Students at the University of Maine at Presque Isle recently collaborated with TAMC’s Aroostook Health Center in Mars Hill on a unique writing project that took them out of the classroom. This spring, three students from Dr. Deborah Hodgkins’ Creative Nonfiction Workshop course—Virginia White, Megan King, and Melissa Lizotte—travelled to TAMC’s long term care facility to interview patients about their life experiences so they could write biographical profile stories based on the interviews.
As part of their study of the creative nonfiction genre, Hodgkins’ students spent time writing personal essays about their own experiences but also explored the process of writing the stories of others. After being contacted by officials at TAMC’s Mars Hill location, Hodgkins felt that conducting interviews would be beneficial to both students and patients.
“The students had an opportunity to learn about and write the patients’ stories and extend the creative nonfiction techniques they were exploring in class to writing engaging profiles that captured the encounter in the interview. The patients had the chance to talk with students and reflect on the experiences that have impacted their lives,” Hodgkins said. “It was a very enriching and rewarding experience for everyone involved.”
Hodgkins said that all three students immediately expressed interest in the project and were excited to take on a form of creative nonfiction that was new to many of them.
“In writing these profiles, we explored the events and memories that shaped these patients’ lives and the meaning they carry with them to this day,” Melissa Lizotte said. “I was very pleased to be given the opportunity to do this unique kind of writing and to be able to share it in a very special way.”
At the end of the semester, the students returned to Mars Hill to present their finished profiles to the patients they interviewed. The patients expressed gratitude for the hard work that the students put into their biographical profiles and now have a written history to pass on to their families. TAMC officials also appreciated the time and effort that went into this project.
“I would like to thank the students for coming to Aroostook Health Center and lending their talents in such a way that our residents benefited from not only spending time with someone but having the opportunity to talk about their past and relive wonderful, heartfelt memories,” Kelly Lundeen, Administrator of Long Term Care at the Aroostook Health Center, said. “I had the opportunity to read their writings and felt it was very profound insight into some really lovely people we have whose stories get lost amidst the shuffle of life. We hope to partner on more opportunities like this in the future as it was a benefit to all.”