Elon University’s Global Education Center (GEC) announced the winners of its annual photo contest Monday, featuring student-submitted  photos of their Study Abroad or Study USA programs. Winners were selected from three different categories and won a variety of prizes.

“There is ‘America the Beautiful,’ which is to promote our Study USA programs, so celebrating diversity within the United States and global engagement,” said Shanna Van Beek, assistant director of Study Abroad. “There is ‘In Doing We Learn,’ which [means] living our engagement outside the classroom category, and then there is ‘Worth a Thousand Words,’ which tends to be our beautiful landscape shots and everything else.”

Submissions opened April 1 and closed April 15. After voting closed at 5 p.m. April 22, pictures with the most likes in each category were considered the winners, and the students with the winning pictures were notified by email Monday morning.

The overall winner with the most Facebook likes was senior Chelsea Weber, who received $350 in flight vouchers. The GEC staff pick was awarded to senior Patrick McLaughlin. The three category winners were senior Jessica Morse for “Worth a Thousand Words,” junior Carly Zenker for “In Doing We Learn” and junior Daniella Chavero for “America the Beautiful.” Category winners each received a $50 gift card to a local establishment.

“We’re doing this for promoting the photos, but also for promoting our own social media accounts,” Van Beek said. “We want to generate engagement on this, so it was a choice to do it this way rather than a critical evaluation.”

“To sort of balance out the fact that it is a popularity contest, we do a GEC staff pick, so we gather around and determine what is the photo according to us that tells the most compelling story.”

To ensure more people have a chance of winning, members of the GEC chose to include the staff pick. That winner is considered a second grand prize recipient and receives a GoPro.

The contest began a few years ago to celebrate student experiences and provide the GEC with marketing content.

GEC Business and Data Manager Amanda Zamzes, who votes for the staff pick, said she looks for a picture that tells viewers a larger story. She gave the example of a photo of a rose lying across railroad tracks leading into a concentration camp in Europe as a striking submission.

“[A quality photo] transports you elsewhere,” Zamzes said. “I think that’s the essence of a good global engagement experience — that from it, you are transformed.”