The Stories Project: Sharing stories across campus
As students at Washington University, we all have unique stories to tell. Some of us have overcome a difficult childhood; others have survived the tragic loss of a family member, and still others have had trouble adjusting to life on a college campus. Recognizing that students could be united in their personal experiences, senior De Nichols launched The Stories Project in 2007 as a way for students to share their stories.
Nichols was inspired to start the project after sharing a personal experience with others at the Redefining Community Experience Retreat hosted by the Office of Student Activities. “I shared my story and it made people cry. People came up to me afterwards to say, ‘De, you should share your story with students across campus,’” she explained.
After considering the idea for a year, the communications design major decided to take action and transform her experiences into inspirational posters that she and friends hung throughout Wash. U.
As word of The Stories Project spread, Nichols created a blog so that more students could share their stories and read those of others online. Unlike the popular Post Secret Web site, however, Nichols explained that students submit written stories, not postcards, on the site. “They’re not necessarily just short blurbs, like many are, but some are actually in paragraph form and really long,” she said.
While most of the submissions to The Stories Project speak to pivotal life changes, students can share any type of experience on the blog. As Nichols described, “Many stories have honestly made me cry. Others have touched me deeply. Some have even made me laugh, but I just say it’s an honor that students are being open to sharing them.”
The Stories Project blog allows students to include their name and year with their stories or to submit them anonymously. Nichols, however, believes that there is value in students revealing themselves through their submission: “The faculty really strives to know each student by name and story. I really started questioning that with all of the stuff that I was doing and saying, ‘I don’t really recognize how we are living up to that goal.’”
Indeed, the concept of creating a space for people to reveal their stories is something that Nichols believes is important for students to connect with each other. Nichols, who shared her personal experience of getting in fights as a child, explained, “One thing that I’ve realized is that I’m not alone on campus. Many students have shared similar stories to mine, some that I haven’t even shared yet.”
Nichols hopes that The Stories Project helps students bridge typical divides to unite together in their experiences. “We’re not just students, black people, Asian people or Christians, we come with a wealth of experiences with us, and that really impacts the things that we do on campus as well as how we treat each other across campus,” she said.
In addition to a blog, The Stories Project incorporates Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Nichols also uses her talent for graphic design to translate the message of different stories into captivating posters that she displays around campus.
She has been granted the right to hold an exhibition of the posters in the Danforth University Center this semester and is currently meeting with other campus organizations to finance this display.
In addition to expanding The Stories Project internally, Nichols is working with KWUR to produce a radio show similar to NPR’s “This American Life” that will be related to the project. She also hopes to record students telling their stories in order to document their experiences in a more personal way.
In the future, Nichols, who is using The Stories Project as the focus of her communications design seminar, hopes to write a book about the project and perhaps even have it on the reading list for incoming Wash. U. freshmen. As the project continues to grow, however, one thing remains certain: Its focus will always be on allowing students to share their stories.