Episode 1 – “Hagar Rising” by Sarah Saxton Strassberg

This episode of VandyVox features a short audio story by Vanderbilt undergraduate Sarah Saxton Strassberg called “Hagar Rising.” Sarah Saxton was a student in a fall 2018 anthropology course taught by Sophie Bjork-James on the politics of reproductive health in the United States. The final assignment in Sophie’s course asked stu

dents to research a contemporary reproductive health issue and produce a piece of video or audio that explores that issue. Sarah Saxton chose to look at gene editing, an emerging set of biotechnologies that have the potential to allow parents to pick and choose physical features of their children. Sarah Saxton used what she learned about gene editing and its potential effects on society to write and produce a piece of science fiction in audio form exploring the dangers of taking gene editing too far.

For those interested in using audio assignments in their teaching, what follows is a little background on the assignment that led to “Hagar Rising”…

Sophie Bjork-James, Sarah Saxton’s professor, was a participant in the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching’s Course Design Institute in 2016. The theme of that institute was “Students as Producers,” with a focus on assignments and activities that engage students not only as consumers of information, but also as producers of knowledge. Sophie’s multimedia assignment leveraged some of the strategies discussed at the institute, including asking students for project proposals and storyboards to provide opportunities for feedback as they develop their projects. Sophie also asked students to submit a producer’s statement along with each project, one that included a literature review, a reflection on what the student learned through the project, and a discussion of the process used to create the final product. Producer’s statements like these are useful for evaluating student work on non-traditional assignments like podcasts. Sophie told VandyVox host Derek Bruff that the assignment turned out very well in her politics of reproductive health course, and she’s planning on making podcasts a regular part of the first-year writing seminars she teaches in the future.

Welcome to VandyVox!

by Derek Bruff, Director, Vanderbilt Center for Teaching

VandyVox showcases the best of student-produced audio at Vanderbilt University. Each episode features student work from a curricular or co-curricular project, including audio documentaries, radio dramas, spoken word essays, and ongoing podcasts.

I got the idea for VandyVox during a course design institute hosted by my center in May 2018. Several faculty participants in the institute were interested in assigning audio projects in their courses or creating class podcasts. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if there were a “podcast of podcasts” produced by Vanderbilt, featuring the best of these student projects?

In the fall of 2018, I pitched the idea to colleagues at Vanderbilt Student Media, including director Chris Carroll and assistant directors Paige Clancy and Jim Hayes. They were excited by the idea and the potential it had for helping Vanderbilt student work reach a wider audience. I reached out to faculty and students for audio to include, and the Student Media team, including assistant director Jeff Breux, went to work on production and distribution.

We’re happy to launch Season 1 of VandyVox in February 2019 with eight episodes featuring student audio created for honors theses and internships, courses and research projects. Fields represented in the first season include math and English, law and health policy. Genres include audio documentaries, speculative fiction, critical essays, and that one where three people sit around a microphone and talk about video games.

We hope that VandyVox gives listeners a sense of the creative and critical media produced by students at Vanderbilt, and that it inspires faculty and students to consider ways that audio production might enhance their teaching and learning.

We’re prepping for Season 2 later in 2019! If you know of student audio we might feature on VandyVox, please let us know!