WU Words Project hopes to give students a voice

Natalie Engler

The WU Words Project, created by Sharon Sullivan, theatre professor, hopes to provide students a voice and allow them to tell their story. The project is designed to reach out to the immense diverse community at Washburn and encourage them to speak out and be heard.

The WU Words Projects strives for students to write about their identity, culture, community or experiences. The flyer asks several questions like, “What makes you YOU?”, “What experiences have shaped your life?”, “What do you worry about?”, “How did you become a Bod?”, “How are you different/similar from others at WU?” and many more.

Sullivan was inspired by a similar project at a conference she attended where a group of students chose to write about their experiences at school. It was later made into a theatre production and performed at the school. After having great success with the project and production, the faculty and staff decided to continue this project as well as the play.

“It became really great for [the students] to have conversations about what was working and what wasn’t working on their campus,” Sullivan said.

Washburn students, faculty and staff are invited to write about their lived experiences and submit them to Sullivan. They are allowed to write about anything that affects them or defines them.

All writings will be kept anonymous. As project coordinator, Sullivan will be the only one to know the authors of submissions. This is to allow people the opportunity to write about their concerns and experiences without fear of reprisal. If a person is named in the writing, that person may be given a pseudonym when appropriate.

Dennis Etzel, English professor, first heard about the WU Words Project from Sullivan. He and Sullivan are members of the Diversity Initiative, an organization on campus that is dedicated to embrace and celebrate all levels of diversity.

“We are a part of a community,” Etzel said.

“But each have unique stories of what brought us to Washburn with a search for the inclusiveness of different identities, cultures, communities and/or experiences.”

Like Sullivan, Etzel enjoys the idea of a representation of Washburn narratives. This project would act as a collage of experiences of people from the Washburn community.

“I love Washburn and I love our students, but we’re not perfect. We have things we can work on,” Sullivan said. “I’m hoping that people will write about the best things about Washburn and the worst things about Washburn so that we can talk about both those things and keep the good and work on the things that aren’t working for us.”

The Washburn University theatre department will produce the play in February 2017. Everyone is welcome to audition and encouraged to attend the production. For more information, contact Sullivan at [email protected]. The deadline for submissions is Sept. 30, to the theatre department, room 133 in the Garvey Fine Arts building.