What makes a family? Is it blood relations or simply really good friends? What about teammates or pets—can they be family, too? And, what kinds of stories do we pass down about our families—either ones we are born into or ones we create ourselves, our “found” families? What impacts do these stories have on our sense of family?
Such questions are ones that inspired students in the very first digital storytelling course at Wittenberg to take up their recorders in search of tales about family, broadly defined. In one semester, we tackled the art of storytelling: learning the elements of the narrative arc (stories are not just strings of facts!); interviewing others (how best to help people feel comfortable on tape?); drawing stories from those interviews; and editing all of this into an audio file with narration, music, and other sound effects.
The result is a 10-part series, Forging Families, that takes a close look at all aspects of families, from uplifting twin and birth stories, to horrific but courageous tales of refugee families, to accounts of the familial bonds formed with our teammates and pets. Give it a listen, and let us know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear your thoughts!
- Forging Families Opening: Dr. Catherine Waggoner introduces the series produced by Wittenberg students in CMDM 220 Podcasting: Digital Storytelling, Spring 2023. (3:34 min)
- Little Miracles: It’s not just the actual birth of a baby that’s miraculous. Maria Stelea and Aleks Slenk talk with a father, Wittenberg Theater Department’s Les Dershem, about the birth of his child and how he almost missed it—except for one unexpected turn of events. (7:39 min)
- Twin Talk: Is there a unique connection between twins, either mystical or biological? Emma Gearhart and Brynn Cunningham “talk twins” in this episode, learning from two separate twins—Wittenberg staff member Mellie Derry and student Cami Stevovich—about what makes those bonds special. (9:32 min)
- You Cannot Fail: Austin Georger and Cameron Harrison sit down with fellow student Niki Christow about his family’s origins in Bulgaria, how his parents fled communist Europe, and the impact those dramatic events have had on his own upbringing. (8:43 min)
- They Took the Males: Aubree Akers and Satta F. Sheriff hear from Wittenberg staff member, Praacnaa Colestock, about her parents’ unbelievable escape from communist Cambodia marked by intense interrogations, faked identities, and hiding in trees. Seems like a movie, but it’s not. (8:33 min)
- Sixteen Kids and Peanut Butter Chicken: What’s it like to grow up with 15 siblings from different countries? Luke Harper and Javaughn Neal sit down with a friend, Bryce Litzke, raised in a family of adopted children from different countries. (8:31 min)
- Finding Family at Work: Jack Houck and Will Birkholz chat with Wittenberg’s first ever Professional-in-Residence, Tim McCarthy, about what it means to see co-workers and employees as family. (9:30 min)
- Up Against your Brother: Can teammates who compete against each other for positions be brothers? Jake Yarbrough and Nick Pidgeon sit down with Wittenberg’s golf coach, David Wetterich, to talk about what just what makes a team a family. (6:57 min)
- I Love My Big!: What makes sorority members sisters instead of just friends? Nicole Contenza and Gracie Hubbs take a deep dive into understanding the bonds between women in sororities, chatting with students Parker Hayes, Maggie Harbaugh, and Hanna Eckert (8:02 min)
- It’s Not You, It’s Me: How is the dissolution of a college sports team like the break-up of a family? Olivia Pena and Tiffany Suttles take us into the last few days of the Wittenberg Women’s Water Polo team, including reflections by senior Kailey Cordova and a drop-in at the emotional final match. (9:51 min)
- The Moment You Know: When does a pet become more than just an animal that lives in your house? Tyler Gardner shares insights from his little sister Tehya about our special bonds with pets, ending with a riveting tale of his own big mistake with the family’s beloved dog Jamie—and the revelation it provided. (8:38 min)
- Forging Families Closing: Dr. Waggoner wraps up the series, calling us to answer a critical question for ourselves. (3:16 min)