Steven Keshishian
Steven Keshishian

By Abby Weingarten

The homegrown Making a Better [New] podcast—with its topical content about diversity, equity and inclusion—has now transcended the New College community.

It garnered national exposure last week when New College organizers gave a half-hour presentation entitled Promoting Civic Discourse Using a Campus Climate Podcast at the 2021 Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (CLDE) Meeting.

The presenters included 2021 New College graduate Steven Keshishian, the podcast’s co-producer, co-host and sound engineer; Kimberly Grainger, J.D., assistant vice president for academic administration; and Bill Woodson, Ph.D., dean of outreach and chief diversity officer.

“It means a lot that a national organization felt that the podcast was an effective tool at engaging in civil discourse,” Keshishian said. “I hope that we inspired people to create their own podcasts and tackle issues their campuses may face.”

The New College podcast—created in August 2020 by the Committee on Campus Climate and Culture (4C) and leveraged by the Office of Outreach and Inclusive Excellence (OOIE)—was designed to give less-frequently-heard community members a voice (while modeling respectful dialogue and engaging challenging topics of campus climate and culture).

“I think what we’ve come up with is really novel and innovative,” Woodson said. “Our talk at the CLDE was well-received, and deserving of huge credit is Kim Grainger for the idea of submitting our podcast to the conference; and Steven for building the podcast infrastructure, and then stepping up into the co-host and co-producer role for our most recent episodes.”

Podcast topics have included “Reimagining Campus Safety,” “Unintended Insults and Micro Inequities” and “Talking to Your Family About Social Justice,” and various members of the New College staff, faculty and student body have been interviewed about their insights.

As the presenters told the CLDE attendees last week, “At New College, it is our mission to educate intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement. We know we can best accomplish that mission by fostering a vibrant learning environment—one that is diverse, inclusive and characterized by openness, kindness and mutual respect. Outreach and community engagement must be leveraged as a multiplier of the value we create for Florida and the world.”

The CLDE Meeting, held virtually from June 2 to 11 this year, is an annual event organized by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) American Democracy Project (ADP).

The conference is “committed to advancing the civic engagement movement in higher education” and “building the institutional culture, infrastructure and relationships needed to support learning that enables a thriving democracy,” according to CLDE organizers. The gathering brings together faculty, student affairs professionals, senior campus administrators, students and community partners.

“Dr. Grainger was the main force in securing the spot for us to present at this conference,” Keshishian said. “Outside being the driving force, Dr. Grainger really instilled the idea in me that the podcast was conference-worthy.”

Grainger has always believed strongly in the podcast’s merit.

“This conference was an excellent opportunity to showcase and celebrate the creativity and innovation happening right now at New College. Selection for the conference after peer-reviewed vetting reinforced that, nationally, our work was valuable in the civic engagement space,” Grainger said. “I’m especially proud that we were able to highlight Steven, a 2021 graduate, to share how integral student talent is to what makes New College unique.”

For Keshishian, the Making a Better [New] experience has been personally gratifying, as he has helped contribute to the betterment of New College culture during his last year on campus.

“This podcast is a reflection of New College, a reflection of our community, and I really feel like we’re giving this really amazing human element to our problems,” Keshishian said. “Dean Woodson and I get to talk about topics that aren’t only reflective of New College but reflective of our national environment and how we navigate that. I know we’re a community striving to better ourselves, and highlighting that is amazing.”

All episodes of the Making a Better [New] podcast are available here, as well as on SpotifyApple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts and PodBean.

Abby Weingarten is the senior editor in the Office of Communications & Marketing.

Founded in Sarasota in 1960, New College of Florida is a top-ranked public liberal arts college and the state’s Honors College of Florida. New College prepares intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement by providing a highly individualized education that integrates academic rigor with career-building experiences. New College offers 45 undergraduate majors in arts, humanities and sciences, a master’s degree program in applied data science, and certificates in technology, finance, and business skills.

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