The Story Experience Program

Year-long partnerships to build community through stories of all kinds

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The Story Experience engages UWM and Marquette students in partnership with a Milwaukee-based organization to facilitate story-sharing in a range of forms over the course of a full academic year.

This is a rare opportunity for deep experiential learning and relationship building, putting humanities and arts approaches into practice to build community.

Students form life-long friendships and gain invaluable work/life skills and experiences.

Partners have the opportunity to explore, express, and share the stories important to their organizations, and build relationships with students who may be future stakeholders in their organizations and/or communities.

To learn more about the program and how to apply, Click here.

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Sophomores, Juniors and Graduate Students with interest in community-engagement apply for the program in March for a placement the following fall. Mentors from community partner sites participate in group and individual interviews with applicants, and placements are finalized by the end of April for the following academic year.

The program draws students from all disciplines including the arts, humanities, social and health sciences.

Graduate Students with an existing project/partner in mind can work with administrators of the Story Experience Program to engage a specific community partner and potentially have an undergraduate Fellow assigned to participate with them.


UWM and Marquette students take 3 credits in the Story Experience program (course # TBA) both fall and spring semesters and build a lasting network of peers and community partners. Students meet every other week to learn community-engagement theories and practices. The remaining hours of their coursework are conducted in the community, guided by a mentor.

In a retreat before the fall semester begins, and throughout the year, students learn:

  • Asset-based approaches to community building
  • Oral history techniques
  • Field Notes
  • Audio Recording / Editing
  • Arts-based engagement activities
  • Photo Voice
  • Improvisational Storytelling techniques
  • Data and media management
  • Trauma-informed story engagement / ethics

Over the year Story Experience Fellows:

  • Build a tight community among the fellows and alumni of the program
  • Learn an invaluable range of public arts and humanities-based story facilitation techniques
  • Are guided by an on-site mentor
  • Work as a team to design and produce a celebration of story as the culminating event of the program

The two-semester course and assignments satisfy the requirements for UWM Honors College Senior Project with distinction. At Marquette, the coursework satisfies the Writing Intensive requirement.


Some partner sites offer room and board for Story Experience Fellows to live on site. Others provide a small stipend. If no stipend is available, UWM-based students can apply in the second semester for Student Undergraduate Research Fellow funding to support a research project.


Our partners are those seeking to build community, offer programming, and/or better understand and share their story. Potential benefits for participants include

  • Building skill by learning expressive/storying techniques across multiple disciplines
  • improving well-being by strengthening relationships and self-efficacy

Examples of potential partners include:

  • Senior services and congregate care settings
  • Services for people with disabilities of all ages
  • Agencies/organizations supporting under-served communities
  • Food justice organizations
  • Public health centers

Each organization identifies at least one mentor to interview and select a Story Fellow through a group interview process. Mentors work closely with the Story Fellow throughout the year, meeting for 30 minutes each week. Mentors are also asked to attend (at least two hours of) a multi-day training retreat in August.

Some organizational partners offer free room and board (R/B) to Story Experience Fellows so they can truly become part of their communities. Others offer a modest stipend (S). It is also possible for UWM students to receive financial support in the spring semester with a Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship that adds a research component on top of the program.

Current Partners include:

  • Ovation Chai Point (R/B): residential care for older adults.
  • East Castle Place (S):residential care for older adults. Offers a stipend each semester for internship.
  • Laurel Oaks (R/B):residential care for older adults.
  • Islands of Brilliance (S):creative programming and skill building for young people with autism.
  • Luther Manor (R/B):residential care for older adults.
  • Jewish Family Services (S):Deerwood Crossing: residential care for older adults and people with disabilities.
  • Milwaukee Turners (S): offering programming to support sound minds and bodies of Milwaukee’s diverse community.
  • The Gathering (S):providing meals and services to those who would otherwise go without.
  • True Skool (S):engaging, educating, and empowering youth and communities through transformative creative arts and hip-hop culture.
  • Clement Manor (R/B):residential care for older adults
  • Milwaukee Academy of Science (S)K4-12 charter school

How to Apply

Applications for the 2023-2024 school year are taken on a rolling basis, with priority of placement given to students who apply by March 31st.  A group interview with Mentors will take place the first week of April.  Students from both campuses complete the online application HERE.