Program Overview

New for 2020! Adolescence is a time of self-discovery. You’re figuring out who you are, where you’re going, and what you want to do with your life. Come learn how writing can assist you in this process, and come away with a virtual tool box of skills that you can take with you wherever you go, as well as artifacts of your process: a portfolio of your stories, an ideas journal, a vision board, and a plan of action for your future.

We are neurobiologically hardwired to make meaning out of our lives through personal narratives. When something happens to us, our brain wants to make sense of it through a story. These stories that we tell ourselves shape our identities – they influence how we feel about ourselves, others, and the world around us. From broader cultural stories passed down through generations that teach us what is expected of us as part of a larger group– to personal narratives that shape our individual identities – storytelling is an integral part of our lives. This class is about becoming aware of these stories, and taking charge of them, so that you can live a purpose-driven life that is fulfilling and personally meaningful.

By the end of this class, you will not only have explored this concept of storytelling and identity (or what’s called narrative identity theory), but you will have also applied it by writing your own story (past, present and future) and creating a vision for yourself – a blueprint for your life that gives you direction, meaning and purpose. Through a combination of traditional in-class learning, experiential education, and portable programming, you will have lots of opportunities to think about your place in the world while using writing (storytelling and personal narratives) to get you there.

Program Objectives

Throughout the course, students will:

  • Attend field trips designed to challenge their thinking, give them opportunities to play different roles, and develop an increased awareness of themselves in new situations, while exploring the stories they tell themselves and how these affected their experiences
  • Be introduced to mindfulness practices to develop self-awareness
  • Be encouraged to develop a sense of purpose.

As a result of successful course completion, students will:

  • Understand the theories behind storytelling and identity
  • Apply these theories to their own lives
  • Explore their own identities through writing
  • Develop tools to reflect, process and make positive meaning out of their life experiences

Learn more about Storytelling & Identity: A Journey to Self-Discovery:

Program Dates & Details Eligibility Requirements Program Cost Program Requirements Typical Day Faculty Bio

Program Dates & Details

Session Dates

Session I: June 27 – July 10, 2020
Duration: 2-weeks


Credit: Noncredit
Grading System: Pass/Fail

Eligibility Requirements

Students must be a minimum of 15 years of age by the orientation and move-in date. For full Summer College admission requirements, view the Admissions Overview and Eligibility page.

Apply Now!

Program Cost

Program Cost:

  • Residential: $3,560
  • Commuter: $2,746

*Please visit our Program Costs page for more detailed information. Program rates are subject to change and will be approved by the board of trustees in March.  Discounts and scholarships are also available.

Program Requirements

Student Expectations

Students are expected to engage in class wholeheartedly every day, to maintain an open mind and welcome new ideas, and to be courageous in their exploration of self.

This is an academically rigorous, college-level program. Students are expected to complete nightly homework assignments and actively participate in group projects. Students are expected to attend all classes every day, arrive on time, and meet all academic obligations. Free time will vary as each program is unique, as is the subsequent workload.

Typical Day

Tentative Schedule

M-F, 9am-4pm (12-1 lunch break)

The typical day will be a mix of activities. The morning will be an introduction of new ideas through a variety of modalities mixed with opportunities to apply the new ideas with individual and group work. Guest speakers may be invited to share their expertise, as well. After lunch, the afternoons will typically be some form of experiential learning that applies to and/or extends what they learned in the classroom in the morning.

When class is over, and on weekends, students can look forward to various Summer College trips and activities. Check out our Campus Activities page for more information!

What to Pack

Students will be required to bring a laptop every day. Students should also budget for course materials, such as books, notepads, pens, etc. Some expenses may be associated with field trips.

Field Trips

Potential field trip destinations may include Syracuse University’s Challenge Course, Project Adventure, Writing Retreat at Green Lakes State Park, Syracuse Stage, Career Services, a concert, a public reading, an art gallery and/or artist’s studio, an inspirational speaker or professional storyteller, Golisano Children’s hospital, Barne’s Center, dance studio, cooking class, Toastmasters meeting, and the Zen Center of Syracuse.

Final Academic Obligation

Students are permitted to leave on Friday, July 10 upon the completion of the last class. If students have any questions regarding their final academic obligation, we encourage them to reach out to their instructor. Please refer to the Move-Out page for important information regarding the checkout process.

Faculty Bio

Nicole Moss Underwood – Professional Writing Instructor, Department of Writing Studies

Nicole Moss Underwood is a Professional Writing Instructor in the Department of Writing Studies, Rhetoric and Composition at Syracuse University. She is also an adjunct Professor in the Department of Communications and Humanities at the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute, and a freelance writer for Advance Media New York which publishes the Post-Standard, Central New York Magazine,, and the Visitor’s Guide. She earned her B.A. in Television and Radio Production and Broadcast Management from Michigan State University in 1990 and her M.F.A. in Creative Writing, specializing in Creative Nonfiction, Writing Therapy, and Storytelling and Identity, from Syracuse University in 2001. Her interest in using writing as a tool for self-discovery began when she was serving in the U.S. Peace Corps. She taught English as a Second Language in a rural village in Rwanda, Africa for two years. During this time, she discovered the power of writing to shape our lives, and she has continued to explore how this works by studying inhibition/confession theory, narrative identity theory, autobiographical memory, and learned optimism. With training in outdoor adventure education, she is an advocate for adventure-based experiential learning. She facilitates an interactive, collaborative, hands-on learning environment, and she believes in integrating “play with purpose” into the classroom – and having fun!