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University News

Digital Stories Help GCU Students “Unpack” after Global Travel

Louvre

Junior Chloe Grady, who joined GCU’s literary tour of Paris in 2015, grew up the child of an Air Force pilot and an art educator.

“I was the second grader who grew up in more art museums than Chuck E. Cheeses,” she recalls in a video created for GCU’s new digital storytelling initiative. “Of all the Parisian wonders I saw, none took away my breath like the Louvre. I was the first in my family to visit the place we all grew up admiring.”

Chloe Grady visiting the Louvre
Chloe Grady describes the impact of visiting The Louvre and the sanctuary of La Madeleine.

Those are the “moments of impact” that GCU Director of Global Education Programs Jennifer Summerhays wants students to “unpack” using digital storytelling.

Their two-minute presentations showcase profound experiences using voiceovers, video, and still photos—all carefully chosen. Participants are using WeVideo, an online editing program, to create their stories. The goal is to establish a collection that will be widely accessible.

“In large part, this is for the storyteller. Many of our life narratives are the same—they’re universal—but when you dig deeper, that’s where the magic happens,” says Ms. Summerhays, who also maintains a rich archive of photos and journal entries from students on the university’s global education blog.

From the popular podcast “The Moth” to TED Talk devotees, storytelling today is huge. “What we’re seeing is a primitive practice in a modern way,” says Ms. Summerhays, who is teaching students what she learned last summer at the Center for Digital Storytelling in Berkeley, California. “The world can be incredibly lonely at times, and stories have a way of connecting us.”

Growing Spiritually, Mentally

Stories also move people to act differently or engage with the world around them.

That’s what happened to GCU sophomore Matt Kuras, a business major and avid rock climber. He was studying abroad in Chile when he reached into his backpack one morning to discover his phone, wallet, credit cards and money missing.

Matt Kuras
Business major Matt Kuras was studying in Chile when his wallet was stolen. It was a life-changing experience, he says.

He was already familiar with this quote by well-known climber Yvon Chouinard: “The word adventure has gotten overused . . . to me, adventure is when everything goes wrong. That’s when the adventure starts.”

But that morning, the words offered new meaning.

“I grew more mentally and spiritually than ever before,” he says on video. “I had to depend on people. I wasn’t glued to my phone 24/7. I had to speak to people . . . in Spanish. My experience abroad changed me for the better.”

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. GCU is a comprehensive, coeducational university with a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women. As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 2,200 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 14 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by Money.com and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates also make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings. The main campus is located in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students at other locations, such as GCU at HazletGCU at Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland Campus, and through multiple online certificate and degree programs.

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