You are on page 1of 29

OurStory

Hanna Aven

ENGL 479 Writing Practicum Lee University Writing Professors 9 December 2013

Aven 2 Contents English Majors: Trained for Life... 1 OurStory...... 3 Seeking a Greater Story..... 5 Empower the Storyteller...... 9 Tell the Story......... 11 Embody the Subject... 14 Sharing to Inspire Change..... 16 The Non-Fiction Pieces....... 17 The Genre Piece.... 20 The Trip.... 20 The First Trip.... 20 The Second Trip...... 22 The Next Six Years of Trips... 23 The Final Trip Paradigm.... 24

Aven 3

English Majors: Trained for Life


On the WordPress blog For English Majors, guest writer Anthony Garcia discusses post-undergraduate job opportunities for graduates with degrees in English. He recalls that upon completing his graduate education in English Literature he was constantly questioned by his community: They seemed to be challenging me when they asked what are you going to do with that? to say, what are you going to contribute to society?. Throughout my own career as an English major, I have become too familiar with this and other questions about my disciplines legitimacy. Although English majors are subject to experiencing periods in which they doubt their degree choices, research proves that this uncertainty is unnecessary. Even though unemployment rates are currently at a high, a study done by Georgetown University reveals that the unemployment rate of recently graduated English majors is not much different from those of students who hold degrees in more practical subjects. Immediately after school, English and History majors experienced 9.8 percent and 9.5 percent unemployment, respectivelyMeanwhile, in computer science, which is regularly talked about as if it's the single most practical major a young person can choose these days, graduates are still starting at 8.7 percent joblessness. In the face of questions about future careers, English majors might reply that their plight is no different than that of thousands of other graduates nationwide. Furthermore, they may rebut these questions with explanations of the English graduates versatility. As Garcia explains in his blog post, the English degree prepares its students with a highly valued skill set that can be used in almost any career. This argument is confirmed by the

Aven 4 optimism of Steve Strauss, President and Founder at The SelfEmployed, as he explains why he hires English majors. In his blog on the Huffington Post, he says that English majors are smart, bold, have an excellent ability to write, and are easy to work with: For my money (literally and figuratively), for my needs, and I suggest the needs of most small businesses, English majors are easily the top choice when it comes to getting the type of teammate who can make us all better... Graduate job statistics reveal that Strauss is not the only employer who thinks positively about the English major. Research gathered by English professor Dr. Kevin Brown of Lee University reveals that even English majors from small liberal arts universities can and will find jobs in a number of different career fields. He conducted a survey of individuals who graduated from Lee University with a Bachelor of Arts in English between 1965 and 2011. He collected 35 responses. From these he determined that although many graduates did attend graduate school in a field related to English or immediately began a career in a field related to English, nearly 40% of the graduates spent their time doing other forms of work. These other graduates reported pursuing education in another field or beginning careers in public relations, the music industry, ministry, business, and more. These graduates report having entered the English degree program intending to pursue careers in the English field but discovered their passion for working in other fields as they pursued their reading and writing skills. With these statistics in mind, English majors can be confident that, for them, finding a career is not the primary issue that needs be addressed. In his essay on the ideal English major, Dr. Mark Edmundson of the Unversity of Virginia explains that the true quest of English majors is not to find a career, but to become better people. He argues that the ideal form of an English major is personified in

Aven 5 individuals who are dedicated to a love for language, hunger for life, openness and a quest for truth. We're talking about a way of life. We're talking about a way of living that places inquiry into how to live in the world--what to be, how to act, how to move through time--at its center. What we're talking about is a path to becoming a human being, or at least a better sort of human being than one was at the start. An English major? To me an English major is someone who has decided, against all kinds of pious, prudent advice and all kinds of fears and resistances, to major, quite simply, in becoming a person. Throughout their years of undergraduate studies, English majors will spend their time pondering literature and crafting their own. As they do so, they will ultimately develop an artillery of skills that will be valuable in any career field. Furthermore, they will grow closer to being able to excellently discuss truth, life, and humanity.

OurStory
OurStory is an organization that offers undergraduate English students an opportunity to immerse themselves in the act of becoming better students and explore their passions for language, life, openness and truth. This opportunity will exist in the form of a mission trip through a small Christian mission organization. During this trip, OurStory students will spend time getting to know some of the people group that the mission supports. They will do this by participating with the individual in his or her daily activities as well as by conducting interviews with these individuals. Students will then utilize their mastery and love of language to craft a series of short non-fiction pieces based on the

Aven 6 stories told by the individuals they interview. The pieces will serve as a window into the lives and experiences of the people they depict and will allow for audiences to easily feel a connection with the stories subjects. These short pieces will be given to the mission organization, which will utilize them to promote the sponsorship of their program. Additionally, OurStory students will be given the opportunity to craft a work of art in their chosen genre that will represent the people and experiences that they encounter while spending time at the mission. OurStory students will workshop each others genrespecific pieces at a writers retreat at the close of the trip. The students may present their completed pieces to the mission organization they worked with, choose to use the work for their own purposes, or both. This process will help students carve out time from their busy lives to write, and it will introduce them to foreign places. It will help create an English major who has a strong ability to read a situation and develop stories and character. OurStory students will be taught to recognize and develop common themes all while crafting works of art that connect their audiences to the stories subjects. This art will encourage audiences understanding of the stories subjects as more than a single story of poverty or need. This work will not only benefit OurStory students and the mission organization; it will also empower the individuals who are being written about and connect audiences to them. As they learn to elevate others by telling their stories, OurStory students will become more ideal English majors as they promote the commonalities that exist between humankind and tear down harmful stereotypes.

Aven 7

Seeking a Greater Story


OurStory proposes that in order for English students to better themselves as people, they must first cultivate an understanding of what it means to be human. This means that they must look outside of themselves and identify commonalities and universal truths that they may not have otherwise noticed. Because English majors spend their educational career developing the skills of identifying themes and patterns, analyzing characters, and searching for meaning, they possess a unique ability to step outside of their preconceived notions and examine new ones. If OurStory students adopt this discipline, they will better be able to understand what it means to be human, and in turn will have the ability to create more truthful and poignant narratives than they might if they looked inward for inspiration. OurStory will encourage its writers to discover and expose stories by training them that every person is made up of a multitude of stories. Although it is natural for people to stereotype or simplify their understanding of others, evaluating humanity based off of these singular forms of ideas is dangerous. In her 2009 TED Talk, Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explained the dangers of the single story. When Adichie moved from Nigeria to the United States to attend university, she was stereotyped by her colleagues. Because they knew so little about Nigeria, they asked her about her tribal music, assumed that she did not know how to use a stove, and were surprised at her English proficiency. Laughing, Adichie explained to her audience that she surprised her peers by presenting them with her Mariah Carrie records, her knowledge of the stove, and her extensive English vocabulary. She explained that these individuals singular understanding of Nigeria had poorly affected the ways that they understood her as

Aven 8 an individual. Although Adichies life in Nigeria did include a series of tragedies, she told her audience that these single stories were unable to describe everything about her. All of these stories make me who I am, but to insist only on these negative stories is to flatten my experience and to overlook the many other stories that formed me. The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story. (13:00 Adichie) Adichie admitted that she is not only a victim of the single story, but also a culprit of producing it. When she was a child, her family employed a poor boy to do their housework. She explained that she felt an enormous pity towards his poverty. She was amazed, therefore, when she visited the house boys home and saw a beautiful basket that the his brother had created: I was startled. It had not occurred to me that anyone in his family could actually make something (4:00). Because she had only heard about how poor this boys family was she believed that it was impossible to think of them as anything other than poor. Adichie believes that when more stories are told about a person, his or her life can be impacted: stories can break the dignity of a people, but they can also repair that broken dignity (17:51 Adichie). In order to restore dignity to people, storytellers must work to eradicate the single story. Rather than confining people to a narrowing definition, storytellers must work to represent as many aspects of a persons story as possible. Northwest Haiti Christian Mission (NWHCM) is an organization that is currently utilizing its advertising and sponsorship campaigns to represent the missions multiple stories rather than the poor state of the Haitian people. John Black, the organizations

Aven 9 media director said that he desires to promote the missions work by giving current and potential sponsors a more realistic idea of what occurs at the mission. This desire has been actualized in NWHCMs Family Tree Project. The project connects the missions current sponsors with each other and provides them with regular updates about the individuals and programs that they financially sponsor. It also provides current and potential sponsors with information about and updates on the people that the mission works with. This aspect of the project is currently in its early developmental stages, but it has the potential to permanently erase single stories from NWHCMs rhetoric. On their websites homepage, NWHCM has listed every individual that can be sponsored through their programs. Clicking on a thumbnail photograph of these people leads the sites visitors to a page dedicated to that individual. A large photograph of the person is displayed and a scrolling news feed records any Facebook activity that has to do with that person. Whenever NWHCMs missionaries work with or photograph that person, they update the feed. The posts are generally upbeat. For example, one displays a picture of an orphan named Betty with a paintbrush in her hand: Betty singing and helping paint the orphanage. Another shows a picture of a woman at the elderly care center, sitting in her rocking chair with a smug smile on her face: Verselia is all dressed up today and looking elegant as always. These small glimpses of life at the mission are a much different image than the kind oftentimes advertised by other mission organizations. Instead of focusing on the Haitians emaciated figures or tragic environment, the Family Tree Project captures the personalities of the people it supports and gives them a multi-storied dimensionality. Black explained that although he has seen many mission organization focus their advertisements on starvation and poverty, he feels that this type of

Aven 10 rhetoric is simply not conducive to a healthy sponsor-sponsee relationship: People are drawn to joy, he explained. He suggested that joy might be the key to recruiting sponsors who will commit themselves to long-term sponsorship and relationship with their sponsee. He said that by adjusting the focus of the marketing technique to exemplify positive aspects of peoples lives or their experiences, mission organizations can shift the reason a person gives and generate a sustainable desire to give that is based on partnership and hope rather than guilt and sorrow. Black suggested this desire could be cultivated by providing potential sponsors with details about the people they are giving to. Because the project is in its early stages, and because NWHCM does not have enough time or manpower to gather the necessary stories, such details are scarce. According to Black, the project is merely in need of writers who will dedicate themselves to learning about the mission and the people it supports and then writing about what they learn. The pieces written by these writers could stand alongside the currently scarce Facebook feeds on NWHCMs webpages and tell current and potential sponsors a little more about the individual that they might build a partnership with. OurStory plans to be the solution to NWHCMs need as well as the need of multiple other small, Christian mission organizations. It will send its students to write stories. As OurStorys students record the stories of the individuals they meet throughout their trip, they will join the fight against the single story by crafting stories that focus on a more holistic view of people. This process will provide mission organizations with useful written material, and allow English majors to learn more about their craft as they quest for truth.

Aven 11

Empower the Storyteller


In addition to benefiting mission organizations and English majors, the process that OurStory catalyzes will also benefit the individuals who have their stories told. Research has proven that healing of an individual can occur when a person is given the opportunity to be respected and understood as the authoritative storyteller. Psychologists have taken their knowledge of the importance of a storyteller and listener relationship and turned it into a form of therapy referred to as narrative therapy. In their book Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends, therapists Michael White and David Epston explain that this therapy revolves around patients telling stories about their lives. As the patients externalize their stories, they become able to look at their narrative from an outside perspective. From this new vantage point, they can examine their habituated understanding of the issues they face: they are able to experience a sense of personal agency; as they break from their performance of their stories, they experience a capacity to intervene in their own lives and relationships (Epston 16). While administering this form of therapy, therapists ask their patients questions about the stories they tell and encourage them to identify possible alternative outcomes for the narratives. As the patients begin to discuss their experiences in light of possible positive outcomes, the new stories gain power over previously told stories. This power enhances the subjects feeling of control over their situation and empowers them to leave behind narrow understandings of their plights. Dr. Phil Barker and social worker Poppy Buchanan-Barker explain another reason for utilizing this method of therapy.

Aven 12 By revering the storyteller we begin to appreciate the persons hidden depths, acknowledging that given the vast ocean of the persons experience we can only ever hope to know a tiny amount of who and what they are, as persons. Knowing patients is fairly easy, since we have a pre-formed template in our head, informed by diagnosis or theory. People are, metaphorically, a quite different kettle of fish. (Barker 19) In order to better learn about the storyteller as a person rather than a patient, administrators of narrative therapy must refrain from allowing diagnosis to affect the ways they listen to their patients stories. When therapists separate their preconceived notions about the patient from the stories that their patients tell, they allow room for different and possibly unheard stories to be told, thus enhancing the storytellers feelings of personal agency. According to White and Epston, an individuals sense of personal agency is further enhanced when he or she is listened to. The opportunity to entertain an audience reinforces a persons feelings of importance and control over their story. Furthermore, telling the story to an audience allows the storytellers to reflect upon their stories as narratives that can be described in a variety of ways. As people tell their stories, they can gauge their audiences reaction to it, consider alternative ways of speaking of themselves and their stories, and change the way they discuss and ultimately understand their experiences. By providing mental healthcare patients with a space where they feel safe to tell and retell their stories, therapists who utilize narrative therapy allow the patient to speak as a multi-faceted human rather than the face of a diagnosis. This opportunity empowers the storytellers to realize that they have control over their story. Furthermore,

Aven 13 the process allows the listener to recognize the speaker as a human being rather than a mere patient. OurStory plans to accomplish some of the outcomes of narrative therapy by teaching its students to utilize an interview process that will foster a space in which the interviewees can tell their stories comfortably and ultimately recognize how important their stories are.

Tell the Story


While OurStorys interview process will immediately impact and empower the interviewees, a greater good will result when the listener relays the stories to a larger audience. OurStorys students will take the narratives they learn from their interviewees and tell the narratives themselves. In order to preserve and accurately portray the truths revealed in the interview, the storytellers must ensure that they present their audiences with images of the interviewees rather than an image of themselves. Because OurStorys students will eventually turn their interviews into written documents, they will be instructed to conduct their interviews in the style of an ethnographer. Ethnographers are anthropologists who represent people groups through the written word. In order to ensure that their written word accurately expresses the thoughts, beliefs, and actions of their subject group, ethnographers focus intently on the idea of the other. Ethnographers practice quieting their own voices and thoughts for the duration of the ethnographic process to ensure that they will record the story of the person being interviewed rather than their personal account and opinions of an interview they conducted. This mindset begins when the artist immerses himself in the world of the individual

Aven 14 they interview. According to anthropologists Robert M. Emerson, Rachel I. Fretz, and Linda L. Shaw in their book Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes, immersing oneself in anothers culture is the first step to grasping that persons experience as meaningful and important. With immersion, the field researcher sees from the inside how people lead their lives, how they carry out their daily rounds of activities, what they find meaningful, and how they do so. In this way immersion gives the fieldworker access to the fluidity of others lives and enhances his sensitivity to interaction and process. (Emerson 2) OurStorys students will practice immersion by actively participating in the lives of the people they are interviewing. They will spend a significant portion of their trip following their stories subjects and being a part of the things they do. By doing this, the students will be actively learning to recognize and limit reliance upon preconceptions about members lives and activities (Emerson 9). In order to ensure that they preserve as much information about their interviewee as possible, OurStorys students will be required to record field notes. These field notes will consist of descriptions of settings and activities, transcriptions of conversations, personal observations, and more. Each student will write their notes in a manner that makes sense to them and will benefit them when they sit down to write the story at a later time. Although these field notes will vary in many ways, our artists will be trained to ensure that their notes preserve the actuality of their situation. It is essential that OurStorys students record unbiased observations at the field note stage because the field note document is the first instance of the storys textualizaton (Emerson 16). According to Emerson et. al, there are a number of ways that an writer may be

Aven 15 tempted to impose their own ideas onto a story. They might take a category, standard, or meaning from one culture or locale and use it to describe events in another context, or might use a term, category, or evaluation that is recognized, used, and honored by one group in a particular social world to describe features or behaviors of another group in the world. Writers may unknowingly adopt a dismissive attitude toward members meanings or frame their notes in terms of how things are supposed to be, such as recording a statement about a busy office setting as unorganized or chaotic. An author may also ascribe or invoke their own theoretical categories when taking notes and asking questions or they might choose to describe settings and actions in terms of dichotomies (109-112). OurStorys students must vigilantly fight against these temptations so that they will be able to relay a truly holistic understanding of their stories subjects. Awareness of these temptations will enable the students to appropriately focus their field notes and prepare themselves to write a better story at a later time. Prior to their travel with OurStory, students will be taught how to write their field notes, as well as how to conduct interviews and how to craft their final documents in a manner that reveres the storyteller. They will receive this instruction in the form of a printed curriculum that contains tips for recording field notes, suggestions about what details to include in field notes, interview techniques, and more information that will help them better understand how they can integrate the philosophy of an ethnographer into their work. This curriculum will also include examples of ethnographies, short biographic pieces, and genre-specific pieces that are ethnographically minded. OurStorys students will also learn about the philosophy of ethnography from an OurStory staff member during their group meetings and pre-trip training sessions. The culmination of the students

Aven 16 ethnographic instruction will enable them to avoid the temptation of imposing their own meaning on the stories, it will show them ways to implement ethnographic philosophy into their own writing style, and it will ultimately increase their ability to connect the stories subjects with their audiences.

Embody the Subject


One essential product that OurStorys ethnographic training will generate is the sense of empowerment that the interview process will create for the interviewee. By utilizing their training, OurStorys students will learn to benefit the interviewee by transforming the information accumulated in the interview into a reflection and amplification of the interviewee rather than one of themselves. Playwright and actress Anna Deavere Smith ensures that she accurately captures the subjects of her interviews in her artwork by reviewing all of the information she gathers from them and then embodying them. Smith first began this practice of embodiment when she realized that her previous approach to understanding characters was not working. Smith explains that the method she previously used is often taught to actors but is self-centered and takes the metaphor out of acting. This approach encourages actors and actresses to connect with their character by figuring out what similarities they share with the character. Over time, Smith found that forcing a connection between herself and her character caused more problems than solutions. It made the heart smaller, the spirit less gregarious, and the mind less apt to be able to hold on to contradictions or oppositions (xxix Fires). Smith suggests that an alternative to this self-centered approach is one that focuses on the other.

Aven 17 In order for actors and actresses to learn about their character, they must first recognize that the character is other than themselves and embody it. Smith practices embodying the other by imitating his or her language. While crafting her plays, specifically Twilight and Fires in the Mirror, Smith interviewed hundreds of individuals and asked them to tell her their stories. After collecting these narratives, she represented them in her writing, making sure to imitate their voices as accurately as possible. Smith explained that as she prepared to perform these plays, she practiced reciting the characters voicestheir dialects, their speech impairments, their paralinguistic cuesin order to learn more about them. I became increasingly convinced that the activity of reenactment could tell us as much, if not more, about another individual that the process of learning about the other by using the self as a frame of reference. The frame of reference for the other would be the other. Learning about the other by being the other requires the use of all aspects of memory, the memory of the body, mind, and heart, as well as the words. (xxvii Fires) By immersing herself in the differences between herself and the character, Smith suggests that she is now able to better represent her characters. As OurStorys students transform their field notes into pieces of writing, they will work to embody the heart of the original storytellers story by imitating the truths that surround that individual throughout their final written product. This might take the form of a word-for-word recitation of the interviewees dialogue or it could be as abstract as a portrayal of an emotion that the interviewee describes. Because many of the stories OurStorys students will collect will have to be relayed by a translator, the students will

Aven 18 have to rely on imitating their observations of setting, activity, and human interaction to portray the heart of the story.

Sharing to Inspire Change


After OurStory students craft their writing, the documents will eventually be read. Although the students will have ensured that their work does not impose the dominance of a single story, the readers of these works will automatically utilize their own experiences to help them understand what they are reading. In a lecture about narrative theory, Marco Caracciolo explains that storytellers and receivers have different experiences from one another, and therefore will approach and understand a story differently. While listening to and comprehending the story, an audience will draw from its own experiences to understand what is being described: Stories do not refer to or represent experience, but they are entangled in it. What this means, concretely is that the experiential impact of narrative depends on its drawing on the experiential background of its recipients (Caracciolo 5). Essentially, the audience members will place themselves in the story and will experience the narrative for themselves. If OurStorys students craft their work in a manner that is easily accessible and understandable to their audiences they can use this phenomenon to their advantage and begin to transform the audiences previous experience with and interpretation of the storys subject matter. In addition to destroying the narrow narrative that threatens to define the stories subjects, OurStorys students will create a multi-faceted story of their

Aven 19 subject that will resonate with audience members emotionally and lead them to feel a sense of connection to the storys subject. The Non-Fiction Pieces To allow the audience to understand and connect with their stories, OurStorys students must create a product that is easily accessible. Throughout their trip, the students will first produce a series of brief non-fiction pieces about their interviewees and present them to the mission organization. The mission organization will be able to immediately use these pieces to inform and impact its current and potential sponsors. These pieces of writing can be used in a format much like NWHCMs Family Tree Project or in other ways. Websites such as PopAnth and Humans of New York serve as examples of how non-fiction pieces about unknown people and people groups can be presented in a manner that encourages an audiences connection to them. The goal of the website PopAnth is to relay anthropological discoveries to the masses. We take anthropologys collective knowledge and translate it for mainstream audiences, much in the way that popular science books, tv shows and trivia quizzes make even the hardest of sciences accessible. We strive to provide you with the best of anthropology in a format that makes you go, Wow! I didnt know that! Our cross-cultural stories aim to help you discover things about yourself and the world you live in. (http://popanth.com/about/) On its homepage, the website presents its viewers with vibrant images of various cultures and labels the photograph with a story title. A brief summary of the story is provided, and a Read more button is highlighted. After a quick click of the mouse, the reader is presented

Aven 20 with an approximately thousand-word essay on an anthropological inquiry. PopAnths stories come from scholars who are doing fieldwork all over the world, but they are told in a vernacular that is easily understandable and enjoyable to read. Because these stories are presented in a style that is familiar to mass audiences, large numbers of people are able to take hold of otherwise unavailable information. The accessibility provided by this vernacular allows for the audiences interest to be peaked enough so that they begin to take in the information. A second site that arouses audience interest in otherwise unheard stories is Humans of New York. This site is a conglomeration of photographs and brief captions. Each photograph and caption pair depicts a person who lives in New York City. The photographs on Humans of New York vary in emotion and form. Some are taken of individuals profiles, some do not show the entirety of the person, and some are posed. Quotes next to each photograph come from its subject or are written, in brief, by the sites author. The subject material of each comment varies, and the caption length varies from one-sentence to several sentences. For example, one caption quotes the photographs subject: Im studying to get a PhD in Neuroscience, but in my free time I like to perform in burlesque shows. Another relays the following anecdote. After they finished kissing, she took off her blue cape, and laid it over a woman sleeping on a nearby bench. It was such an unbelievably poetic moment, I actually chased them down to fact-check my own eyes. Excuse Me. Was that your blue blanket? Yes. And you just gave it to her?

Aven 21 .Yes, why? Oh nothing. The site is visually appealing and easy to navigate, but its most impressive aspect is the intrigue it creates. The brief glimpses of information the site gives the audience tell only one story, but these single stories are not the dangerous type that Adichie condemns. Because the stories are derived directly from the photographers conversations with his subjects, the resulting stories speak the truth of the other and allow room for audience members to experience that truth for themselves as they consider the vibrant, creative images on their screen. PopAnth and Humans of New York serve as two stellar examples of how peoples stories can successfully be told, but the mission organizations that receive OurStorys products may choose to use them differently. Regardless of methods mission organizations choose to share the stories, OurStorys writing will serve as unique and useful advertising tools for mission organizations and will enhance the experience of their current and potential sponsors. In order to recruit and retain sponsorship, mission organizations must approach sponsorship as if it is a product to be sold. To successfully sell their sponsorship, the organizations must ensure that the customertheir potential sponsor feels positively about purchasing from the organization. In Timothy R. Pearsons book The Old Rules of Marketing Are Dead, he explains this phenomenon. He says that creating a relationship between the customer and a product forms an emotional loyalty to the product: one of the keys to a brands core is the emotional connection between the product of service and the people who purchase it (Pearson 131). This connection will serve as a form of

Aven 22 customer service: when the customer visits the missions site they will have an overall positive experience because they will begin to feel as if the money they, or other people like them, have spent makes a difference. They will feel a sense of joy as they realize that they are part of a sponsorship community, and they will become, as Pearson calls them, brand loyalists (Pearson 131). The missions that OurStory partners with will be able to better their customer service experience and ultimately increase mission organizations sponsorship revenue by using the short non-fiction pieces that OurStorys students give them. The Genre Piece As OurStorys students craft their non-fiction pieces, they will also begin to formulate plans for a creation of a genre-specific piece. Throughout their time on the mission field, the students will begin taking notes for a creative work they plan to write and will begin drafting it. These pieces might come in the form of plays, flash fiction, poetry, novels, blogs, or even haikus, but all of the pieces will be devoted to uplifting and preserving the voice of the other. These works of art will vary greatly, but if OurStorys students remain dedicated to their quest of finding truth and revering humanity, each of their works will tell untold stories and connect audiences to people they may never have the opportunity to meet.

The Trip
The First Trip Within the next year, OurStory will launch its first trip. The first group to travel with OurStory will be made up of no less that eight university students who are strong writers

Aven 23 and dedicated to the mission of OurStory. The student group will be drawn primarily from Lee University and will be will be made up of students from the communication, anthropology, and English programs. The diversity of this first group will allow for a stronger gathering of data about the OurStory trip and will produce biography pieces that exemplify strong advertising and ethnographic focuses as well as creative intrigue. The data collected from this first trip will later be used by OurStory to ensure that English majors receive excellent training on how to write ethnographically-minded pieces that will accurately advertise the work of the mission organization. Prior to the taking the trip, the student group will meet at least three times before traveling together. At these meetings they will discuss travel details and information, discuss ethnographic philosophy and techniques, and learn about the NWHCM and the history of the northwest region of Haiti. The group will travel to St. Louis du Nord, Haiti, and work with John Black and other missionaries at NWCHM. This mission organization will be an ideal destination for OurStorys first trip because its media director has already stated that the services OurStory offers will be useful to its Family Tree Project. Travel to St. Louis du Nord, Haiti, will take two days. After arriving at the mission base, the team will split into small groups and spend seven days getting to know the mission and gathering its stories. The groups will be assigned various aspects of the mission to focus on: some will be stationed with a specific ministry, such as the Birthing Center or the Nutrition Program, and others will be partnered with a specific group of individuals, such as a group of friends at the orphanage or the individuals at the elderly home. All of the groups will be charged with gathering and telling stories of the people they

Aven 24 interview. These writers will need to coordinate with one another to ensure that stories are written about as many people as possible. Throughout the trip, the groups will spend their time serving the mission in whatever ways are immediately needed. Their primary focus, however, will be to gather field notes, participate with the people, and conduct interviews with the help of translators. In the evenings, the groups will gather and write about their experiences. This schedule will occur for the first six days of the trip. On the last day of the trip, the students will meet with NWHCMs missionaries and talk with them about the stories they are crafting. During their week in Haiti, the team will take no less than two brief trips away from the mission basepossibly to the nearby voudou temple or to a morning marketin order to learn more about the regions culture. Upon their return to the United States, students will be given one week to revise their short biography pieces and two weeks to draft their genre pieces. The students will exchange these documents with one another for review on an online workshop forum. After the stories are completed, they will then be emailed to John Black at NWHCM. The Second Trip After this initial trip, I will assess the stories that have been created and communicate with NWHCM about the benefits of using the students writing. This trip will be organized the same way as the first trip and follow the same daily schedule. However, minor adjustments will be made according to the outcome of the initial trip. In order to more effectively gauge the effects of the adjustments made to OurStorys program, the second OurStory trip will also travel through NWHCM and will also employ students of various majors.

Aven 25 Upon completing the second trip, OurStory students will revise and submit their work to NWHCM. I will then choose the most exemplary from among these and the first trips stories to promote OurStorys work. I will also continue to gather data and feedback from John Black, NWHCMs other missionaries, the stories subjects, and OurStorys students as I prepare to present this information to prospective OurStory students, potential university and mission organization partners, and possible financial supporters. The Next Six Years of Trips In the next six years, OurStory will begin building relationships with at least four mission organizations that are excited about and willing to use OurStorys writing to promote their mission. OurStory will develop a board of directors, garner financial support from churches, begin partnering with universities, and start to develop a program that is specifically dedicated to enhancing the educational and writing experience of undergraduate English students. Applications for OurStory will begin incorporating questions concerning location preference and more detailed questions regarding skill set and personal passions. This will allow OurStory to form trip groups that are made up of a wide array of student personality and genre interest. When students applications are reviewed, they will be assigned a particular location based on their requests and the discernment of OurStorys staff. After students are assigned their trip location, they will join an online forum with the other students from their trip groups. They will be required to share at least two short non-fiction pieces about an acquaintance, and must respond to and workshop with the

Aven 26 other students submissions. OurStory will provide the students with travel updates, writing samples, and regional and cultural information from this site. The students will attend two meetings with a trip coordinator and other OurStory students from their university before they go on their trip. During these six years of trips, OurStory will begin transitioning into an even larger format, developing curriculum for OurStory students, partnering with more mission organizations and universities, hosting pre- and post-trip meetings for all OurStory students in one location, and more. The Final Trip Paradigm In the final trip paradigm, students will apply to OurStory and request a specific location for their trip. They will also be asked to describe their unique skill sets and passions. OurStorys staff members will determine the best partnership for the students and give them their trip assignment no less than four months before the trip takes place. There will be two sets of trips in a given year. One will take place in June and the other in July. Students will meet with an OurStory staff member, as well as other students who attend their university for two meetings between the time they are accepted into the program and the time the trip begins. The first meeting will serve as an orientation about the mission. At this meeting, students will be given writing samples from previous OurStory students. At this meeting, the students will be assigned to write a creative piece about an individual they do not know. Artists will submit their work to an online forum and will workshop their pieces at the second meeting. This second meeting will serve as a writers training session.

Aven 27 Before each set of trips there will be a more-detailed and intensive training session that will last for two days. At this session the artists will learn more about OurStory and practice interviewing, writing field notes, and crafting stories. They will learn about the culture and history of the region they will be traveling to. This session will also serve as a way for students to get to know their specific trip group. The groups will then embark on their trips, gather notes, and write stories. This trip will look similar to the first trip OurStory takes, however, time will greatly increase the trips level of organization. Furthermore, OurStory will begin incorporating other student disciplines into the process, specifically Communication arts students and aspiring photographers and videographers. After seven full days on location, all OurStory groups will return to the initial meeting location for a writing retreat. The writers will spend five days revising and workshopping their pieces during the day and participating in fun, educational activities in the evenings. On the fifth day of the trip, a symposium will be held. The artists will read their work to each other, OurStorys staff members, and any friends and family they wish to invite. Once this trip paradigm has stabilized, OurStory will consider providing student-led English camps and writing circles for the people the mission serves. These events will occur simultaneous to the collection and production of the peoples stories. Eventually, OurStory will create a website that catalogues all of the non-fiction pieces and genre-specific creative pieces that its students create. OurStory will also work towards publishing a printed anthology of these stories.

Aven 28 Works Cited Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. The danger of a single story TED Talk. July 2009. Web. 12 November 2013. Barker, Phil and Poppy Buchanan-Barker. Beyond empowerment: revering the storyteller. Mental Health Practice. 7.5 (2004): 18-20. Web. 19 September 2013. Brown, Kevin. What do English majors do when they graduate? Lee University. Cleveland, TN. 2013. Presentation not yet presented. Caracciolo, Marco. Project Narrative. Ohio State University, OH. 7 November 2011. Web. 10 November 2013. Carnevale, Anthony P. and Ban Cheah. Hard Times: College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings. Georgetown Public Policy Institute, 2013. Web. 10 November 2013. Edmundson, Mark. The Ideal English Major. The Chronicle of Higher Education 59.44. Web. 10 November 2013. Emerson, Robert M., et. al. Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. Chicago, 1995: University of Chicago Press. Print. Epston, David and Michael White. Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1990. Print Garcia, Anthony. Market Success for English Majors For English Majors. Web. 28 October 2011. Lynch, Gawain. PopAnth. Web. 11 November 2013. Northwest Haiti Christian Mission. Web. 6 December 2013. Pearson, Timothy R. The Old Rules of Marketing Are Dead: 6 New Rules to Reinvent Your Brand & Reignite Your Business. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011. Print.

Aven 29 Smith, Anna Deavere. Fires in the Mirror. New York (1993): Anchor Books. Print Stanton, Brandon Humans of New York. Web. 11 November 2013. Strauss, Steve. Why I Hire English Majors. Huff Post Small Business. 23 June 2013. Web. 6 December 2013. Weissmann, Jordan. The Best Argument for Studying English? The Employment Numbers. The Atlantic. 25 July 2013. Web. 10 November 2013.