She ducks into the bathroom between classes for a moment alone. It's been a rough week - two exams, 30 hours at work, a paper to write, and to top it all off, a breakup. She's exhausted and stressed, and can't even begin to imagine how she must look. She turns to face the mirror expecting dark circles and messy hair, only to find a pink post-it note with a message:
"Smile, it looks great on you."
A slim, curved line crawls across her face.
This is the goal of Operation Beautiful. It is a nationwide campaign that attempts to end "negative talk" by writing short, inspirational messages on post-it notes, and leaving them in unexpected places. This movement is being brought to UB in the form of a capstone project.
The capstone project is the final group project for the Leadership House program. Leadership House is a living-learning community for freshmen that provides leadership, academic, and social experiences. Georine Pierre is a freshman architecture major and a proud member of the Leadership house.
"I interpret a living and learning community as a place where you can grow as an individual," Pierre said. "[You grow] through different experiences, people, and life lessons. I thought it would be a great opportunity for me as a freshman to be involved with the UB community, and a great way to gain access to friends, leadership opportunities, and connections."
The program consists of 30 students, who had to apply to the program. Students also have to take two required classes - one in the fall and one in the spring.
The fall course is Dynamics of Leadership, which teaches leadership theory. The second class, taken in the spring, is the Leadership Intern course, where students have the opportunity to apply what they have learned during the previous semester. The goal of the capstone project is simple: "make your world a better place."
Jude Butch is the leadership programming coordinator in the Center for Student Leadership and Community Engagement, and also the professor for these mandatory classes. He explains that the "your" in the capstone goal is crucial.
"If I said to you: 'go out and make the world a better place,' that's a very daunting task," Butch said. "But if I say, 'go out and make your world a better place,' you can now think [on the scale of] residence halls, on campus, in the Buffalo community. It takes a very macro type of thought and brings it closer to home."
This is where Operation Beautiful comes in. Society uses the media to misrepresent women, according to Kailey Mahar, a freshman electrical engineering major, and this misrepresentation can have serious effects on how women view themselves. Mahar is the student who originally suggested the idea - the group hopes to battle self-esteem issues that media creates.
On Monday, April 16, and Tuesday, April 17, approximately 2,000 post-its with positive messages will be placed in various places around campus. There will also be a table in the Union for the event, which the group has decided to call UBeautiful: Operation Beautiful at UB. The table will have more information about how to get involved, as well as an area where students can write their own inspirational messages on post-its.
"One thing we really want is a pay it forward effect," Mahar said. "If students see the post-it notes, we want them to check out the website. If you see a post-it note you really love, peel it off and take it with you, make a few of your own, and get involved too."
This is not the only capstone project that is being done. One group is doing a "Promote the Vote" campaign and offering voter registration; another has planned a trip to Buffalo Reuse; one group is raising money to purchase teddy bears for a local children's hospital. All of these projects are aiming to make a difference in the Buffalo community.
The Operation Beautiful group has run into a couple of obstacles in the process of planning this event - one being that it is a rule at UB that anything posted in the halls has to be on a bulletin board. This was one of the easier obstacles. The biggest has been the issue of gender.
"Operation Beautiful is directed toward women," Butch said. "But the positive messages that young men will take away are just as important. Just as much as women are told what to look like in college, men are getting the exact same messages, and in some instances a little bit more harshly. I think that men struggle with that image just as much as women do. I think [Operation Beautiful] can appeal to both sexes, and make an impact on the individual level [at UB]."
The group has decided to not only place messages on places like bathroom mirrors, but also in the lecture halls, in the form of quarter sheets and posters for everyone to see.
Whether male or female, the group is hoping that these messages will make students feel good about themselves. For every 10 people that see a post-it, the goal is to make at least one person smile. Another goal is for the movement to spread and for post-its that the group didn't make to be seen around campus.
"As college students, we are always under so much pressure to succeed," Pierre said. "How many times do we get the recognition that we deserve? How many times do we receive compliments about ourselves? We want students to be aware that it is okay to think highly of themselves. We all want to be beautiful in our own skin. And that's what we want for everyone - to feel beautiful physically, emotionally, and mentally."
Keep an eye open - soon everyone will see those brightly colored little squares with beautiful messages.