AMANDA HAUSMANN ’21
This Homecoming Weekend, Trinity will welcome archivists from the nonprofit StoryCorps to conduct and record interviews with members of the Trinity community through their new initiative: One Small Step. Trinity students, alumni, and community members will have the opportunity to sign up for a one-on-one, 40 minute conversation with someone who shares a different political and societal viewpoint that will be published in the StoryCorps Archive at the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress.
The idea to have StoryCorps’ One Small Step come to the Trinity campus came when Trinity’s V.P. of Communications and Marketing Angela Schaeffer heard about One Small Step in a piece on NPR. Trinity’s Director of Media Relations and Community Outreach Kathy Andrews recalls “discussing how great it would be to have these kinds of conversations at Trinity, and decided: why not ask StoryCorps if they’d come to campus? Particularly in light of Bridging Divides programming at Trinity throughout 2017-18 and the kinds of discussions and visiting speakers we’d been having, it seemed a terrific way to build on those efforts.”
Andrews says StoryCorps was ecstatic about coming to Trinity and joining the initiative of Bridging Divides, especially because Trinity was eager to include members of the Trinity community aside from students and faculty, such as Hartford community leaders and alumni. The outreach into Hartford is key, since One Small Step discussions are between strangers who are often in different geographic locations and would not usually interact with each other.
In addition to Schaeffer and Andrew’s efforts to bring One Small Step to Trinity, faculty members Irene Papoulis and Lucy Ferriss both “got involved as point people on this initiative because they are consummate storytellers and communicators and they both have many contacts in the community,” says Andrews. Dr. Ferriss has been a strong supporter of this initiative as she proposed a similar idea of storytelling during Common Hours in the past and even participated in a political forum called “The Listening Project.” Dr. Ferris believes that “simply by holding these dialogues at Trinity and airing a selection of them on the radio, StoryCorps is letting it be known that Trinity is a place where people should feel free to speak their minds regardless of their opinions or orientation. That tends to have an effect on the people who want to come and be part of our community.” Dr. Papoulis adds that “so much of our experience of the public sphere involves images, video and the written word—I love the fact that Trinity is helping to remind us how powerful it can be simply to listen to two people talking.”
The One Small Step discussions are guided by a StoryCorps moderator, later to be preserved in the Library of Congress. In a recent press release, The Rockefeller Foundation, who issued a $1 million grant to StoryCorps, making One Small Step possible, said, “because participants are aware that these interviews become part of American history—and available for future generations—at the Library of Congress, there is a remarkable level of thoughtfulness, honesty and civility to these conversations that stands in contrast to the tone often found on social media and elsewhere.”
One Small Step is the first of two similar programs being held in the fall. The second is Intelligence Squared, a nonprofit that seeks to address extreme political polarization, coming to Trinity, tentatively, Sept. 12 or 13. Those interested in participating in One Small Step can sign up by August 15 through a survey on Trinity Today and can email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. The conversations will be recorded from Oct. 11 through Oct. 13. “The time is always right for such things, but it’s particularly urgent right now, with deep rifts in our larger society evident everywhere, including on our campus,” says Dr. Ferris.