IDSP hosts J-Term Storytelling Night at the DLC

IDSP hosts Katie Barthelow & Anna Santos introduce the evening.

On Tuesday February 16th, Katie Barthelow and Anna Santos of the Intercultural Digital Storytelling Project (IDSP) hosted an open-mic style, storytelling night at the DLC.  Students who participated in immersive learning experiences were invited to share their funny, happy, serious, goofy, or insightful stories. Current and perspective students, faculty, and staff from different departments at MIIS attended the event.

Students performed stories about their experiences doing fieldwork in Nepal and Peru, as well as stories about independent projects and activities.

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Storyteller and team Peru participant, Eugene Wu.

Immersive learning can involve a lot of uncomfortable moments, insightful revelations, culture shock, and personal change. Processing those moments through storytelling is not only beneficial for the storyteller but is also beneficial in creating a community with greater sharing, support, and communication.

The J-Term Storytelling Night is part of an initiative to facilitate greater communication and sharing of the unique student projects and experiences of MIIS students.

DSC_1495The Intercultural Digital Storytelling Project (IDSP) began as an opportunity for students to participate in a fellowship around intercultural immersive learning experiences. The digital storytelling fellowship is the flagship program of IDSP, which currently has 7 fellows who are in the process of creating digital stories about their J-term experiences this Spring. One of IDSP’s Spring initiatives is to expand storytelling opportunities throughout the MIIS campus and beyond.



IDSP16 Update: Chile

By Danny Pavitt; IPD Student and IDSP16 Fellow

Professor Jan Knippers Black mentioned many times that, in her opinion, the best way to learn is by full immersion. I thought I understood this concept before I left for Chile a little over two weeks ago, but back in the comforts of my Dallas hotel room (thanks, Storm Jonas), I admit that perhaps I didn’t fully comprehend “full immersion” in the same way I do now.

dan1 The truth is that I could have sat in my room, Google searched “Mapuche”, or “Judge Juan Guzmán”, or “Augusto Pinochet”, and learned a lot about each one. However, as is all-too-often the case in class, “learning” would occur but I would eventually lose sight of details that filled those facts with life.

Enter StoryTelling.

In our two week tour of Chile that included the high-rise-filled city of Santiago from the peaks of Cerro San Cristóbal, the mountainous region of Temuco and the beautiful, bug-infested (inside joke. Not really infested) coast of Valparaiso, we talked to people that had been affected by the 17-year dictatorship in many different ways. We very quickly and often-abrasively learned that there are certain groups that continue to be affected by a government that still follows the rules of a constitution created by Pinochet, rife with over-privatization and complete lack of consideration for the rights of the “underprivileged” (in parenthesis because this is a word created by Western culture and isn’t applied in the same way by some communities we met).

There was an uncertainty I felt before leaving to Chile regarding what it was that we’d actually be doing down there, but it was enough for me to know that I’d be able to practice some Spanish and be a blank canvas, ready to be colorfully and impartially painted by knowledge of Chilean political history and the Mapuche indigenous people that fight the government for the rights to their native lands every day. What I got was much more, having the unique opportunity to listen to the stories of the people that had experienced beauty and conflict for many years.

Dan2We looked Juana Calfunao in the eyes and listened to the beautiful things she had to say about the importance of living in harmony with the earth and thanking it for everything we take from it, and were given a brief opportunity to feel, deep-down, what it was like for her each day on her land. We listened to José Montalva Feuerhake, the Governor of the region where many Mapuche communities live, who said things that we needed to hear because they represented the other side of a story we hadn’t heard much of yet, even though everything he said seemed a little evading and naively optimistic. And we heard the story of a warrior, Polo Lillo, who is from La Victoria, a community on the outskirts of Santiago that was established by a group of people that went against the dictatorship and whom continue to fight for democracy through equal dissemination of information (radio, television, workshops, etc).

Listening to these people gave me perspectives and energy to feel life as they live, changing my definition of “full immersion” forever. At the constant satisfaction of all 5 of my senses, I now understand these issues better than I ever could have from a screen in my room, with mountains of information still left to learn.

Processing and personal debriefs will continue through the rest of this semester, especially as I begin to develop a story to represent some part of my time in Chile. I appreciate the journey I went on personally and as a part of a sizable group.

Side note: San Diego -> Dallas: 3 hours. Dallas -> Santiago: 9.5 hours. Santiago -> Temuco (by bus): 10 hours. Temuco city center -> Small Mapuche community: 40 mins. Sitting on a wooden bench on a ranch listening to a Mapuche man talk about the disgraces of Donald Trump: humorously embarrassing. #miischile2016

IDSP16 Update: Mexico City

by Tom Stagg; MPA student and IDSP16 Fellow

“You need to go to Chapultepec Castle while you’re here.”  I heard that from my airbnb host, and then from one of her friends.
I was a Latin American studies major in undergrad, which included multiple history courses.  During those classes, I learned of events such as the Mexican-American War and the French occupation of Mexico.  I should have considered my Mexican history knowledge when I received the suggestions to visit the castle; the “castle,” as I thought about it.  I all but made air quotes.  I pictured a modest building, certainly old, and probably made of stone, leading people to call it a castle.  I’ve seen buildings that are smaller than a typical McMansion, but happen to be eccentric or hidden in a forest and therefore get the title, “castle.”
The castle is in Chapultepec Forest (twice the size of Central Park), where a zoo, the National Museum of Anthropology, Museum of Modern Art, theme park and other attractions are also located.  I like walking, and with the variety of options, I decided that I could spend an afternoon in the park and pass by the castle to let people know I had seen it.
I went on a Saturday afternoon.  From the metro station, I strolled through the taco and torta stands, the juice and candy carts, the toy and sunglasses vendors , the balloon artists and the face painting booths, until I was under the shadow of the castle, which sits on a hill on the east side of the park.

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Chapultepec Castle

Chapultepec Castle is a castle.  Sorry, Leslie! (My undergrad advisor who is a colonial Latin America specialist.)  It looms over the park (stone/masonry as I had guessed), 220 feet tall, with fortress walls, floor to ceiling windows on the upper floors, and turrets.  Once I saw that it deserves to be called a castle, I conceded that I had to walk all the way up to it and at least see the surrounding grounds.  At the bottom of the hill, a sign announces that admission is 65 pesos, or the equivalent today of approximately $3.50.  I considered that if I was impressed enough after the walk up the hill, I would pay the fee and go inside.  The ramp that leads up to the castle is almost 1/2 a mile long. There is the option of a motorized cart for a fee, but most people go on foot.  Built into the castle walls are sculptures, fountains, and gardens.
I decided that I was iTom IDnterested enough to go inside, so I joined the line which was about 40 people long.  A minute into the wait, a man came down the line calling for “children under 13, adults over 60, students and teachers” who get free admission.  No one identified themselves as fitting any of those categories, and he called out again. “niños menores de trece años, adultos mayores de sesenta años de edad, estudiantes, profesores!”  I took a half-step out of the line and asked if college students count.  “You bet!” he said, and he directed me to skip the line.  I showed my MIIS student ID at the gate, and walked right in.

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Boy Hero

I walked right in to a real castle.  It’s the only castle in North America that was actually lived in by royalty, Emperor Maximilian I (it gets complicated).  It was the site of a battle in the Mexican-American war, when the Niños Heroes (Boy Heroes) defended the castle against the U.S. army, with one boy taking the Mexican flag and jumping from the castle to keep the flag away from the U.S. troops.  The castle has been a military academy and a presidential residence.  Now, it is the National Museum of History.

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Santa Anna’s Leg

In addition to remembering lessons from Mexican history (and TX history: General Santa Anna’s wooden leg is on display), I learned a lesson about the value of carrying a student ID.  Since that visit to Chapultepec Castle, I’ve gotten free admission to the National Museum of Anthropology, Museum of Modern Art (free on Sundays), the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Museum of Architecture.  If it weren’t for the free entrance with student ID, I likely would only have visited the Museum of Fine Arts.

I did try to go to the Casa Azul (Blue House), Frida Kahlo’s home, where a student ID only gives a discount (cost is 40 pesos, or about $2.15), but I gave up as soon as I saw the line at the entrance.

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Casa Azul

IDSP16 Field Update: Kathmandu

by Meredith Rupp; IPD student and IDSP16 Fellow

Since arriving in Kathmandu, my senses have been under siege. And I am reveling in it. I have seen otherwise wild motorcycles slowed to a sputter for the meanderings of a cow; a baby, eyes winged in eyeliner and arms bundled in red cloth, posing for pictures at temple after temple in celebration of its first bites of rice; and dried buffalo intestines draped over a temple doorway in offering to gods. The perfume of incense and the sounds of phlegm being passed are unceasing. Seldom is the doorway that goes unadorned in marigolds and painted Buddha eyes peer over you from all around. I have determined Nepali tea to be a thick, steaming dream whose spice is just strong enough to do a little tap dance on your tongue. And alas, I have dodged incoming traffic right into the trajectory of bird poop. Of all my experiences so far, none has been more puzzling, memorable, powerful or uncomfortable as the Antyesti at Pashupatinath Temple.

Temple Grounds

Pashupatinath Temple is a famous and sacred site of the Hindu religion built on the banks of the holy Bagmati river. Built in the 15th century for the national deity Lord Pashupati (an incarnation of Shiva), the site is a string of temples, ashrams, stone inscriptions, and never ending stairs. Every evening there is a Hindu ceremony there – one where bodies are burned, smoke blankets the holy ground beneath your slinking feet, and voices rise up, not in pain or grief filled questions, but in a powerful and unified exultation of life and death and god.

From the moment you set foot in this place, you feel out of place. There are monkeys – big and baby – menacing you with piercing red eyes. A dirty, holy river, grey from ash and trash and the what’s left of charred souls, snakes throughout the center of the grounds. Stairs line both sides of the river, with pyres aflame on one side and three high priests performing a ceremony on the other. The priests sing to the gathered crowd as mourning husbands have their heads shaved and smoking bodies cloud the air with souls escaping their bodies. As the burning ends, the remains of the corpses are placed on stretchers and draped in colored cloths, red for married women leaving their husbands behind and white for widows and men. Small groups of the principal mourners carry the stretchers upstream as the priests chant, dance, and

Nepali tea

swirl flames and plants in the air. Mourners wash themselves in the smoky river and place the stretchers on ramps down to the river. They adorn their departed with tikah, flowers, statues, and whispered prayers while the priests and their followers clap and cry out to the gods together. All the while, tourists flash photos of the dead and outsiders watch in wonder.

This storyteller did indeed take a few photos before realizing that I had perhaps violated some nascent and as yet still forming value I hold. I have never had so many questions or felt so conflicted about something happening right before me. It seemed so otherworldly and wrong to be watching something so private and quiet in the US. In Nepal though, religion and life are in constant overlap. Some Nepali sent their dead to whatever comes next and the rest were there to celebrate and honor this tradition; whether they knew the deceased or not was irrelevant for they know the cycle of life and death and the power of the gods over it all.

Death by Candy: Live IDSP16 Field Update from Madrid

by Maren Haas; IEM student and IDSP16 Fellow

As a child growing up in the United State, I was always excited for any holiday, but especially those with parades.  They were the few days of the year that my parents allowed me to accept candy from strangers and give hugs to my favorite Disney characters.  Growing up, I still appreciate the tradition, but some of the thrill has gone away.  When I arrived in Spain last week, I knew I was going to have the oppIMG_0439ortunity to observe the holiday Reyes Magos, or Three Kings Day, but little did I know the parade that awaited me.

Leaving the hostel first thing in the morning, I saw rows of blue and white chairs lining the streets, empty, waiting for the spectators.  Come early evening, the chairs filled with people waiting for hours for the parade to commence.  My friends and I found a place to stand behind the two rows of chairs and people quickly filled in behind us.  Darth Vader led a possy of minions to start the parade, and the children went wild.  I started thinking about pop culture’s ability to infiltrate religious festivities, when WHOOOOSHHHH a piece of candy whizzed passed my head.  It startled me, but I quickly understood why adults and children alike around me were holding plastic bags above their heads.  Unlike the United States, where treats are periodically handed out or lobbed lightly into the crowd, here handfuls of candy were being pelted in all directions with force.IMG_0448

The plastic bags, and sometimes even an upside-down umbrella, were being strategically used to collect the sugary goods and to protect faces. My friends and I were excited, but terrified, and WHOOOOSHHH a frisbee swiped across my friends face.  Frisbees became small toys and the candy continued to be hurled in our direction – we savored the moments between floats when we were safe from the flying sweets.  People around us laughed and asked us about parades in our country as we continued to cower and flinch each time a hand pitched in our direction.  As the parade ended, it was almost a sense of relief: the battle was over, everyone had won, and the three kings will be remembered for another year.

Top Ten Reasons why Newspaper Blackout Stories are the Greatest!

On December 8th, IDSP hosted a multi-lingual newspaper blackout story event for students to de-stress from finals week, get creative, and create something cool!

Here are the top 1o reasons that newspaper blackouts are the greatest…….

1.They Can Be Done in Multiple Languages



Students used newspaper cut-outs to create blackout stories in Chinese, English, French, German, Korean, Spanish, and Japanese.





2. They Play Around with “Meaning”


In a newspaper blackout story, you un-assign meaning to the original story, and use its words as raw data – to be rearranged into a new story, with new meaning.

The original story of this piece was an article in Spanish about new technologies in open heart surgery.




 3. They Have Limits



Sometimes limitations can liberate the creative process. Writing a story or poem from scratch can often be daunting.

The limitation of having a pre-determined word bank to work from can actually help the creative process.



4. They only Take About 10 Minutes



Because we are all busy.




5.They Get Your Creative Juices Flowing.

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6. You May Learn Something New



If you choose to read your article before you take a sharpie to it.




7. They Are Welcome Break From Finals Week

At the #IDSP16 event at MIIS students took a break from studying for a little innovation and rejuvenation.

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Because graduate school is hard.




8. They Tell a Story



Storytelling breeds connection, understanding, empathy, communication, action and entertainment




9.They Bring People Together



At the Blackout Newspaper Story event, multi-lingual students from different programs, staff, and professors all came together to make stories.







10. They Are Fun



Because that is important too!


Story Circle: “Don’t ask where I’m from, ask where I’m a local”


What do you do when some asks you the loaded question, “Where are your from……wait, where are you really from?” This can be a challenging question, especially in a world of multi and complementing identities. Borders and nationalities don’t necessarily define us; they are constructs, inconstant and potentially stifling.

The Intercultural Digital Storytelling Project (IDSP), Committee for Intercultural Communication, and Committee for Diversity and Inclusion joined forces on Wednesday, November 11th to host the first Intercultural Story Circle event of the year to tackle this very question.  The Story Circle was meant to bring students and faculty together to explore themes of identity and belonging through story sharing.

Participants wrote out their rituals, relationships, and restrictions as inspirations for Story Circle sharing.

The meeting started with a viewing of the TED Talk by writer and novelist Taiye Selasi, “Don’t ask where I’m from, ask where I’m a local.” Participants used Selasi’s exercise of exploring ones rituals, relationships, and restrictions to tell stories of self and belonging.

Story circles are spaces where individuals can share personal experiences and stories, through a thoughtful, structured, and facilitated process. Story circles are powerful tools to develop trust, encourage expression and reflection, and generate collective problem solving and action.


Digital Storytelling Program Information Session: Freedom from Hunger & MIIS Internship Collaboration


The NGO Freedom From Hunger (FFH) is partnering with MIIS to develop internships for students to help create a pipeline of digital content for their outreach efforts. FFH will be hosting an information session on this initiative, the Digital Storytelling Internship Program, on Thursday November 19th. Students who are interested in international development work and digital storytelling are invited to attend.

The FFH Interns will work with NGO partners in Peru or Burkina Faso to provide fresh and authentic digital content about the beneficiaries and impacts of their work. Interns will live in communities served by FFH and will “report” from the field through daily blog posts, photos, and videos.

To find out more about the internship opportunity and requirements click here.

The info session will be held November 19th from 1:00pm – 2:00pm in Morse A101. Representatives from the Center for Advising & Career Services (CACS) and Immersive Learning will also be present to answer questions.

IDSP Co-hosts the Intercultural Story Circle Event this November: “Don’t ask where I’m from, ask where I’m a local.”

Don't ask where I'm From; ask where I'm a local.

IDSP is cohosting its first intercultural story circle at MIIS in collaboration with the Diversity & Inclusion Committee and the Intercultural Competence Committee (ICC).

The intercultural story circle will engage participants in conversation around Taiye Selasi’s TedTalk, “Don’t ask where I’m from, ask were I’m a local.”  Students, faculty, and staff are invited to share stories and explore concepts of identity through the lens of “rituals, relationships, and restrictions”.

A story circle is a safe space where individual come together to share experiences, through a thoughtful, structured, and facilitated process. Story circles are powerful tools to develop trust, and generate collective problem solving and action.

Please join us on Wednesday November 11th from 6:30pm-8:00pm at the DLC!


Story Forms: 5 Inspiring Examples of Digital Storytelling


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“Cowbird is a public library of human experience.” Tap into the collection of stories from around the world, search by topic, location, or respond to ” story seeds.”  Currentlythey house stories from 52,533 authors from 185 countries have told 83,639 stories on 28,076 topics. Contribute to the community and listen to some great stories!

2. Demolished: The End Of Chicago Public Housing

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In this interactive photo/story/essay produced by NPR, we hear the story of urban photographer Patricia Evans. Back in the 1980s, after she was beaten and sexually assaulted near a Chicago public housing project, she chose not to run from her fears. Rather, she became a photographer of life in Public Housing.

This is a powerful example of using placed based story sharing in an interactive platform to give voice, power, and representation to voices and communities whom are often not heard.

3. Human, the film.

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Photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand is known for his aerial photography of the Earth’s landscapes, but in his film Human, he blends his trademark overview style with simply shot interviews with people from all over the world.

4. Welcome to Pine Point

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Michael Simons and Paul Shoebridge, formerly of Adbusters, recreated a town that doesn’t exist anymore. Part book, part film, part family photo album of a place that’s been lost in time, the National Film Board of Canada’s Welcome to Pine Point website explores the memories of residents from the former mining community of Pine Point, Northwest Territories. Overall, it’s an interactive media exploration of how we remember the past.

5. Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek 


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In 2012, the original Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek told the story of skiers caught in an avalanche. It did so with an immersive magazine layout that elegantly married media with top-rate journalism.It set a new standard for long-form storytelling on the Web through its use of a magazine-like layout, infinite scroll downs, moving background imagery, and other techniques.

Sites DOT MIISThe Middlebury Institute site network.