“Whitworth’s Untold Stories” event explores personal experience and life lessons

by Meagan Kaloostian | Staff Writer

“Whitworth’s Untold Stories,”, a project of Whitworth’s Creative Nonfiction Writing course, was held on the evening of Dec. 4. Roughly 40 students and faculty members gathered in the HUB Multipurpose Room for the 6th “mostly annual” This Whitworth Life storytelling event. 

The event featured seven speakers, faculty and students alike, who each shared a true story about an important moment in their lives. The speakers varied in tone, scale and academic discipline. However, all of the stories provided unique messages and glimpses into the speakers’ lives.

Before the event began, audience members joined Dale Soden, professor of history, in multiple songs. Then, English professor Nicole Sheets introduced the event.

“[This Whitworth Life] lets us get to know more about the Whitworth community. Not just names and faces, but stories,” Sheets said.

The first speaker to tell her story was Noelle Brouillard, the head women’s lacrosse coach. Brouillard’s story, “A Dog’s Life,” centered on seven lessons that she has learned from her dog, Milton. These lessons were: forgive, be present, everyone matters, wake up with joy, be eternally hopeful, make quality time a priority and love unconditionally.

The second story, “Pepper,” was told by Kevin Benson, an adjunct professor in the Communications and Theatre departments. He described a comedic mishap which occurred while he was a teenager working at McDonald’s. However, this humorous moment of miscommunication has a significant connection to Benson’s current career.

“Today, I teach people how to communicate, to speak…with clarity and enunciation. With care and with precision. It is perhaps no accident that I teach and that I’m passionate about speech and communication,” Benson said.

Provost and Executive Vice President Carol Simon shared the third story of the night, which she titled “Wannabe.” In her story, she described her experience at an annual hiring convention for philosophers, as she tried to get a tenured-track job as a philosophy professor. This story led to her explanation of how this job search introduced her to narrative philosophy, a concept which “has become [her] scholarly center of gravity.”

Craig Chatriand, the Associate Dean for Community Standards and Compliance, shared the fourth story of the night, titled “In Defense of my Vocation.” Chatriand described various tragedies, and victories, which he has witnessed while working on college campuses. He used these stories to explain why he does what he does.

“I do this work because students are hurting and they need capable people who care about them,” Chatriand said. “And I do this work because every student, in every family, when they’re facing what may be the worst moment of their lives, deserves someone who cares.”

Senior English major Bryn Cavin told the fifth story, called “Standard of Care.” She detailed her experience in the Smithsonian internship and how her understanding of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) standard of care was changed. Cavin told her own story about attempting to contact ICE, while also explaining the experiences of her roommate, whose work involved conducting credible fear interviews for asylum seekers.

Courtney Barajas, an assistant professor of English, told the sixth story of the event. Barajas told “a story about failure,” where she described her initial failure to defend her dissertation. However, Barajas explained the prominent ways in which God worked through her dissertation revisions.

“God had affected a true transformation in my life. […] I had never allowed my faith to influence my teaching or my scholarship. I had never let God into those spaces, and I didn’t know how radically he could transform them and me,” she said.

The event concluded with junior English major Hannah Mumm’s story about her experience as a foreign exchange student in southern France. Mumm humorously described her hopes that, while studying abroad, she would fall in love with a European man. Her story included several entertaining, comedic anecdotes from her time abroad.

One of the students in the audience, freshman Dakota Farrer, found the event especially enjoyable.

“I loved hearing everyone’s stories. It was entertaining and exciting and unexpected. Each story really showed how [the speakers] grew in character,” Farrer said.

Another audience member, senior Alanna Carlson, also expressed her appreciation of the event.

“I love attending this event. The unique stories that come out of it are so interesting, and I love that it’s an inter-departmental event,” Carlson said. 

A recording of the Whitworth’s Untold Stories will soon be made available on Whitworth’s Digital Commons. And, for more information about This Whitworth Life, contact Nicole Sheets at nsheets@whitworth.edu.