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Meet the People of IU

A group of seven smiling people sitting on stairs.
People of IU team members, including founder Sankalp Sharma at far left.

Everyone has something to say, a story to tell. But you have to ask. Then you have to listen.

For more than two years, People of IU has been asking and listening. Like a Hoosier-fied version of the Humans of New York project, People of IU shares quotes and photos of people connected to the university. RedSteppers and ballerinas. Baristas and educators. Entrepreneurs and athletes. Artists and cashiers. All these folks and more have told their story in their own words.

Sankalp Sharma, a senior at IU Bloomington, launched People of IU in August 2020 with a team of fellow students.

“All we read about was sad stories of how the human race was navigating the pandemic, numerous cases of racism, and a mentally taxing election in the United States,” Sharma said. “We at People of IU made an endeavor to highlight the Hoosier heroes that were creating a [positive] impact across the globe.”

Sharma’s own story is one that wouldn’t be out of place on People of IU. In sharing the stories of people making an impact, People of IU has made an impact itself. The team has interviewed more than 100 individuals (and counting) and received funding from IU Ventures.

Four different people looking at the camera.
People of IU has interviewed over 100 individuals with IU connections. Clockwise from top left: Ben Foley, former IU student and president of the Neurodiversity Coalition at IU | Jay Kincaid, BA’82, 13-time Emmy winner, director of Facilities and Technology at The Media School | Lucy Newell, BS’22, former co-president, Women in Government | Mackenzie Nworah, BS’20, MS’22, former IU football player

“I have had the opportunity of interacting with individuals who have shaped Indiana University into what it is today,” said Iswerya Ajay, who served as People of IU’s director of content before graduating in May 2022. “Each story has been unique and taught me something.”

Initially, People of IU focused on the Bloomington campus. Now the scope is expanding to include folks connected to IUPUI and IU’s regional campuses. Given the size of the IU family, what’s certain is that People of IU has no shortage of stories to tell.

“People make up a place, and at IU, there are some amazing people,” said Ray Looze, head coach of IU Swimming and one of the featured people of IU.

With the support of a donation from a member of IU’s Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council, Sharma plans to publish a People of IU book, capturing the story of IU through the stories of the people who make the university what it is.

“I did not want to wait til I became an alumnus to give back and do my bit,” Sharma said.

Thank you to Bethany Nolan at IU Studios and Jillian Waslawski at The Media School for their original reporting that informed this story.

This article was originally published in the 2022 issue of Imagine magazine.

Written By

Andrea Alumbaugh

A native Hoosier, Andrea Alumbaugh is a graduate of IU (BAJ’08) and a senior writer at the IU Foundation.

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