We are offering a series of one-credit courses during the upcoming winter session on a variety of topics led by prominent practitioners in their fields. We’ll be looking at each of these new courses in further detail over the coming days, including this one on Storytelling and Philanthropy.
By Alexandra Hudson
When asked how she found inspiration for her work, Nora Ephron—acclaimed writer, journalist, and filmmaker—enjoyed quoting her mother: Everything is copy.
As the world around us unfolds, we are surrounded by fodder for our writing—if only we take the time to look for it. Each new day, experience, and exchange, great or small, holds stories to be discovered and insights to be mined.
From Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, from Melville’s Moby Dick to Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, stories reveal timeless truths about the human condition and human nature. Stories are, and always have been, how we understand our place in the world. They put words and faces to our experiences—and the experiences of those who have come before us.
The word “philanthropy” comes from the ancient Greek term for “love of humanity.” And loving humanity is ultimately what good stories do: they foster love of our fellow persons. By cultivating empathy in writers and readers alike, they show us that our experiences as humans—our loves and our fears, our capacity for greatness and our fallibility—are more alike than not.
And magnum opuses of literary luminaries are not the only works that foster empathy for our fellow man, and are not the only stories worth telling and re-telling. Our everyday experiences also offer stories that, by offering insight into the human condition, help us better care for our fellow man.
But how do we identify the stories worth telling? And how can such stories help us both personally, and in the modern professional realm today?
In Storytelling and Philanthropy, a newly-created class offered for the first time by Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, we will explore answers to these questions.
In the personal realm, this class will offer students an opportunity to learn to see in ordinary events treasures worth mining through writing. Students will learn to look to their own life, as well as experiences of others, to identify useful and interesting narratives.
In the professional realm, students will learn how stories help connect writers with readers in real and personal ways. People are drawn to authenticity, and learning how to communicate authentically has real-world benefits. From clearly communicating a nonprofit organization’s work to better engaging donors and foundations, stories are an important part of personal and professional success. More memorable than metrics and statistics, stories transcend the intellect and stick with those who read and hear them.
Anyone can learn to tell such stories. It begins with bringing more mindfulness to our everyday. Join our Storytelling and Philanthropy class, and begin a journey to learn how.
Alexandra Hudson earned her master’s degree in public policy at the London School of Economics as a Rotary Scholar, and has served at the local, state, and federal levels of government and policy—including a recent appointment at the U.S. Department of Education. She was awarded a 2019 Novak Fellowship for her original reporting and analysis on civility, public discourse, and civil society in America.
Now a full-time journalist and writer, Alexandra is an in-demand speaker and commentator, appearing frequently on local, national and international television outlets such as CBS, Fox News, and others. She is a regular contributor to USA Today, and also writes for The Wall Street Journal, TIME Magazine, POLITICO Magazine, Newsweek, and other nationwide outlets.