Las Vegas, New Mexico — A Highlands University media arts graduate won first place in a global photography contest for the International Student Voice Magazine. ¬†

Shanea Strachan, a Bahamas native, garnered the international college student award from a pool of 119 photographers with a self-portrait she created for her Photography II class at Highlands. Her photograph was featured in the magazine in August.

Strachan’s black and white digital self-portrait depicts her in profile from the waist up, with her gaze lifted and her hands covering her bare breasts.

“One of my goals as an artist is to change society’s view of what’s the acceptable standard of beauty in women,” Strachan said. “My self-portrait is about the freedom of embracing and loving the skin you’re in, from your curves to your natural self free of makeup.”

International Student VoiceMagazine primarily judged the photography submissions on creativity, quality, and the student’s description of their work. The magazine also used social media in its selection process, with Strachan’s photograph topping 700 Facebook likes — more than any other entry.

Media arts professor Megan Jacobs taught the class where Strachan crafted her award-winning image.

“Shanea’s self-portrait is a powerful, beautiful and brave image,” Jacobs said. “It resonates with both female and male viewers because she strikes a cord with our shared humanity. The best artwork transcends time, place and gender. Shanea’s self-portrait does all three.

“What’s unique about Shanea is how at such a young age, she’s adroit at using her art as a method to articulate her rich life experiences and views of the world. She’s accomplished and yet so humble,” Jacobs said.

Strachan said she appreciates the way Jacobs constantly challenges her students to delve deeply into building their creative concepts for their work.

In May, the 22-year-old Strachan earned her BFA in media arts with an emphasis in filmmaking.

Strachan is also a published author. In June 2013, Signal Publishing released her book, Life Doesn’t Just Go On. The memoir chronicles Strachan’s spiritual journey following her father’s death.

As part of the International Student Voice Magazine award, Strachan became a guest blogger for the magazine. Her first blog goes online in September.

“I love to write and have a passion for sharing information,” Strachan said. “With this first blog, I give new international students practical financial advice from opening bank accounts and building credit to finding campus jobs and the best deals for cell phone service.”

In late August, Strachan weighed multiple job offers. On Aug. 25, she accepted a position with Joined Elements, Inc., an international sales and marketing firm based in Albuquerque.

“In this promotion coordinator position I expect to use the majority of the media skills I learned at Highlands, including design, branding and marketing, photography and videography. It’s a little surreal to land my first full-time professional job in my field. I’m beyond thrilled and am so grateful to the media arts program,” Strachan said.