'Dear World': Interactive Program Will Showcase Unique Smith Stories

Becca Damante '17, chair of Smith's Student Events Committee, with the personal story message she created in a Dear World workshop.

UPDATE Jan. 26: The Dear World portrait display on Tuesday, Jan. 31, will now be held in the Campus Center Carroll Room from 7 to 8 p.m.

 

If you had one story to share with the world, what would you say?

That’s the question Becca Damante ’17 was asked at a “Dear World” workshop last fall. Her answer—“I am never alone”—is a phrase she chose to represent her personal story.

“I struggle with anxiety and I often think of how many other people are struggling with it,” explains Damante, chair of the Student Events Committee at Smith. “In that way, I’m never alone.”

Next week, Smith’s Student Government Association and Office of Student Engagement will bring the Dear World program to campus to help capture other unique stories of Smith students, faculty and staff.

Launched in New Orleans in 2009 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Dear World leads participants through interactive exercises to find their stories, followed by a “portrait shoot” of summary messages they write on their arms.

The program has collected more than 50,000 such portraits of people from around the globe—including on numerous college campuses.

After learning about Dear World at a conference of student event leaders last semester, Damante and others who experienced the program decided it would benefit the Smith community.

Smith’s Dear World program will begin with a storytelling workshop on Monday, Jan. 30, for a diverse group of invitees, including students, faculty and staff, some of whom serve on President Kathleen McCartney’s cabinet.

On Tuesday, Jan. 31, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Campus Center’s Wilson Atrium, the entire college community will be invited to create story messages to “tattoo” on their skin (in washable ink). Photo portraits of those who choose to share their stories will be on view from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Campus Center Carroll Room. Participants will receive digital copies of their portraits to share on social media.

Melissa Trinks, program coordinator in the Office of Student Engagement, in her Dear World portrait.

“This is a great opportunity for anyone in the Smith community to say, ‘I’m unique, and here’s my story,’” says Tamra Bates, director of the Office of Student Engagement, which is co-hosting Dear World with the SGA, the Division of Student Affairs and Staff Council.

Melissa Trinks, program coordinator for the Office of Student Engagement—who also participated in last fall’s Dear World training—says she was surprised by what the workshop brought out in her.

The message she created, “Fight Like a Girl,” is a line she didn’t necessarily plan to use, Trinks says. But after talking with other workshop participants about her martial arts practice, she realized it perfectly summed up her story.

By encouraging each other to “dig deep,” Dear World offers a creative way for Smithies to come together and learn more about each other, Trinks says.

“It’s thought-provoking and fun,” she adds. “Dear World is a positive way to get your message out.”