| 03.18.2018

Recounting, recording, remembering


VandalStory gives vandals opportunity to share stories, experiences

Her highest recorded heartbeat is 210 beats per minute, but her heart plagued with disorder still pulses with the blood of a Vandal.

Meredith Breen, a University of Idaho freshman living in Kappa Delta, said her sorority sisters stood by her side two months ago when she was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a heart condition referring to an extra nerve pathway in the heart.

“It was really nice to be able to have somebody to lean on,” Breen said. “When I initially got the diagnosis, I was in the emergency room and one of my sisters was there and I just sat and cried because I had no idea what else to do.”

Kira Hunter | Argonaut Meredith Breen, Vandal Store representative, stands in front of the ongoing Vandalstory project.

Kira Hunter | Argonaut
Meredith Breen, Vandal Store representative, stands in front of the ongoing Vandalstory project.

Breen recently filled out a card at the VandalStore and posted it on the store’s wall as a participant in VandalStory, a community program that began after spring break to give the UI community an opportunity to share stories with past, present and future Vandals.

Rachael Studebaker, creative operations specialist at the VandalStore, said the goal of VandalStory is to bring UI students together to tell personal anecdotes of their time at school.

Stories are accepted from anyone who considers him or herself a Vandal, Studebaker said. The VandalStore will accept stories from undergraduates, graduates, faculty, staff, administrators, future students, past students, families of students and Moscow community members.

She said there are two categories of cards participants can choose from to write their story — advice or general information. She said each card has a different prompt, including sharing the best advice given as a Vandal, talking about one’s Vandal family and friends, describing what being a Vandal means and describing one of the proudest moments as a Vandal.

VandalStory will be available throughout the rest of the school year and throughout the summer, she said.

Studebaker said the process of coming into the VandalStore, looking at the VandalStory booth, picking out a card and writing a story helps build a stronger community.

“It’s easy to get lost in our own world and being in our own small group, but here at the University of Idaho, we are one large community and we are all in it together,” Studebaker said.

Studebaker said the project is a way to break up the monotony of everyday errands when walking around campus. She said she hopes students will enter the VandalStore, see the VandalStory cards, slow down and recall memories and important aspects of their lives.

She said the program is an opportunity for individuals to view what others are doing on campus, and how they feel about what others’ experiences are. Those viewing the board may find a connection because they’ve experienced similar emotions or circumstances.

With the revelation of Breen’s new diagnosis, she sought additional support outside of her sorority.

The average heartbeat, Breen said, is 60 to 100 beats per minute — hers peaked at 210 beats per minute. The condition, which is curable, caused her to struggle over the past semester with her family six hours away. But by the end of April, she will receive a confirmation as to whether or not the surgery to correct the problem was a success.

Breen said she wrote about family on her VandalStory card.

The family referenced in her story, Breen said, includes her grandparents, mother, father and her cousins — all whom attended or worked at UI.

Breen said her mother used to tell her stories about how Breen’s grandmother, UI alumna Rose Huskey, brought donuts to her apartment every Saturday when she went to school. Breen’s parents met in class while attending UI, she said.

Charena Branscum, a senior dance student, said although VandalStory could help break down the isolation some students feel, the process is still a lone activity of writing down an experience on a card.

“You can look and see that other people have done it, but you’re not actually breaking barriers between each other, like meeting each other,” Branscum said.

Branscum said as a dancer she has performed every semester at her main stage shows. Her group traveled for conferences, which is what she spoke about on her VandalStory card.

Branscum said because of her participation in UI’s dance program she had the opportunity to perform at the American College Dance Association Conference.

“It’s a place where college dancers can come together and eat, live, breathe dance for four days — taking class, performing, viewing other people’s work,” Branscum said.

She said the experience is eyeopening because it’s easy to feel isolated as a dancer in North Idaho.

“Sometimes for growth-reasons there’s not a lot of opportunity to go audition and take a lot of classes, but I think our university does a pretty good job at bringing people to us to have those experiences,” Branscum said. “There are times (where if I lived elsewhere) there would be a lot more opportunity to dance and see other people.”

Jake Smith can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu

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