Allison Montaie, the former head of the office for multicultural affairs and current head of the women’s center at Grand Valley State University, hosted a storytelling workshop for Goshen College faculty on Monday. A similar workshop was then offered for students the next day, October 27.

Each workshop was offered twice, once in the mid-morning and once in early afternoon. An average of 15 people attended each workshop.

“I know this year [Goshen College has] the theme of servant leadership. The goal [of the workshop] was to develop servant leadership skills through storytelling with faculty and then with students,” Montaie said. “The overarching theme was the opportunity [for students and faculty] to tell their story and have their voice be heard.”

Montaie is a first-generation college student. Her job at Grand Valley State as the head of multicultural affairs was mainly to mentor first-generation college students and students of color. As the head of the women’s center, she also focuses on women and women’s issues. She became interested in storytelling as she struggled to tell and understand her own story.

“I realized that if I shared my experience it would benefit [women, students of color, and first generation college students] so they can learn. I wanted to provide a space for them to tell their story,” Montaie said.

Richard Aguirre, director of corporate and foundation relations, recommended that Montaie be invited to GC and attended the workshop himself. “It is crucial that faculty and staff members take the time to learn the stories of students—where they came from, their upbringing and what motivates them, as well as their challenges, hopes and dreams,” he said.

As a part of the workshop, those that attended had to reach a place of vulnerability. One of the points of storytelling—and a part of it that makes it a useful skill for servant leadership—is that it allows a person to be vulnerable and perhaps let another person know that they are not alone. This allowed the workshop to be very empowering through an exposure to that vulnerability. This, according to Montaie, is especially important for those whose voices have already been systematically ignored, mainly those of women and people of color.

Overall, attendees found the workshop to be an empowering and memorable experience. Those who attended were able to learn about vulnerability, self-acceptance and the power in sharing one’s own story.

Aguirre agreed that vulnerability was an important part of the workshop. “When we allow ourselves to be truly vulnerable and to take the risk of sharing openly and honestly, we grow as individuals and develop closer connections to one another. Authentic storytelling makes that happen,” he said.