“Community” is a huge buzz word at Whitworth. However, sometimes parts of the Whitworth community go unnoticed. There are the students, the professors, trustees, the cafeteria workers, custodians and many other staff members who all make up the community. Everyone shares the experience of being at Whitworth, but everyone has different stories that define them.
Sharing these stories is what the third annual “This Whitworth Life: Whitworth’s Untold Stories” strove to do on Wed., Dec 5.
A project of English professor Nicole Sheets’ Creative Nonfiction class, “This Whitworth Life” was inspired by NPR’s journalistic non-fiction show “This American Life.” In a similar fashion, the goal of the event is to bring together diverse Whitworthians and build community through the sharing of stories.
“We use that word ‘community’ a lot, but this project [is] a way to really contribute and develop that, so we [do] not just know the faces and names, but about people who [are] in our community,” Sheets said.
The event in the MPR drew in a large audience of Whitworthians and community members, including President Beck Taylor. Eight pre-selected students, staff and faculty members shared their stories, often reflecting on past memories full of bittersweetness, vulnerability and grief.
Senior Molly Daniels reflected on childhood summers spent at her grandparents’ cabin, specifically one where her parents planned a pirate-themed trip, complete with wooden raft and their own treasure chests to paint, Daniels said. The memories were nostalgic for her, as the family cabin was sold and she cannot return to relive her memories.
“[My story] touches on how painful it is to remember things that you can’t ever revisit,” Daniels said. “I feel that people don’t talk enough about how painful it is to have those memories and know that you’re never going to have any kind of contact with them again.”
Sheets got the idea for the event after attending a similar one put on by Gonzaga University featuring individuals involved with all different aspects of the school, and wanted to emulate the experience back to Whitworth in order to bring empathy and compassion to our own campus, Sheets said.
“One of the goals too is to have people from a cross section of the university,” Sheets said. “I’ve had a trustee, I’ve had a custodian, there are so many people that work here and are a part of this community that I just don’t know. I benefit from what they do, but I don’t know them and I don’t know anything about them.”
The event is made unique as the stories shared are from Whitworth voices. Everyone has their own unique experiences, but there is the shared experience that comes from all being at Whitworth in one way or another, Daniels said.
“You learn so much about people,” Daniels said. “You learn about the horrible, tragic experiences that they’ve had, or their moments of struggle or the things that have made them as strong as they are today, the things that have affected them.”
Sheets sees the event as an opportunity to look past the assumptions we make about people, and wants those who have heard the stories shared will see that people are far more complex and that there are a lot of details that we do not know about them, Sheets said.
“The idea that what you may think of someone without getting to know them isn’t the correct idea,” Daniels said. “You don’t know what they’ve gone through, you don’t know what’s built them up over the years, and it’s important to hear those stories.”
Contact Meghan Foulk at