An Interdisciplinary Innovations Fund grant gives students a chance to tell important stories.
By teaching students how to produce radio journalism pieces, a new honors course called Making Waves demonstrates the power of storytelling.
“One of the primary objectives of the class is to encourage storytelling as a vehicle for connection and positive change in the world,” says Kathryn Fishman-Weaver, Making Waves faculty adviser. “I believe it is vitally important for young people to know that their voices and their lived experiences matter.”
Students in the two-credit hour course develop writing, interviewing, editing and voicing skills to produce radio stories about social issues. Making Waves director Kelsey Kupferer believes that by telling stories, students can advocate for the values and causes that are important to them.
“I believe that telling stories and listening to stories—if that’s through journalism, music, documentary film or just informally around our kitchen tables—are powerful tools we can use to build more just communities,” Kupferer says.
Before Making Waves was introduced as an honors course at MU in fall 2016, directors Kupferer and Michaela Tucker taught the program at Rock Bridge High School. In 2015, Making Waves transitioned from a high school program to a college course after receiving an Interdisciplinary Innovations Fund grant. The MU Information Technology Committee awards the funds to student-centered, interdisciplinary projects that demonstrate leadership in using information technology to develop unique approaches to teaching, research and service.
The six students enrolled in Making Waves last fall worked on two major projects. The first is a “This I Believe” recorded personal essay in which students discuss the values that guide their daily lives. The second assignment asked students to write, report, edit and produce a four-minute feature story about a social issue that is important to them. The stories are published online, archived with MU Libraries and broadcast on KBIA, mid-Missouri’s NPR-member station.
“I love seeing students take what we give them and run with it,” Kupferer says. “They’re out there covering big topics like mental health, educational inequality and immigration.”
While students learn how to produce radio journalism stories, they also explore their personal identities. Throughout the semester, students listen to radio and engage in discussions about race, class, religion, sexual orientation and gender identities.
“This is a class that focuses on personal identity development, using storytelling as an educational tool,” Kupferer says. “One of the big questions we pose at the beginning of the semester is how students’ personal identities shape how they see the world and how the world sees them. Their work all semester long informs their answers to that question.”
Kupferer hopes that the assignments students work on in Making Waves will help them develop self-authorship, which is a student’s ability to define their own values and beliefs instead of only accepting what authority figures say. She believes Making Waves gives students the chance to practice self-authorship by encouraging independence and creativity.
“Our students are out on their own, asking their own questions and creating their own stuff,” Kupferer says. “We say, ’Here are some tools. Go use them to create something great that will teach the whole community something they didn’t know before.’“