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Appalachian Studies Center to launch new storytelling program November 1

ISSUED: 26 October 2018
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Shepherd University students will have the opportunity to document their stories through a capstone project designed by Master of Arts in curriculum and instruction student Megan Rynne and based on the nationally known StoryCorps project. Shepherd Speaks will launch November 1 from 5-7 p.m. in the Scarborough Library Reading Room with a joint event with Shepherdstown Area Independent Living (SAIL), a nonprofit organization that helps retirees remain in their own homes. There will be a presentation explaining the project and an opportunity to participate in intergenerational storytelling. The event is free and open to the public.

Rynne, who is also earning an Appalachian Studies graduate certificate, conceived of the storytelling idea while taking Adam Booth’s Folktales and Storytelling class, which inspired her to reflect on her own experience as a child in Boston hearing her grandfather tell stories about growing up in the ’30s and his adventures driving around with his Uncle Wiggy.

“I realized these weren’t just my grandpa remembering the fun days of being a kid in Boston in the ’30s—his stories are part of my identity and I had a story to tell,” Rynne said. “I figured if I did and I hadn’t realized it, there are probably other students here who do and didn’t realize it. For me, it’s really important to me to encourage people to realize they have a voice and a story, and to put their voice to story.”

The Shepherd Speaks Storytelling Project will continue throughout the week following the launch at a variety of locations across campus. Rynne, assisted by Appalachian Studies students and the Center for Appalachian Studies and Communities, will take a van to a different spot on campus each day for students to drop in, tell their stories, and participate in a gift certificate raffle. The stories will become a part of the Shepherd Speaks and StoryCorps archives. The van will be parked from noon to 4 p.m. at the following locations: November 5, Scarborough Library; November 6, Reynolds Hall; November 7, Center for Contemporary Arts courtyard; November 8, Wellness Center; and November 9, near the underpass.

Dr. Sylvia Bailey Shurbutt, Center for Appalachian Studies and Communities director, said Shepherd Speaks will be an ongoing project, with a storytelling component happening each semester during the Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Resident and Festival fall events and the Speak Storyteller in Residence program each spring.

“Our stories define who we are, our fundamental identity, and our place in the world in time and geography,” Shurbutt said. “This is such an important issue and program for Shepherd. Megan’s project will be a continuing event that will give focus to all we do with the ‘Anthology of Appalachian Writers,’ the Heritage Festival and Writer-in-Residence, the West Virginia Fiction Competition, and the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute for Teachers Voices from the Misty Mountains and the Power of Storytelling.”

Rynne said she is happy to have created a project that will help document the story of Shepherd and its students beyond her graduation in December.

“I hope that this capstone, this story telling, story sharing, and story hearing project modeled after the StoryCorps method, lives beyond me for years,” Rynne said. “I hope that it reoccurs every semester. I hope that it takes on a life of its own where the students really embrace it and get excited about it.”

For information about the storytelling project or the Scarborough launch event, contact Dr. Sylvia Bailey Shurbutt at

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