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Vassar to Host a Night of Storytelling‘Changing Climates’ Event Accessible to All

Two members of the Vassar College faculty and a student will share their personal reflections on climate change in a virtual storytelling event on April 28.  The show will start at 7 p.m. and is accessible by logging on to the Story Collider website.

The storytellers are: Associate Professor of Physics Jenny Magnes, Assistant Professor of Psychological Science Lori Newman, and Vassar senior Wyn Zenni. Magnes said her story would include memories and observations from her life that began when she was a child in her native Germany and have continued during her life as a scientist in the United States. Without revealing too much about the content of her story Magnes said it focuses partially on “being a woman in physics rather than a man in physics.”

The event will be hosted by the Vassar Grand Challenges Program, a curriculum initiative that calls for students and faculty to examine a series of major global issues, starting with climate change.

Professor of Biology Jodi Schwarz, Program Director of Grand Challenges, said participants for the event were chosen following a workshop on the campus hosted by The Story Collider, an organization that helps scientists and others tell science-related stories. “The primary mission of the Grand Challenges program is to foster an inclusive community working together to tackle global climate change,” Schwarz said. “The Changing Climates storytelling event provides a much needed opportunity to come together in a shared and supportive environment to witness personal stories of how science affects our lives.”

She noted that the event was originally scheduled to take place in Vassar’s Martel Theater but was moved online when the COVID-19 pandemic forced a shutdown of the campus. “At a time when we cannot convene in a shared physical space, we can still come together to bear witness to the lived experiences of our students, friends, and colleagues, and to share our collective reflections of a changing climate,” Schwarz said.

Story Collider Artistic Director Erin Barker said the power of storytelling events has become especially meaningful during the current crisis. “At Story Collider, we believe storytelling has an incredible power to bring people together and to foster understanding among them, which aligns wonderfully with the mission of the Vassar Grand Challenges Program,” Barker said. “It's never been more important to share stories and connect with others, and it’s never been more important to communicate science in a way that is approachable and emotionally engaging.”

Tom Pacio, Vassar’s Director of Creative Arts and Community Engagement, said that while the college could no longer host a live event as originally planned, he hoped the online format would attract new viewers who may not otherwise have had a chance to see it. “We want to honor the work that was done to prepare for this event by presenting it on the date it was planned,” Pacio said. “The format that Story Collider is using allows for connection in different ways; several of our core team attended a recent online show and had a great time. We hope that many people, from Vassar and beyond, are able to join us for this community building event.”

About Story Collider

The Story Collider is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to true, personal stories about science. Since 2010, we have been working with storytellers from both inside and outside science to develop these stories, and we share these stories through our weekly podcast and our live shows around the world, with the goal of showing that science is a vibrant part of all of our lives. Find out more at storycollider.org.

About Grand Challenges

Grand Challenges is a five-year initiative of curricular innovation, faculty development, and community engagement at Vassar College, founded in 2018 with the help of a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, whose aim is to foster inclusive excellence in STEM education at the college.