Studying the Impact of Stories

November 4, 2016

One of Narrative 4’s fundamental tenets is that empathy shapes and changes the nature of our lives. We believe that the story exchange builds empathy, which, in the words of our founders, “expands the lungs of the world.”

By participating in N4 story exchanges, one class of Iona College (New York) students is learning what it means to be empathic citizens in their course on empathy and social justice. Using the exchange as an ongoing model, students study the force of story-telling within an empathic framework.

Professor Jeanne Matich-Maroney says anchoring her course with four N4 story exchanges helps her students experience empathy and better study its impact. Jeanne tells us her “students use their own story exchange experiences as illustrative examples in their reading journals. The first-hand experience of a story exchange appears to facilitate their deepened understanding of empathy.”

With each exchange, Jeanne says her students have become more enthusiastic and comfortable with each other. Because success in college is determined by a sense of academic belonging, stronger relationships in the classroom give students more confidence.

Her course, which fulfills the Columba Cornerstone requirement for first-year students, asks students to think about their role in the community: how should we live? What responsibilities do we have to others and to ourselves? What freedoms do we deserve? For their final project, students are collaborating on a co-authored assignment. They will critically analyze articles on empathy and social justice. During the final class session, students will engage in a reflective writing assignment on empathy-building through the story exchange.

Jeanne’s class has been exchanging stories in a magnificent space: a gorgeous former church, which in Jeanne’s words, complements the “sacredness of people’s stories.” She continues, “While the site of our story exchanges is indeed magnificent, the real beauty has been the reverence with which students have honored one another’s stories.  I am very hopeful that the story exchange will make a valuable contribution toward empowering them to become the empathic leaders and citizens of their generation!”


It’s so exciting to see our story exchange as an integral experience for university students.