Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 50, No. 2 - 105

Re-visioning Bulletin Boards
Exhibiting Agency
In the third phase of the photovoice project, often referred to as an exhibition (Latz,
2017), student-participants delivered a presentation to nine staff on the residence life
leadership team. All four students introduced themselves, spoke briefly about how
they approached the project and what elements of bulletin boards they found compelling,
and fielded questions from the interested audience. During this final phase, they
demonstrated agency in the way they presented their ideas-showing and telling while
they shared information about the images projected on the screen behind them-and
by the way they responded to queries from residence life leaders. Responding to the
questions from staff about how much the students noticed the bulletin boards before
the project, where the best locations would be for future boards, and what ideas they
would suggest for improving bulletin board design revealed a form of agency as students
seized the opportunity to provide a form of feedback that transcends numbers
and limited-text responses on surveys.
One key component of student agency was the humor they deployed. For example,
after the staff introduced themselves and their director-level job titles, Steven began the
introductions by quipping, " My name is Steven, and I'm not the director of anything
but I'm an applied learning major. " Justin stated that he had not yet declared a major
but was primarily interested in mechanical engineering and biology before adding,
" I guess I'm the director of my dorm beds. " These comments elicited laughter from
the room, and students were visibly encouraged by the response, as revealed by their
posture, facial expressions, and ensuing frankness.
Following their introductions, the student-participants summarized the themes
described earlier in this chapter. They articulated how particular design elements aided
the bulletin boards' effectiveness, how they were especially drawn to certain topics, and
why these design and topical elements commanded increased attention to certain bulletin
boards. Just as they did in the group interview, they demonstrated their learning
directly by sharing some of the knowledge they gained through engagement with the
most interesting boards. Finally, they responded to staff questions about prospective
bulletin boards by describing residents' spatio-temporal experiences in residence halls.
For example, they described the regular experience of doing laundry in order to discuss
a place that forces students to pause ( " you're already trapped in there " ) and offers the
chance to look around. Without interesting material on the walls of the laundry room,
they noted, students pass the time by looking at their phones.
Steven's presentation of his comic strip demonstrated agency through the use
of humor, word choice, and metaphor. As we displayed his images, Steven read the
thought bubble text out loud and verbally annotated the comic strip by describing his
creative process. He noted his interest in the personal pronoun topic and his reaction
to the bulletin board's design. In describing an image that showed his " review " of the
bulletin board, Steven said, " All in all, this bulletin board gets the Steven 'horns up'
stamp, because we do not 'thumbs up, thumbs down' at UT. " Steven drew on institutional
culture to gain rapport with the staff, who understood and approved of his
humorous mascot-inspired review format. Finally, when staff asked why he had chosen
102 The Journal of College and University Student Housing

Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 50, No. 2

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