Penfield College at Mercer University Launches Center for the Study of Narrative

PenfieldPenfield College of Mercer University (formerly the College of Continuing and Professional Studies) has opened the Center for the Study of Narrative, a multidisciplinary service and research initiative funded by a grant from The Georgia Compassion Project.

The CRN, housed within the College's Department of Counseling and Human Sciences, calls upon a variety of academic disciplines – including communications, psychology, sociology, human services, literary studies and writing, historical studies, and counseling – and uses a variety of both qualitative and quantitative research methods to study the lives of individuals and cultures, giving students practical education while promoting community outreach and service.

The CRN also provides a forum for citizens to tell unique personal stories while students learn and develop skills, such as writing, storytelling, active listening, genealogical construction and techniques of narrative analysis.

“Right now, we're working with several local non-profits that serve homeless populations and adolescents who have lost a parent or sibling,” said Dr. Donald B. Redmond, assistant professor of counseling and project director for the CRN. “Also, we have doctoral students doing research with cancer survivors and children who have lost a sibling to domestic violence. Out current students in lifespan development are conducting narrative interviews with senior populations.”

The service-learning work of the CRN comes out of a tradition of narrative theory and narrative therapy/counseling. Narrative theory is a multidisciplinary effort to understand how stories help people make sense of the world and how people make sense of stories. Narrative therapy/counseling places importance upon narrative as stories of people's lives that can be changed through particular tellings and retellings. Through people's many skills, competencies, beliefs, values, commitments and abilities, they can reduce the influence of problems in their lives by re-authoring their own stories.

"The Center will target several areas of Mercer's 10-year strategic plan, including service learning, learning in community, ‘challenging, holistic, and transformational learning,' and the development of signature programs encouraging interdisciplinary dialogue and collaborative research among disciplines," Dr. Redmond, said. "The Center will be especially helpful to our burgeoning Ph.D. program in counselor education and supervision and will provide additional scholarship money for dissertation research that is narrative in nature."