An Interview with Leah Flack, Campus Director for N4@MU

This month, to celebrate International Women’s History Month, we’ve asked our staff to nominate some of the amazing women working within the Narrative 4 community, to uplift their work and express our sincere appreciation for their commitment to N4’s core beliefs. These women truly embody compassionate change-making in the world and are doing the work to build support and connection in their communities.

As a researcher and professor of English at Marquette University, Leah Flack is a passionate believer that living well requires imaginative courage, a mindset that can be nurtured through deep communication and thoughtful development of skills in the classroom, creative spaces and beyond. Leah has built her career on studying why writers so often return to ancient stories and how they use those stories to provide commentary on and, ultimately, resist political and social oppression. Bringing this unique lens to her work with Narrative 4, Leah serves as the campus director for N4@MU, a pilot partnership within our Colleges and Universities program. Through this exciting partnership, Leah will work to research the role storytelling, creativity and dialogue play in our ability to understand how we can create impactful change in our communities and for future generations.

In conversation with Leah

1. What’s the most important thing we should know about you?

Stories are my work as a researcher and teacher at Marquette University, but they are also important in my life as a parent, friend, and human being trying to navigate a world that calls upon us to be imaginative, courageous, and ethical. I was a first-gen student who went to college not sure I had what it took to graduate, much less become a professor.  I have learned from experience how to be hopeful person. I have learned that there are always multiple futures available to us. Even—and maybe especially—when we feel bogged down by the weight of the past, we are still capable of flight.

2. What excites you about the work of Narrative 4? What drew you to this work? Why does it matter?

I am excited for Narrative 4’s future because I think it’s clear that N4’s work is just getting started. Its team of passionate experts has crafted a methodology that works across contexts and situations. Dozens of story exchanges have shown me how valuable it is to have proven resources to help people feel more connected to one another and to their shared humanity. We all need to be inspired. N4 inspires me. Its global community and its work remind me of the power of an idea and the power of what a single person can do.

3. Can you share a brief story about a time when your work with N4 felt especially impactful? (i.e. an experience with an exemplary partner, a lesson learned, a favorite Story Exchange or Artist event, etc.)

In my very first story exchange, which I did online with the N4 team, I thought I knew what to expect and I thought I had picked a pretty safe story to tell to strangers. When I started telling my partner my story, I realized that it was a story that made me feel pretty vulnerable. I felt welcomed in that vulnerability. When I told my partner’s story, I felt my heart expand to feel what her experience must have felt like for her. The fear and love I felt were mine, but they lived inside of the shelter of her story as I told it. When she told my story, I felt a sense of compassion for her. And then I realized that the story I felt deep compassion for was actually my own. I would have never given myself that grace.

Read our interviews with other nominees and participate in our International Women’s History month campaign here!