New College is a microcosm, and our on-campus efforts to move toward a more inclusive community are small reflections of what is happening in our society as a whole. What we do here is so much bigger than we are.
A perfect is example of this is our Making a Better [New] podcast—a project we launched as a platform for discussing topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion at New College.
This podcast actually received national exposure in June when a group of us from New College gave a presentation entitled Promoting Civic Discourse Using a Campus Climate Podcast at the 2021 Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement meeting. Our presenting group 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 me.
“It means a lot that a national organization felt that the podcast was an innovative tool for engaging in civil discourse,” Keshishian says. “I hope that we inspired people to create their own podcasts and tackle issues their campuses may face.”
New College’s Committee on Campus Climate and Culture (4C) introduced the idea of creating a podcast to make space for dialogue about inclusion issues and Making a Better [New] was first launched in August 2020. Today, the podcast is produced by the Office of Outreach and Inclusive Excellence. The ultimate goal? To give less-frequently heard community members a voice, while modeling respectful dialogue and engaging challenging topics of campus climate and culture.
Some podcast topics have included “Reimagining Campus Safety,” “Unintended Insults and Micro Inequities” and “Talking to Your Family About Social Justice.” Various members of the New College staff, faculty and student body are interviewed about their insights, or even asked to serve as the interviewers for their colleagues.
The OOIE has also extended its support to host other New College podcast productions oriented around issues of campus climate and inclusion. Latinx faculty and students have produced a podcast series called Gringolandia Chats, which focuses on the Latinx experience at New College and culture/climate issues as seen through a Hispanic/Latinx lens.
As we told the CLDE attendees, “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.”
“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 says. “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 says. “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.”
It certainly is. And it is something I look forward to continuing as we grow and thrive at New College.