Student Empowerment: ETSU’s TRIO Program

The Site

East Tennessee State University (ETSU), a state-funded university in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Partners and Facilitators

Partner programs
The Federal TRIO Programs (TRIO) consist of outreach and student services programs designed to provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, including low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and others. ISC worked with two of TRIO’s programs, the McNair program and Student Support Services. The McNair program supports graduate students, and Student Support Services provides academic, financial, mental health, and career development assistance.
On-site coordinator
Lilith Erbach is a recent graduate of ETSU, a former participant in the TRIO program, and a program assistant at ISC.
Hilarie Spangler, a storyteller and bluegrass musician who is trained in community-based art. She has deep experience in teaching and community organizing.

The Project

Students explored the intersection of memoir, mixed media art, storytelling, and identity to create works of art (“story portraits”) about their experiences as college students.

The Participants

Undergraduate and graduate students

The Outputs

Students created six-word memoirs reflecting their experiences, then explored and “translated” their micro-memoirs into multimedia artworks. These deep dives into personal identity culminated in a gallery of visual story art.

Closed Captioning is available by clicking the “CC” button on the bottom right of the screen.

Best Practices

Identify cultural sensitivities in advance.
Be thoughtful about the particular needs of your audience.
Align your event with the existing programming of the organization you wish to partner with.
ETSU’s TRIO program supports students in a variety of ways, so ISC’s storytelling workshop was a natural fit.
Fill a need in the community.
Supporting disadvantaged youth is an ongoing need in most places.
Let participants work in more than one medium.
Storytelling (like many of the arts) naturally partners with other art forms, including the visual arts, music, and poetry. Don’t get too caught up in these labels.

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