Sep 19 2022
Equity Storytelling Fellowship
September 19 - October 18
About the Facilitators
Fellowship facilitators Marc Chun and Jessica Mele (see bios below) share the story of how the fellowship came about:
The year is 2017. Marc is a program officer focused on education. Jess is a program officer focused on the performing arts and arts education. Marc is secretly obsessed with theater and the performing arts. Jess is secretly an expert trainer and educator. Both are committed to equity. If this were a movie, this origin story might also include both of them being bit by a radioactive spider that was in the original off-Broadway company of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, and then a professional “meet cute” backstage at an arts education conference, and then they meet again during a site visit when they find out they both were co-funding a school focused on the performing arts.
But this is reality, and they met in the lunch line at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation where they both worked, when Jess took the last of the jicama off the salad bar buffet and Marc was not having any of that. (Kidding! There was plenty of jicama, it was avocado that folks came to blows over.)
Both Marc and Jess have written and produced plays, and both were committed to the power of storytelling to help break down barriers to equity by surfacing human connections. They also believed in creating change by building empathy and trust, by interrupting existing narratives, and by presenting a vision for a more equitable future. When there was a chance to submit a conference proposal, they chatted about their shared goal to bring storytelling practice to those who don’t typically think of themselves as storytellers, and they hypothesized that under strict time constraints (like writing a play in just a day), conference participants might be more likely to turn off their internal editor and just put pen to paper and tell a story.
They took this simple idea to the Deeper Learning conference held at High Tech High in San Diego, and marveled at how educators’ dispositions quickly changed as they took on this creative challenge, and how the experience of seeing their plays performed by professional actors gave them a sense of pride. But it also opened up the space for conversations about equity and education with the audience that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. They found that the characters they created could say things or ask questions the authors never had the courage or occasion to say themselves. Their plays were both imaginative and real: a “Farm Bot” (that’s a farming robot, natch) that thinks differently from the rest of the world but knows how to solve complex problems; an Asian-American student learning how to stand up to racism in her classroom; a family of animals that together defeats a bully; students with very different reactions to a “career day” talk from a local police officer. In the process of creating together, participants explored their own identities and experiences, connected with others, and built a space that welcomed tears, laughter, anger, silliness, and love.
And based on that, Marc and Jess have continued to find ways to bring this experience to others, so took the workshop to other settings like SXSW EDU, the Grantmakers for Education conference and the Maker Education conference. And any other conference where rumor has it there is a lot of avocado on the salad buffet.
Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
Marc is is currently a grantmaker at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and previously worked at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and The Overdeck Family Foundation, and supported work for Lucas Education Research and Grantmakers for Thriving Youth. He was also a learning experience designer at the Stanford d.school. He has extensive teaching and training experience, and has taught at Stanford University, Columbia University / Teachers College, The New School University, and Vanderbilt University. He is also a published playwright, with productions of his plays in New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong.
Program Officer, Performing Arts
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Jessica Mele is a program officer in performing arts at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Previously, Jessica was executive director at Performing Arts Workshop, an arts education organization in San Francisco. Earlier in her career, Jessica managed the research projects of Marshall Ganz at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and served as an organizer for the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (AFSCME, AFL-CIO). Jessica holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and French studies from Smith College and a master’s degree in education policy and management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In her spare time, she writes, directs and produces sketch comedy as part of Chardonnay, one of two in-house sketch groups at San Francisco’s Pianofight Theater Company.
VIEW MORE ❯