

“She opened it up to us and said ‘do what you want to do, this is your experience.’ For us [the sticker] was something that was impactful and tangible,” said sophomore Kristen Jost.

“I left the project open to the students to figure out what they wanted to do…The qualifications for a good [capstone] project were that it used communication scholarship, demonstrated the skills that they learn as communication students and we also tried to get it to mesh with Gonzaga’s mission…we also asked the students to create and intervention of some sort, so to try and change something,” said Click. “They’ve really come up with it [the project] so creatively and so holistically. Seeing it come together into the sticker is so cool. I really love that.”

The Zag Catalyst sticker has been seen on Zags’ water bottles and laptops. The Instagram account has about 200 followers and featured a few GU students, including MiKealy Thomas, who designed the sticker.

During the survey conducted at the end of the project, the group received 133 responses. According to the results, about 27.8% of the 133 people who participated in the survey said they frequently saw the sticker on campus. 30.1% of people heard others talking about the sticker. Forty-nine people said that they took the sticker because they liked the message.

The Instagram post’s caption of Thomas explained how she came up with the design.

“It just sort of came together. Mixing some of the most recognizable landmarks on campus with my current obsession with graffiti art and the sticker was made,” said Thomas. 

Gwinn said the goal was to take the essence of having a life changing movement and apply that to GU.

“We were hoping that students would realize that people have these mindset changes that set them off to live their life post grad,” said Gwinn.

“Everybody should be able to realize that while we’ve all probably had a cannonball moment, its understanding that this place [Gonzaga] teaches you and sets you up to be a catalyst in any way that you believe possible and it doesn’t matter the greatness, the size, or the impact,” said Gagnon.    

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