We all have a story that has led us on our current path. Some have inspired us, some have redirected us, and others have surprised us.  All of our stories have taught us a little more about life. We have learned that life is not always so linear, and that there is not one clear-cut path to get us to where we are going, however, we have often been told the opposite is true. So how can we share this with students? How can we help to relieve them of tunnel vision and support them in seeing many possibilities that can unfold by actively engaging in authentic experiences? 

Showing statistics and telling students facts is not enough. Students need more concrete, specific examples to make meaningful connections. Stories truly connect us as human beings. We find understanding through stories, as they turn imagination into reality. [See this clip on imagination from one of my favorite movies as a kid: Hook!]

This idea was reinforced for me when I learned how the Bryan Hall students wrote reflections on their LLC experience this past year. They did not reflect on the facts they were told or statistics they were shown. Instead, the students wrote about the stories they heard.

One particular guest speaker kept coming up in their reflections. The speaker shared his story with the students, as well as impactful stories of others. Below are some of the reflections of the Bryan Hall LLC students:

“I feel uninspired at times, or feel as if that goal is unachievable. But hearing Mark Ziegler speak about his experiences and others made me realize that worrying about failure will only deter me from success.”


“This is where the real message of his humor laced story came to fruition as an average everyday student was able to put in their work and achieve their biggest dreams. It was both inspiring and easy to connect with, and that is why I enjoyed it so much.”


“…talked about his former students in a way that painted them as students just like everyone else. Hearing about the accomplishments they achieved made me feel as if I could also achieve anything I wanted to…”

These reflections reveal how storytelling reaches our students. Students identify and relate through narratives. It’s what they remember.

We may not all be naturally gifted storytellers, but we do have a responsibility to develop the skill as advisors and coaches. We must remember to honor students’ self-authorship in the process. We should not use stories to identify students or their paths, but rather to empower them.

Therefore, I think it is important to compile a plethora of stories to share with our students, as if we are filling up a treasure chest of jewels. Each jewel should surface at the right time for the unique individual sitting before us. So, we must ask ourselves these questions: How do we fill up this treasure chest of stories? How do we identify and share empowering stories while honoring self-authorship and helping students to find their truths, their own unique stories?


Written by Delilah Thomas, Exploratory Advisor

Click here for information on how to share your advising story: NACADA StoryCorps