Each year, Themester produces an undergraduate-driven podcast centered around the semester’s topic. This fall, undergraduate interns Veronica Rooney and Brooklynn Shively spoke with faculty from across the university to probe how issues of resilience underlie the many natural and human-constructed systems around us.
Dr. Jakobi Williams (African American Studies and History), Dr. Heather Reynolds (Biology), Dr. Michael Hamburger (Earth and Atmospheric Sciences), Dr. Jessica O’Reilly (International Studies), and Dr. Betsi Grabe (The Media School) all offered perspectives from their disciplines.
Rooney, a junior studying English and media with a concentration in film, television, and digital production, was specifically drawn to the podcast format.
“I love narrative journalism and long interviews,” Rooney said. “Podcasting is such a cool medium because it allows for those longer conversations that you can't get as frequently in broadcast news or print.” Even more, she said, “the Themester podcast was intriguing specifically because it allowed me to do research in departments outside of my own, and get a glimpse into the research being conducted all over the university.”
Shively, a sophomore studying international law and environmental and sustainability studies with a minor in financial literacy, found that although media had not been a central part of her studies, working on the Themester podcast helped direct her career goals.
“I actually discovered that I love entertainment production,” Shively said. “My initial motivation for this opportunity was the substance of the interviews, but I learned that I really enjoy the process of conducting and producing the interviews.”
Both podcasting interns felt a strong connection to the resilience theme. For Shively, the theme was integral to her academic work as an Environment and Sustainability Studies major, while Rooney connected ideas of resilience to what she called the “whirlwind” of the past year: “We've all had to bounce back from the events of COVID, the Trump presidency, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the myriad other things that have transpired,” Rooney said.
For Rooney, “resilience resonates because it's a divisive word.” She asked, “do we as a society want to be resilient, or do we want to be proactive? How are we responding to the world around us, and how can we create new systems so we don't have to work as hard to bounce back?”
Creating the Themester podcast provided the opportunity for Rooney and Shively to actively investigate these questions. In turn, this helped them discover new sources of hope in the face of an uncertain climate future.
“After the last couple years, I have been generally pessimistic about the state of the world and have often felt sort of powerless. However, in doing these interviews, I got to meet a lot of people who care tremendously about the fate of the planet, and who are doing really excellent work to help humankind. It was a really uplifting experience,” Rooney said.
Both interns worked to interview a range of professors, diverse in terms of type research, department, and personal perspective in order to create a podcast that spoke to themes of resilience from many points of view.
Rooney said that both she and Shively are “interested in how the environment, the economy, and social justice interact.” She said that they sought interviewees whose perspectives reflected that interest.
When looking for professors to interview, Shively said that she especially focused on those who had “a special ability to teach complex topics in a way that non-experts can understand and be intrigued.”
The process of creating the podcast occurred primarily through Zoom, which presented its own challenges. Shively noted that “it took getting used to because of lag and the overall idea of discussing complex topics virtually.”
For Rooney, the challenge lay in learning the mechanics of podcast editing. During production, Rooney was responsible for editing, while Shively oversaw the tasks of creating transcripts and podcast summaries. Both conducted the interviews and hosted the podcast together.
Shively said she is most excited about the podcast’s “Cultural Resilience” episode, which features professor Jessica O’Reilly. “We took the interview from a global and multicultural perspective, and I liked that we talked about macro concepts with philosophical undertones.”
For Rooney, the two-part series with Professor Betsi Grabe (The Media School) was her favorite. “I had Betsi as a professor during my freshman year, and she's a great speaker who has done incredible work for the Observatory on Social Media here at IU.”
According to Rooney,“this podcast will make you feel better about humanity!”