Illustration by Ailadi.

By Ann Christiano and Annie Neimand

When we’re deeply invested in an issue, our first impulse is to raise awareness of it — to ensure that everyone cares as much about the issue as we do. When we’re faced with something as profound as protecting 66 million displaced people throughout the world, it makes sense to think about how we can raise awareness to enlist more support for refugees’ profound needs.

New awareness campaigns are launched every day, but little if anything is different after. People who know more or are more aware are not more likely to act. Consider…

A Commencement Address to the Spring 2018 UF Doctoral Class

For each of the University of Florida’s doctoral commencements, President Kent Fuchs asks a faculty member to deliver an address to the candidates. I was honored to be asked, particularly because I don’t have a PhD myself, and have great appreciation and admiration for those who do. Here is the address I delivered May 4, 2018 .

Good morning.

Today, we are here to celebrate you and your commitment to scholarship. You’ve honed your ability to ask big questions and find their answers. You’ve trained like athletes in the discipline of curiosity.

Today, I call on you to go a…

With Matt Sheehan and Annie Neimand

One of the joys of working in a university is being able to access a trove of scholarship that we couldn’t have dreamed existed as practitioners. As we worked on this project, we often felt like Harry, Hermione and Ron exploring Gringott’s vaults. This project was a massive undertaking, and it feels like we’ve only scratched the surface of both the depth of scholarship and rich examples that embody examples of brilliant, science-driven stories. As we find more, we’ll work to share them here.

We’re also pretty excited about some projects that we’ve got…

Great stories live just at the edge of expectation. Consider your favorites. Do they turn out as expected? Not the best ones.

Once, when I was on Capitol Hill with a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grantee, we sat down to a meeting with a senate staffer. The grantee had built a program that provided a badly needed support system for parents of severely disabled children that relied solely on parents sharing their own experience and expertise. As she prepared to describe her work and ask for the staffer’s help, she pulled out a framed picture of her daughter. As she…

We remember great stories by their rich details: a pair of sparkly red shoes, a jagged scar, a dress of a particular shade of blue topped with a white pinafore, a wardrobe whose back fades away to reveal a new world to explore.

But the most compelling stories force us — intellectually — to do some of the work. Filmmaker Andrew Stanton said in his iconic 2012 TED talk that what draws people into a story is the “the well-organized absence of information.”¹

There are two ways that this absence or empty space plays a role in better storytelling. The…

If you work in a news organization or as part of a communications team that tells a lot of stories, this will sound too familiar: “We want to tell stories that pull at people’s heartstrings.” And that quest is at least halfway right: scientists at New York University have recently discovered that events associated with strong emotion are not only more memorable, but when we experience profound emotion, we also have stronger memories of the events that immediately follow whatever triggered that emotion.¹

Stories may often invoke the fear, sadness, joy and anger — emotions that psychologists have suggested are…

Tomorrow a man who has built his identity and fame on hatred and othering will visit our campus. Our parking lots are filled with state police cars. There’s security all over campus. Most classes are canceled. We are on high alert.

We are united in our anger, and in our sense of violation. It is easy to hate this man’s message. Many people have organized protests. I want to protest too, and raise my fist and scream in anger.

Today I drove past the venue where he will speak. I took in the miles of barricades. The space set aside…

Preservation Hall Jazz Band at Bo Diddley Plaza in Gainesville, Florida at frank2015. Preservation Hall in New Orleans was one of the first places where black and white artists played on a stage together.

In an interview with Rolling Stone about the musical phenomenon Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda describes his moment of insight that hip-hop and the story of the founding fathers are inextricably linked: When a hurricane destroyed Hamilton’s childhood home, he wrote a poem about the storm that was so good that local business leaders agreed to send him to New York for an education.

“The second he writes a poem to get himself off the island, I was like, ‘Well, that’s very hip-hop,’ “ Miranda said. “To literally write verse that gets you out of your circumstances that’s about how terrible your…

I wish I had known it was the last diaper I would change. The last time I would dial 215–453–1798. The last time Vicki, Jon and I would play Monopoly. The last time Mike, Chris and I would play Scrabble. The last time we would drink in Randy’s garden until the sky turned bright and we heard birds. The last time I would walk from my house to Natalie’s. The last time I would ride my bike around the block. The last time Caroline would say “usiversity”. The last time we would go get coffee like it was no big…

What Turkey’s dervishes and Martha Graham taught me about perfectionism, mortality and finding a path.

My Spot on the Floor

Whirl means “to hear”.

As I waited with the women in the balcony of the whirling hall in Bursa, Turkey, for the dervishes to begin their ethereal ritual turning, I skimmed a brochure a friendly local had offered. He had introduced himself in the courtyard as a literature teacher at a local high school. “I visit two, three times a week,” he said as he walked me toward the lodge. “You will love this, I promise.”

The bright lodge welcomed us and I climbed the steps to the balcony. He came in a few minutes later, waving green brochures at…

Ann Searight Christiano

Ann is the Frank Karel Chair and director of the Center for Public Interest Communications at the University of Florida.

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