Tell a story about a time you felt safe, an instance in which you offended a person of a different race, an important message you heard about what it means to be a man. Stories give form to life’s complexities, allowing us to make the abstract more personal and concrete.
FYS 127: (En)Countering Narratives: Storytelling, Identity and Social Change was taught for the first time in the fall of 2016 by Kim Davidson, Director of CPS and Jeff Rioux, Associate Director. Through engagement with four story types, students considered how storytelling methodologies are used to enforce or dismantle oppression, mobilize or restrict change. By sharing and analyzing stories, students began to understand the complexity of race, class and gender and the power dimensions through which inequity operates. The course also encouraged students to make sense of their own experiences and identities, connecting the personal with the political, the individual with the social.
The Community-Based Learning component of the course involved a six-week Storytelling Institute, creating a combined class with 15 Gettysburg College students and 13 clients at Work Ready, a program of South Central Community Action Programs Inc that aims to assist low-income individuals in overcoming barriers to find long-term employment.
The Storytelling Institute was designed for participants to ask questions and listen deeply to each other. The aim was to build friendships, develop empathy, uncover truths and come to a better understanding of others, ourselves and the world.
One aspect of the Institute was for pairs (a Gettysburg College student and a Work Ready client) to participate in StoryCorps' #WhoWeAre project, recording interviews focused on a commonality. The following recordings reveal that "when we take the time to listen to each other’s stories, we see the beauty, poetry, and grace hiding in plain sight all around us."