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Contest winner plans to use creativity to find sustainable solutions abroad

#myOSUsummer photo contest is one for the record books

Hussain Al Balushi holds his framed winning photo and a camera hangs from his right shoulder on a red strap.

Civil engineering student Hussain Al Balushi, pictured above, is the 2016 #myOSUsummer photo contest grand prize winner. His winning photo highlights a student holding a ballet pose while lifting a book in the air – backlit by the sun shining through the windows in Austin Hall.

By Heather Doherty  
August 31, 2016

Thanks to the dozens of students who participated in the 2016 #myOSUsummer photo contest, it is clear that summer at Oregon State is a time you don’t want to miss: You can travel, work and play – all while making progress toward graduation.

The request: Take a photo on campus and tag #myOSUsummer on social media.

The response: Photos depicting everything from aerial shots of campus and laying on the grass in the quad to rearranging library chairs to form “OSU” and playing Pokémon Go.

A collage of photos submitted to the summer session photo contest, including many shots of campus, mountainous landscapes, interesting architecture and more.This year’s photo contest, hosted by OSU Summer Session, was one for the record books, with nearly 200 submissions via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

I’m so impressed by the creativity of our students and our community,” says Summer Session Director Claire Cross. “A rainbow over our beautiful campus, music in Corvallis’ Central Park, a fishbowl view of The Valley Library, heart-shaped foam in a latte, students sitting on a bench in the sun, shelves of books in the library – all of these photos tell the story of summer at OSU.”

Six weekly winners were awarded a $50 Visa gift card for their creative shots, and one talented photographer earned more than 550 likes, shares and comments on his photo, scoring him the grand prize – a $250 Visa gift card.

“I have participated in a lot of contests and won prizes, but they weren’t on the same level of winning this contest,” says Hussain Al Balushi, 2016 #myOSUsummer photo contest grand prize winner. “This means a lot to me.”

Capturing the moment 

For Hussain, this contest wasn’t just something he happened to stumble upon while on social media. It’s one he’s had marked on his calendar since last year and is part of the reason he deliberately stayed in Corvallis for this summer instead of heading home to Oman for the break.

“It’s really motivating for students to not only take summer classes and stay around campus, but also to enhance their abilities and skills,” he says.

Hussain’s interest in photography was sparked back when he was a child watching his father, who is an actor, be the center of many photo shoots. As he got older, he realized his talent and now spends much of his free time taking lifestyle shots around Oregon.

“It’s really motivating for students to not only take summer classes and stay around campus, but also to enhance their abilities and skills.”

Hussain Al Balushi looks down at his camera's digital display. He stands on an indoor balcony and there are dozens of decorative silver hanging balls.His winning photo highlights a student holding a ballet pose while lifting a book in the air – backlit by the sun shining through the windows in Austin Hall. It is one of many in a series he and his friend and model, Isadora Costa Cardoso, have taken throughout the Willamette Valley.

“The idea was inspired by a series of photographs called ‘Follow Me,’ where a photographer and his wife traveled around the world and in every location she would grab his hand and walk away,” Hussain says. “Since Isadora is a dancer, I wanted to do something similar with the dance moves in different locations around Oregon.”

Hussain, who split the contest money with Isadora, plans to use his prize to buy a better lens.

While it may seem like photography is his calling, it’s just one of his many hobbies. Hussain has been an active member of the OSU community since he started at INTO OSU in spring 2013.

He’s participated in intramural bowling, the OSU Photography Club, the Omani Student Association, the ISOSU (International Students of Oregon State University), After Dark events at Dixon Recreation Center, volunteered as the Ask Me leader with INTO OSU, and this year will serve as a cultural diversity representative for the Recreational Sports Advisory Board. He also works part time as a graphic designer for the Ettihad Cultural Center on campus.

“I create all of the marketing materials for them and promote the events, but at the same time I’d call myself a ‘social justice warrior,’” he says. “I enjoy helping people with their problems. At the end of the day, it’s just creating a safe space for them to do whatever they want there.”

Through a new lens

As a civil engineering student, Hussain wasn’t exactly sure what his future entailed – until he stepped foot in Megan Mobley’s Introduction to Environmental Science and Sustainability class on campus during summer term this year.

“I learned a lot about how we can improve in our lives. For example, if we switch to efficient energy, we can save a lot of resources that we are running out of right now, like coal and fossil fuel,” he says. “We can save the planet from all of the carbon emissions we are emitting into the atmosphere and reduce the climate change.”

Hussain Al Balushi looks into his camera's viewfinder while taking a picture.Hussain says he took advantage of the small class size during summer term and the opportunity to work closely with the instructor and his peers – many of whom are also international students. He learned of unique issues facing their home countries and offered information about Oman, where he hopes to implement sustainable solutions to new developments.

“We are living the village life rather than the urban life,” he says of Oman. “I want to improve the planning there and create sustainable buildings that run on efficient energy and solar power. We’re hitting 120 degrees there in the summer and we’re not investing in that sun. It’s going to waste there.”

With a new view on sustainability, Hussain plans on taking at least a few more related classes before graduation. He then hopes to attend graduate school, earn a professional engineering license and gain work experience in the U.S. before heading back to Oman to begin his newfound passion.

“I see a lot of people who got their degrees from outside of Oman and they came back to the country and changed a lot, and that’s exactly my plan now,” says Hussain, who received a scholarship from Oman to study in the U.S.

“I want to start my own business there selling floorplans and dedicating it to sustainable urban design and urban planning so it would be a more sustainable community.”

Click through the slideshow below to view highlights from the 2016 #myOSUsummer photo contest.

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