A former Afghani border police officer sharing his quest for a better life “Through Thick and Thin.” A woman who took the “Road Less Traveled” to become a first-generation college student after her family became homeless. A German consultant hilariously recalling important “Life Hacks” learned while living with Shaolin monks in China. A former football player detailing his unlikely path to the NFL thanks to “Trusting the Process.” Through these themes, our Wharton classmates stepped out of their comfort zones and onto the stage to share personal stories through the Wharton Storytellers club this past year.

Five years ago, Anita Hossain WG15 and Stephanie Lai G15 WG15 wanted to help their classmates open up and get to know each other more deeply. They started Wharton Storytellers with the mission of encouraging the Wharton community to more actively listen, share, and learn from one another. Since then, Storytellers has advanced the “no small talk” movement and provided a platform for many classmates to build community and empathy through two types of events. Story slams are set in intimate local venues, with students taking the stage to share tales that fit a particular theme (like those mentioned above and even a faculty slam titled “If I Had Only Known”). For those who prefer a smaller setting, suppers offer an opportunity for up to six students to share a meal and personal stories at a host’s house.

Last year, Storytellers became the largest student club on campus, with more than 1,250 members. Co-presidents Christine Feng WG19 and Ankur Sisodia WG19 expanded the number of slam and supper events, launched a digital access program for slams content, and built a strong diversity platform through partnership slams. Thanks to their efforts, each Storytellers member has listened to 15 stories on average—which translates to roughly 18,000 unique opportunities for Wharton students to learn more about each other.

Now, in our fifth year as a student club, co-presidents Bruno Byrro G20 WG20 and Anisha Mocherla WG20 have some ambitious goals for the future, including holding even more events; diversifying formats to include musical, written, and visual storytelling; and creating educational programs to help members improve their narrative skills. We’re also exploring the launch of a Wharton Alumni Storytellers Club in partnership with regional alumni chapters. (Please contact Ankur at asisodia@ wharton.upenn.edu if you’re interested in learning more.)

We are beyond excited by the rapidly growing interest in the storytelling movement across Wharton. Whether via Storytellers or another channel, we hope that everyone across the School seeks out personal stories from peers and the broader community. We’re all the better for it.—Anisha Mocherla WG20 and Ankur Sisodia WG19


Published as “Small Talk is Cheap” in the Fall/Winter 2019 issue of  Wharton Magazine.