SILS doctoral students bring StorySlam to UNC

April 25, 2016

StorySlam, an event where volunteers compete by telling brief personal stories related to a theme, made its debut at UNC-Chapel Hill recently, thanks to the efforts of the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS) Doctoral Student Association (DSA) and SILS Ph.D. student Sarah Beth Nelson.

SILS Ph.D. student Sarah Beth Nelson
served as host for the StorySlam.

About 20 people, mostly UNC undergraduates, gathered on April 14 in the art gallery of the Carolina Union for the inaugural event, which focused on the theme of “Experiment.”

“Open mic themes are always best when they can be interpreted in many ways, so you get a variety of stories,” Nelson said. “I chose ‘Experiment’ because I was hoping to get some science folks interested, but experiment can also refer to plenty of situations outside of science, and lots of experimentation happens in college, so I thought it would be a theme students could relate to.” 

Nelson, who is active in the local and national storytelling communities, said the idea for the StorySlam originated the summer before she came to SILS when she met Carolyn Stearns, founder of the Connecticut Campus Slammers.

“Carolyn has a dream of spreading campus slams across the nation, and I told her I would see what I could do in North Carolina,” Nelson said. “I am so excited that we were able to have a story slam here at UNC this year.”

DSA cosponsored the event with the Carolina Union Activities Board (CUAB), which arranged the venue and provided snacks and small prizes for the winners. DSA recruited the judges: Ryan Rosenberg, a senior from the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies, Christopher Nelson, a UNC professor in anthropology, and local storytellers Cynthia Raxter and Ray Christian. Nelson served as host for the event.  

UNC student Taylor Roland was the first
volunteer to tell a story at the StorySlam.

Six volunteers competed, sharing stories about injuries, social experiments, and trying new things. “One young man talked about how he and his sister had experimented with play-arguing when they were young,” Nelson said. “It turned into a real argument, without him realizing it, and his sister snuck him a peanut-butter and wasabi sandwich.” 

Nelson hopes StorySlam will become an annual event, and that she can find another university willing to compete with the UNC slammers. She has already reached out to a few nearby campuses to see who might be up for the challenge.