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Global Focus Photo Contest


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Congratulations to the 2023 Global Focus Photo Contest Winners!

View the 2023 gallery

Global Focus will open again in fall 2024

Exploring the world and opening ourselves to new experiences deepens our understanding of our role in a global society, allowing us to create new connections, opportunities and solutions. And that's what Global Focus is all about: inspiring international engagement through the power of images.

For nearly 25 years, International Studies and Programs has invited the Spartan community to share their experiences and perspectives through the annual Global Focus photo contest. Global Focus recognizes MSU students, faculty, staff and alumni who have captured outstanding photos of people, places, moments and things around the world. Winners are chosen from each entrant category and their images are shared broadly on campus and beyond. 

2023 Entry Categories (now closed)

Participants can submit a maximum of three entries in one of the following categories, plus up to three entries in this years’ bonus category, Global Spartan Pride. Photos must be original work taken outside the United States and can be from any time period.

  • MSU students*
  • MSU alumni*
  • MSU faculty/staff/retirees
  • Bonus entry: Global Spartan Pride

Let’s see the places your Spartan gear has traveled around the world! Show us the green and white on top of Mount Kilimanjaro, in front of the Singapore skyline, under the Caribbean Sea—and everywhere in between!

*Includes MSU degree programs as well as non-degree education and outreach programs.

Contest Guidelines, Rules & Criteria

To enter, you must have an official connection with MSU: student, faculty/staff/retiree or alumni. Students and alumni include those enrolled in or who have graduated from MSU degree programs as well as participants in non-degree education and outreach programs. Professional photographers and those involved in planning or judging the competition are ineligible. Entries must be original work taken outside the United States and can be from any time period. Entries must be high-resolution digital images suitable for printing.

First place, second place, third place and People’s Choice will be selected from each category; honorable mentions may be also chosen at the discretion of the judges. There is a one prize maximum per entrant per year. 

Please use the drop-down menu below for additional rules and criteria.

Cultural Representation Criteria

How we present our global experiences matters. That’s why we’re thankful for RADI-AID’s How To Communicate The World: A Social Media Guide For Volunteers and Travelers resource.  

As entrants determine what photos to submit in the contest, the following principles may be helpful to consider.

(The following content is courtesy of RADI-AID and SAIH - The Norwegian Students' and Academics' International Assistance Fund.)

 Language and images can either divide and make stereotypical descriptions—or unify, clarify and create nuanced descriptions of the complex world we live in. Use these four guiding principles to ensure that you avoid the erosion of dignity and respect the right to privacy while documenting your experiences abroad.

PRINCIPLE 1: Promote Dignity

You have the responsibility and power to make sure that what you write and post does not deprive the dignity of the people you interact with. Always keep in mind that people are not tourist attractions.

PRINCIPLE 2: Gain Informed Consent

Respect other people’s privacy and ask for permission if you want to take photos and share them on social media or elsewhere. Avoid taking pictures of people in vulnerable or degrading positions, including hospitals and other health care facilities. Specific care is needed when taking and sharing photographs of and with children, involving the consent of their parents, caretakers or guardians, while also listening to and respecting the child’s voice and right to be heard.

PRINCIPLE 3: Question Your Intentions

Ask yourself why you are sharing what you are sharing. Are you the most relevant person in this setting? Good intentions, such as raising awareness of the issues you are seeing, or raising funds for the organization you are volunteering with, is no excuse to disregard people’s privacy or dignity.

PRINCIPLE 4: Use Your Chance—Bring Down Stereotypes

Use your chance to tell people the stories that are yet to be told. Portray people in ways that can enhance the feeling of solidarity and connection. A good way forward is to ask the local experts what kind of stories from their life, hometown, or country they would like to share with the world.


Model Release Policy

Entrants should be sensitive to the privacy of human subjects. Winning photographs which include people may require signed "Model Release Forms" in cases where the privacy of the individuals pictured appear to have been infringed upon. Such cases include but are not limited to ones where the photographer appears to have been intruding on another's seclusion, making private facts public, or making the viewer believe something that isn't true about the subject. In order to facilitate royalty-free use, entrants must provide signed release forms upon request.


Copyright Policy

All rights, including copyright rights, of the photographs are retained by the entrant. By submitting a photo to the Global Focus competition, the entrant grants Michigan State University non-exclusive rights for royalty-free use, including the creation and use of derivative works, in displays and in print and digital publications. The entrant will be credited in displays and publications as appropriate.


Judging Criteria

The panel of judges is made up of MSU faculty, staff, students, alumni and professional artists, representing global and expert perspectives. Entries will be judged on how well the entry reflects the category, artistic expressiveness, creativity, composition, and overall quality of the image. Judges also reserve the right to consider geographic and thematic variety, as well as relevance to MSU's global mission, in selecting the winners. All decisions of the judges are final. The competition organizers reserve the right to disqualify entries which do not conform to the stated contest rules and criteria.