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Students Can Share Stories Of Living Through Coronavirus, Get Small Grants Through UChicago Fellowship

Grants up to $200 are available for creatives and innovators through the Young Memory Fellowship.

Sebastian Arboleda and Stephanie Paul wear masks after buying coffee on Monday, April 27, 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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HYDE PARK — The Young Memory Fellowship is looking for students to write about their experiences living through coronavirus to create a “unified and empathetic” national narrative of the pandemic.

Ten fellows will be selected from each of three categories, all of whom will have their work published in a virtual anthology:

  • Poetry, which comes with a $100 grant.
  • Prose, which comes with a $150 grant.
  • Social entrepreneurship, which will highlight fellows’ efforts to provide coronavirus relief in their communities and comes with a $200 grant.

Anyone 18 and older applying with a “.edu” email address is eligible for the fellowship, though University of Chicago students are ineligible.

The effort is being led by University of Chicago student group Our Shared Memory. The group was inspired by a Scientific American column that argues Americans have “no broad institutional memory” of living through a pandemic.

Past national tragedies like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, while unprecedented in scale, dealt with familiar issues of terrorism or natural disaster, wrote Alex Long, the author of the column.

But with the last comparable pandemic more than a century in the past, “there isn’t this shared memory” as it relates to coronavirus, said David Liu, executive director of the group. “People aren’t really empathizing with each other,” even as the pandemic death toll approaches 150,000, Liu said.

Liu and other members of the team want the fellowship to help create that “shared memory” by preserving a diverse set of coronavirus experiences.

“Everyone’s been affected by the pandemic, and we really wanted to curate stories and voices from young people across the country,” he said.

People interested can apply for the fellowship online. Applications will be accepted through Aug. 15, with selections expected by Aug. 21.

The fellowship’s volunteer team is entirely made up of University of Chicago students, so the selection process could “get messy personally” if students from the university were allowed to apply, Liu said.

“We really want to represent the rest of the country and the city of Chicago — not just the bubble of UChicago,” said Liu, a senior studying economics.

In addition to the grant money, fellows will have the chance to meet virtually with UChicago faculty, keynote speakers and other fellows.

The networking opportunities will occur in a multi-day event featuring “talks about the intersection of arts, culture, society and health in the context of a pandemic,” Liu said.

The project is funded by a $5,000 grant from the University of Chicago, created to support students’ independent summer projects or research related to coronavirus relief.

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