Stephanie Glaros’ interest in social justice began her very first year of college. That interest took her on a long and rich path to several colleges, states, jobs and, presently, to the faculty roster at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and the Humans of Minneapolis.
“I took a Women’s Studies class at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and it helped me connect the dots between what I had been experiencing and what were systematic problems,” she said. “It was like a bell went off in my head.” Stephanie began seeing parallels between women’s social justice and other systemic issues. “At that point, the greater concept of social justice became not just an interest, but a passion.”
After transferring, working and finishing college in the Rocky Mountains, Stephanie traveled, took short-term jobs and eventually found herself working in downtown Minneapolis as a marketing assistant. “I was being directed by finance-minded people, and what they were asking me to do didn’t make sense intuitively. But I had no design background, and no vocabulary to describe why what they were telling me to do wasn’t right.”
Stephanie looked into design classes, and found MCTC in her backyard. “MCTC offered night classes at a time when I was working days. I could afford it, and it was located downtown,” she said. “While I was a student here, something just clicked for me. Graphic design was a way to combine my creative side with my desire to organize things. I felt like I finally found what I wanted to do when I grew up.”
After finishing her degree, Stephanie joined the small staff of the downtown Minneapolis-based Utne Reader magazine as its art director. There, she found a way to connect her career with her passion. “My educational background and trade fit with my interest in progressive politics and social justice issues,” she said. “I was a one-person art department. I had the opportunity to sift through some of the best photojournalism in the world. I learned the power of photojournalism and storytelling.”
It was the perfect match for Stephanie. “My background in graphic design and passion for social justice issues shape my work. My goal is to capture emotional stories, challenge prejudices, and increase empathy.” On her walks to work—camera in hand—she began capturing the emotional stories of strangers in Minneapolis. “I took photos of anything I saw: the homeless shelter, the Greyhound Bus station; I found myself passing the same people every day, but I’d never interact with them. We were outside of each other’s circles. That started to feel very strange to me, and I decided to use my camera as an excuse to break that barrier.”
In 2010, the blog Humans of New York began publishing its collection of street photography. Stephanie followed it closely, drawn to the way the photographs shone a spotlight on otherwise overlooked individuals in the country’s largest city. Not long after, she realized she was already meeting and photographing the humans of Minneapolis. In 2013, she started her own blog by that name, bringing her pastime in line with a growing national movement to engage communities in storytelling.
“When I realized that’s where my interests had taken me, something clicked: telling stories is what I love to do. It brings together my background of photography, editorial journalism, graphic design and social justice.”
In the midst of her career and personal and professional growth, Stephanie was approached by one of her former Graphic Design instructors at MCTC who was about to take a sabbatical. He invited her to teach in his absence. That was the year 2011, and Stephanie has been teaching future generations of graphic designers ever since.
Today, in addition to teaching courses and telling the stories of the humans of Minneapolis, Stephanie writes a regular column in Southwest Journal, and is working on a community engagement project for the City of Minneapolis.
“I’ve realized how much of myself comes through in my work—not only in who I talk to, but in the parts of an interview I select. I’ve learned to trust my gut, and trust who I can connect with.”