Bobby Model Professorship and Excellence Fund help build schools in Peru


img_0257.jpgIn Fall 2021, Shane Epping was hired as the first Bobby Model professor in University of Wyoming history. Little did he know that in his first year at UW, he would be able to take two fully funded students with him to Peru for a life-changing adventure.
The Model Professorship in Photojournalism in the Communication and Journalism Department was named in honor of Bobby Model, a UW graduate and National Geographic photographer who passed away in 2009.
At Wyoming, Epping wanted to provide students with photojournalism experiences they never had before. He was inspired by a book Hand Delivered Hope, written by his friend Jimi Cook, the director of Be The Change Volunteers (BTCV), a non-profit organization dedicated to education-focused development aid projects throughout the world.
“I thought to myself, it would be really neat to go on one of these trips to build schools,” Epping said. “I started thinking about my new job, Bobby Model, what he did with his life, social justice, making a difference with a camera, and in the end, this opportunity just seemed like a great combination of everything.”
After reaching out to Be The Change, a private donor and BTCV sponsored two UW students to go to Peru. Epping used the Bobby Model Excellence Fund to pay for his part of the trip.
Vanta Coda III, an environmental natural resources and communication major from Duluth, Minnesota, and Emily Smith, a communication major from Lakewood, Colorado, traveled with Epping in July.
“The trip was 4,000 miles,” Epping said. “Denver to Dallas, Dallas to Lima, and Lima to Iquitos. The only way to get to the destination from Iquitos was a four-hour boat ride on the Amazon River.”
Once they arrived at El Chino village, it was hard work. Epping and his students joined a team of 12 others from various areas of the United States, and helped build the foundation for an elementary school, while also documenting their adventures by making pictures, videos, and interviewing local residents.
“Most of it was manual labor but Vanta did a photo project through the eyes of the children,” Epping said. “I did a project on the women in the village and interviewed them through a Spanish translator. Emily did a video project on the overall trip that is being used by Be the Change to recruit future students.”
Throughout the experience, Bobby Model was ever-present in Epping’s mind.
“I have seen some of Bobby’s work, especially toward the end of his life, where he wanted to have a positive effect on the world,” he said. “Our time with Be the Change focused on the convergence of global engagement through photojournalism and social justice. While I was in Peru, I was thinking about how Bobby’s spirit was with us as we worked and made connections with children, their parents, and their grandparents.”
Like Model did in his travels, Epping, Coda, and Smith went to a remote area of the world to capture stories based on other people’s experiences.
“When I went to Peru, I went with the mindset that anything can happen,” Coda said. “There’s not just going to be a story waiting for me there, I had to find it.”
Coda focused his photojournalism around ethically showing what it is like being a student and a child in this small village in Peru. He wanted to see how children view their own world and how the community is as tight knit as it is. Emily working
“This trip gave us an opportunity to do very ethical photojournalism but also understand the world around us,” Coda said. “I thank Bobby Model for his vision and his family for opportunities like this through the professorship and the fund.”

In just its first year of existence, the Bobby Model Professorship and Excellence Fund has fostered an environment for creative and ethical learning.

“Through our camera lenses, we were able to provide people who have never been to Peru a look into these students’ everyday lives, how their community operates, and a sense of belonging,” Epping said.
Many more opportunities for UW students will be available in the future because of the legacy of Bobby Model and this fund.

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