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Digging in Deep: Unscripted

Posted March 4, 2016 in Focus on Students, News, Program Corner

By Jeremy Anderson ‘19

“Every student at this campus is someone with a story, a story worth telling and knowing.” It was probably sometime during my walk back to my residence hall from McKenna Auditorium that I came to this same realization expressed by Sara-Rose Bockian ’17. We had spent our Friday afternoon sharing some of our most personal stories with students we had met for the very first time.

On Friday, February 6th KLI hosted “Unscripted: Your CMC Narrative.” Unscripted is an engaging workshop designed to empower skills in communication and storytelling. It is a modification of a workshop held previously at CMC, entitled “You @ CMC,” aimed at teaching self-leadership and authentic leadership. “Unscripted incorporates storytelling, facilitated conversation, creative expression, and scholarship—all while creating an atmosphere of openness. “I have not seen another program that accomplishes all that,” quipped Sean Rollolazo, CMC’s Assistant Director of Residential Life who helped facilitate the workshop.

Unscripted was the result of strong collaborative effort between KLI staff and CMC students. It was developed by Sara Thompson, Director of Leadership Programs at KLI and KLI program assistants. “There was a ton of planning that went into Unscripted,” said Austin Gosch ‘18, the leading student coordinator for the program. “We had to make sure that it was properly advertised to the student body, we had to pick facilitators, design a curriculum, collect all the needed supplies, and finally actually run the program.” The workshop was facilitated by Neela Rajendra, Director of KLI’s Entrepreneurial Initiatives, and Sean Rollolazo, as well as six small group student facilitators. Claire Klein ‘18 applied to be a student group facilitator because she felt that learning to both share and understand your personal narrative is essential to being a college student. “Storytelling provides the lens through which we filter aspects of our lives, and they shape our attitudes and understandings. The way we choose to talk about an experience is crucial to our growth and development,” said Claire. Mitchell Gaiser ‘18, another student group facilitator, echoed this sentiment. He and Claire volunteered to facilitate because they wanted help other students engage their strengths and empower themselves through storytelling.

The workshop began with a series of icebreakers and teambuilding activities to help exude and extend openness and welcome among the group. Initially I felt nervous about the program and did not know what to expect. One of the activities, “Move into the Circle,” had us listen to a sequence of statements and move into the circle and join others if the statement applied to us. The activity’s goal was to find connection in similarities while also celebrating differences. I was genuinely amazed and comforted by the honesty and composure of the other students.

Following the sequence of icebreakers and teambuilding activities, we moved into a series of group and pair activities. In pairs we first shared stories of times when we made significant mistakes. In different pairs, we then crafted and shared compelling personal narratives of our own, in which we expressed our values and beliefs, included descriptions of events, relationships, and situations that have been important in shaping us and the beliefs we hold. These stories enabled us to look introspectively and ask, “Who am I?” Pallavi Deshpande ‘19 enjoyed this part of the workshop because it empowered her to share a big part of her life with students she hadn’t met before. “It allowed us to talk and empathize with our fellow students and learn such intimate and important details about them,” she said.

After sharing our personal stories, we had the opportunity to tell the story of “Who We Are” at CMC. We were all from different backgrounds, different majors, different experiences, and one participant was even a Pitzer student. This part of the workshop granted us the opportunity tell a holistic story of CMC in storyboard format that represents a multitude of stories, and not just the stereotypical CMC story. Sean found this part of the workshop “both light-hearted and meaningful, illuminating that even simple, children’s-book-like stories can have profound messages.” Austin agreed, saying, “Everyone was really into it and they were all really creative! One group assigned a different object in nature to everyone and described why they chose that object. For example, one person chose a rock because they felt like they are always steady. Then they drew another picture with everyone all in the same place in nature and said that it represented them at CMC and that is how communities are made: through a lot of different people coming together.”

The workshop concluded with participants reflecting on the kind of future story they want to write for themselves as individuals in the upcoming year. Although there was no time in the program to create a complete story, this part of the workshop gave us an opportunity to craft and plan these stories.

I, and the other workshop participants, left the conference empowered and with new deepened connections. We also left with a better sense of self-awareness and understanding of the importance of authenticity. “It was great platform to learn how to effectively communicate soul stories and talk seriously about critical issues,” said Pallavi.

Storytelling is a powerful tool. It enables us to learn more about ourselves and others. It is an invaluable skill for those seeking to be great leaders. Unscripted explored storytelling through personal, community, and future stories. Unscripted participants and staff expressed great satisfaction with the workshop and hope that more students can attend in the future. Sean eloquently said, “ I think students tend to pull out their ‘cool card’ when thinking about participating in events similar to these. By choosing to be a part of Unscripted, you really need to be comfortable with who you are, realize that there is always more to learn about yourself and others, and rip up the ‘cool card’.”