Story Experience logo with Milwaukee skyline

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


This program brings UWM and Marquette students into year-long partnership with Milwaukee-based organizations to facilitate storying in a range of forms from oral history to poetry and story-circles.  

Students learn myriad skills including facilitating group and individual storytelling, mapping and building on assets of organizations, organizing and storing story data, time management, and interviewing. Organizations and their members work with the student teams to design projects according to their own goals. If desired, the culminating project can be collected into a public archive of Milwaukee stories.  

This is a unique opportunity for deep experiential learning and relationship building, putting humanities and arts skills into practice to build community. Students gain invaluable work/life skills and experiences.  


Upper-level Undergraduates and Graduate Students with interest in community-engagement and social justice apply for the program and receive a placement through a series of interviews with mentors from community partner sites. 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 work with them. 


UWM and Marquette students take 3 credits in the Story Experience program (UWM 575/G) both fall and spring semesters and build a lasting network of peers and community partners. Students meet every other week to learn story project planning and facilitation techniques. 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

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.


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 mins each week. Mentors are also asked to attend (at least two hours of) the 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.   

Note: in 23-24, the Story Experience program is partially funded by the Chancellor/President’s Challenge Fund with a special focus on alleviating the effects of poverty in Milwaukee.  

Project Examples
  • A Story Fellow working with the Milwaukee Parks Foundation is gathering stories about how Milwaukee residents and Parks staff envision the future of parks.  
  • A Story Fellow working with Beckum Little League is gathering oral histories of the league and planning how to share them in the architecture of the park itself.  
  • A Story Fellow receiving room and board at Chai Point is interviewing residents and facilitating storytelling through the art of origami.   
  • A Story Fellow working with The Gathering is facilitating stories among the volunteers about the power of their experiences.  
  • A Story Fellow collaborating with Story MKE is facilitating storytelling with MPS students in afterschool settings.  
How to Apply

Applications for the 2023-2024 school year still open.  Students from both campuses complete the online application linked here, which will ask you to upload the following:

  • A Cover Letter detailing your experience with community-engagement practices, your hopes for what you might get out of the SEF program, and a rich description of the assets (range of skills, connections, knowledges) that you could bring to a community partner. If you have a pre-existing relationship with a community organization where you might base your fellowship, please share that here.
  • A Current Resume
  • The Email Address of an instructor/faculty member or supervisor who can specifically address your leadership skills and unique capacities for this program. We recommend coordinating this ahead of time.