Campus Instagram account shares the dreams and hopes of students

A variation of the famous photo documentary series Humans of New York, Ducks Change the World has made itself well known on campus over the past year. The Instagram account documents the stories and ambitions of students at the university with a headshot accompanied by a short caption.


Jordan, a freshman political science major, shares his dreams and aspirations (Ducks Change the World)

Since its first post in July of last year, the account’s creators Joshua Ekberg and graphic design student Trenton Marquart have gained over 3,000 followers and told the unique stories of 64 UO students.

Ekberg, a resident of Eugene and Marquart, a junior majoring in graphic design, view their photos and captions as a platform for student’s voices.

“If you fast-forward 20 to 30 years, it’s possible that some of these college students could be in Congress or CEOs,” said Ekberg. “We believe that every college student has a desire to change the world, so we created a platform to vocalize that.”

While their captions are short, Ekberg and Marquart’s conversations with students are in-depth and personal. According to Marquart, the method of finding random students and initiating a conversation often leads to the student discussing their purpose and ambitions.

“If you approach them correctly, they’re really responsive and enjoy the communication,” Marquart said. “They appreciate that you take the time to check in with them. We try not to make it all about Ducks Change the World, we want to make a connection.”

The creators say that despite students seeing each other on campus, they rarely take the time to listen to each other and check in with one another.

“We’re a society of people who just talk,” Ekberg said.“We never ask the question of why we do what we do. Trenton and I care why people do what they’re doing. If people are able to slow down and remind themselves why they do what they’re doing, then we’ve succeeded.”

Ekberg says his favorite participant in the series is freshman Justin Gallagos.

Gallagos has cerebral palsy, a condition which impairs muscles and coordination. Despite his condition, he is a devoted member of the UO Running Club and runs several times a week.

Gallagos says his dream is to raise awareness for disabled athletics and to promote  accessibility to quality equipment. In addition to supporting the school and family and friends, Nike has played a crucial role in Gallagos’ mission by allowing him to test prototypes of their latest shoes — the Flyease, a shoe designed specifically for disabled people or those who have difficulty putting on their shoes.

“Knowing that I’m part of something revolutionary is mind-blowing,” Gallagos said. “This isn’t some ordinary shoe some company can make a copy of, it’s about making a statement to say that Nike is expanding its boundaries in terms of accessibility to all athletes. Disabled athletes are much bigger of a deal than people think they are.”

Ultimately, running has proven to be beneficial for Gallagos’ well-being.

“As a kid I turned my feet in and dragged them,” said Gallagos. “I got to an age when I did not want to do physical therapy anymore. Once running came into my life, it, in a way, became like my therapy because it has made me stronger both mentally and physically. It’s even improved how I walk.”

With the account’s success at UO, Ekberg and Marquart plan to expand their influence and creativity across other college campuses through a network of friends at other universities.

As their number of followers and likes grow, so does their vision. They hope to expand the message behind their account beyond social media.

“We have a vision that’s outside this Instagram page,” said Ekberg. “We hope to make people more relational to each other — whether you’re an alumni, a student or somebody who has a career.”

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Michael Tobin

Michael Tobin

Michael is one of the Emerald's associate news editors. In his free time, he enjoys rock climbing and going to house shows. Drop him a tip via email at [email protected]