StoryCorps brings ‘One Small Step’ initiative to Berry

Annie Deitz, Campus Carrier Deputy News Editor

Last semester, StoryCorps founder Dave Isay visited Berry to deliver the Conson Wilson lecture after first year students read his book, Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work. This February StoryCorps will return to campus, working with Berry to implement their new One Small Step program.

The One Small Step initiative aims to minimize the political divide in today’s society by inviting individuals to record themselves in a one-on-one conversation with a stranger about their ideologies. StoryCorps has invited Berry students to participate in this project with Berry, being the third school alongside Trinity University and John Hopkins University to become a part of the experience.

StoryCorps will come back to Berry to initiate these discussions the week of Feb 25. Right now, applications to participate in the program are open, and accessible through an email sent out by Dean of Students Lindsey Taylor on Jan 4. As Director of First Year Experience Katherine Powell explained, there will be 15 conversation-style interviews, each between students, for a total of 30 chosen students.

Once chosen, students will be asked to find a time to sit down for around 45 minutes to have a discussion with another, randomly assigned student, facilitated by a StoryCorps prompter. These conversations will not necessarily revolve around specific political issues, but rather how people developed their ideologies.

“I think what it’s not going to look like is an argument about issues, Powell said. “I think it’s more going to be a conversation about if you identify yourself on one end of the political spectrum, or the other, or smack in the middle, what do you understand that to mean? How did you come to find yourself in that position? It’s more about you and me sitting down and trying to understand one another.”

The conversations will be recorded and archived in the Memorial Library and the Library of Congress. Involved students will get a copy of their own conversations. Furthermore, Powell hopes that there can be a listening event in the future, in which all Berry students can come hear bits of the conversations.

Director of Student Diversity Chon’tel Washington is similarly excited for the program, and urged students to participate. She stresses its role as an exercise in identity development, as well as in understanding other people.

“This is the best way for people to learn about people who are different from them, actual interaction and actual conversation,” Washington said. “Being able to say, hey, this is why I believe x,y,z, I was raised this way.”

Washington compared the event to political and ideological discussions she has had. ”I just remember college being the first time that I ever experienced conversations with people that had completely different views,” Washington said. “I remember being excited because that was the first time that I had ever had those deep conversations, and even though I disagreed with the person sitting next to me or across from me, I still respected that person.”

Powell echoed those sentiments, and believes that this is a wonderful opportunity to overcome political barriers and divisions by personally connecting with people one may not connect with outside of this project.

“When you have these moments you realize that we all probably have a lot in common,” Powell said.

If for some reason a student is interested in the project but unable to participate the week of Feb 25th, there are other ways to take part. StoryCorps has a free app, available for smartphones, which allows anyone to record interviews and respond to questions from wherever they are. Other videos, stories and interviews are also available on the app, or on the StoryCorps website.

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