They are students. They are staff. They are faculty. They are alumni. These are the faces that create the Whitworth University community. What is their story? Who are these people? Through a storytelling event titled This Whitworth Life, assistant professor of English Nicole Sheets is striving to awaken the Whitworth community to various personalities and perspectives campus-wide. Sheets attended a similar event at Gonzaga University a few years ago and appreciated the idea of uniting a community through the sharing of experiences. She decided to pilot the event last year and is repeating it with new speakers on
Nov. 21 at 6 p.m. in the Seeley G. Mudd Chapel. Sheets hopes this will be an annual fall event.
The goal of This Whitworth Life is to illuminate some of the untold stories of Whitworth’s faculty, staff and students, she said.
“I’m calling it a storytelling event. I’ve asked several people from different facets of the university to share a short nonfiction story,” Sheets said. “Their prompt was to write about a significant moment in their personal or professional lives.”
By inviting speakers from different parts of Whitworth life, Sheets said she may expose the audience to unfamiliar but valuable perspectives.
“I don’t know a lot of people on the facilities, services and custodial service side of things because they’re often working in other parts of campus, but I know I benefit so much from their work,” Sheets said.
Each speaker will share his/her story, followed by a short reflection by panelists Karin Heller and Fred Johnson. Sheets said that short reflection is designed to let the audience catch a breath between performances.
Speakers include basketball coach Helen Higgs and Amanda Clark, director of the Harriet Cheney Cowles Memorial Library.
“I expect it to be a time of growth and understanding as we share our stories with each other,” Higgs said.
Part of sharing stories is inviting the audience to experience the speaker’s story as if it were their own.
“This event is very much about the process of being an author and part of that is oral communication,” Clark said. “You have to think about how your audience will engage with your personal story so that it becomes personal to them in a way.”
Two students from Sheets’ creative nonfiction class will also share their stories. Sheets required each student to write and share an answer to the prompt and then offer evaluations and possible improvements to others. In the end, senior
Katie Ferris and junior Henry Stelter were chosen by the class to share their stories.
Ferris said she is writing about the experience of being a “prefrosh,” or a high school senior looking at Whitworth. Stelter said his story will be inspired by a somewhat traumatic experience in his childhood that helped shape his current self.
“I think it’s very unique event, as it brings people from different roles and disciplines together: professors, students and other types of faculty,” Stelter said. “I think it’s a great way of illustrating how distinct and different the individuals who make up the Whitworth community are.”
For more information on This Whitworth Life, contact Sheets at firstname.lastname@example.org.