By: Leah Palm, Staff Writer
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The dedication of a new building on campus sparks the beginning of a community-driven student outreach and learning opportunity. Dr. Harley Ferris, assistant professor of English, and Dr. Megan Adams, assistant professor of Communication, have been working hard to create a safe space for students of all majors to tell their stories and get involved.
The Center for Storytelling and Participatory Media will be located on Frazer Street and will provide students with the opportunity to get involved, conduct research, learn key aspects of their major, and practice digital storytelling. The CSPM will house an advisory board consisting of professors across disciplines and members from the community. They will assist students by providing the equipment, teaching assistance, and a space for students to learn how to tell stories using media outlets.
“The whole goal would be to have a center where students can come together and assist the community in creating digital stories with pieces of media,” stated Adams. “Whether that’s for education, whether that’s for archival use, or for social justice, we really want this to be a nice collaboration between students and the community.”
Adams states that the center provides opportunities for students to get involved both on and off campus by working with members of the community to build citizens media. She explains that going out into the community and gathering stories could help students get involved and talk to each other more openly about various issues.
For example, one of the first major projects to be done in the CSPM involved the floods in Findlay and the community members who have been affected by them. By making this center community-based, students are able to step out of their on-campus comfort zone and into the community where they can gain experience and make a difference.
“There’s the layer of archiving community history or what’s going on right now in the community, but there’s also that empowerment of ‘let’s help people use the tools they have or give them access to tools so they can see themselves as a citizen or a community member’,” Adams explained.
Along with providing the equipment and the tools needed to learn these media skills, the University is also working on a partnership with the Hancock County Historical Museum to provide a space that serves as an editing suite. This would allow students to have access to spaces on campus and in the community, which is part of the participatory aspect.
Although faculty working within the CSPM will aid students in learning media aspects, and will provide the equipment and the knowledge to find and craft a digital story, this center is not limited to only those interested in digital media. From students in the science programs to the business majors, and everything in between, people from all majors can benefit from the building and its services. Students will learn key aspects of their majors in ways like never before, from patient relationship building to business communications.
UF will be added to the list of only a few universities who use a digital storytelling approach in their learning. Although Adams says she is grateful for the opportunity to build such a space in Findlay, the work is not over. Adams and Ferris will be meeting with Dr. Fell for some guidance moving forward as money to fund equipment and facilitators is still needed.
“Findlay is such a strong community that I think that if we are able to tap into that it will help benefit students and the university because that is part of our mission; we want to provide you with meaningful lives and productive careers,” Adams stated. “A big piece of that is teaching you how to give back to the community. It’s something that we want to enact and I think this storytelling center is a great way to bridge those two pieces.”