Everyone is drawn to a sense of place, and COMPASS is giving students the opportunity to creatively express that sense no matter where they are Zooming from this semester. COMPASS is a mixed media project created by the Macalester geography department to build community and stay connected outside of Zoom this fall. The department’s new social media coordinators, Finn Odum ’21* and Juthi Dewan ’22, are asking students, faculty, staff and alumni to create and submit content that explores the meaning of home to them. This will come together as a zine filled with essays, photography and art as well as Spotify playlists at the end of the semester.
“No two people are going to describe something in the same way, so hearing the passion in how people talk about the cities they come from [is] really big for me personally,” Odum said.
“I feel like I’ve always loved ‘place,’ and I wanted to read about how other people perceive or feel about a certain place,” Dewan added. “My St. Paul will not be the same St. Paul as yours.”
When Odum and Dewan first met in August to discuss what they wanted to do this semester, their main goal was to find ways for the department to stay active without having to be on Zoom more than the Macalester community already has to.
“There is a lot of Zoom fatigue,” Odum said. “We are trying to find ways to engage and stay connected [by] doing things that aren’t necessarily over the camera.”
In that first meeting, Dewan brought up the idea of writing love letters to one’s hometown. This idea eventually turned into the concept of the zine as a collection of people’s expressions of “home.” Dewan, an avid playlist maker, also came up with the idea of having people submit playlists about their hometowns.
“I’ve always associated music with either a place or a time in my life,” Dewan said. “Even when I think of a time in my life, I always think [of where I was] geographically.”
The Spotify playlists that have already been submitted cover cities from San Francisco to Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky. The songs in these playlists do not necessarily have to be overtly tied to that place — they can simply evoke memories that the person attaches to those places. Odum included “Fireworks” by Watsky, a San Francisco rapper, in a playlist dedicated to their hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The song, which uses firework sounds as ambient percussion, reminds Odum of a specific memory of watching fireworks with a friend on the lakefront in high school.
A surprise playlist submission came from Hannah Shumway ’19, a former president of Macalester’s chapter of the international geography honor society Gamma Theta Upsilon (GTU) and one of the people that inspired Odum to pursue their geography honors research. Shumway created a playlist of songs that encapsulated her time at Macalester.
“It was really fun getting to listen to her playlist and be like ‘wow, I know this person,’” Odum said. “Now I get to see more of how she saw Macalester.”
Everyone in the Macalester community is welcome to submit to the zine, whether or not they study geography. Odum and Dewan have forwarded information about COMPASS to the heads of other departments to share with students, and details about the zine have also appeared in the Mac Daily.
“This is a geography department project, but it’s not just for geography people because everybody has [a sense of] place,” said Odum.
Odum and Dewan plan on releasing the zine in a digital format at the end of the semester and hope to create a second issue of the zine in the spring. Potential themes for a second edition include culture and urban cities, the latter being a nod to the department’s popular interdisciplinary urban studies concentration. Other future social media projects in the works include interviewing geography professor Daniel Trudeau and Berg Postdoctoral Fellow of Geography Xavier Haro-Carrión about their recent individual research projects and using those conversations as a springboard for a potential geography department podcast.
“I think that would be really fun,” Odum said of the potential podcast. “The beauty of media is that we can do so much with it.”
Submissions to COMPASS should be sent to Odum or Dewan via email ([email protected], [email protected]) by Nov. 25. Additional information about COMPASS can be found on the Geography Department’s Instagram page, @MacGeography. To explore the “home” playlists that have been submitted thus far, go to the department’s Spotify account @MacGeography.
*Finn Odum is a Staff Writer at The Mac Weekly.