Episode 24 -“Black Tea” by JoHannah Valentin & Shay Milner

In this episode VandyVox is featuring audio from a podcast titled “Black Tea”, that is produced by two Vanderbilt undergraduate students, JoHannah Valentin and Shay Milner, in collaboration with Vanderbilt Student Communications. In their episode, “Women, Religion, and Enslavement”, the women interview Vanderbilt Professor Alexis Wells-Oghoghomeh from the Department of Religious Studies.

While this podcast was not produced in response to a direct classroom assignment, JoHannah and Shay frequently introduce and expand on knowledge they cultivated from Professor Wells-Oghoghomeh’s course teachings. Shay and JoHannah produced this podcast because they wanted to address the discrepancy that exists between the campus demographics and the content produced by Student Media.

The pair draws on knowledge from Dr. Wells-Oghoghomeh’s course teachings and her written articles to ask open-ended questions that create an informed dialogue between themselves and the Vanderbilt faculty member. Specifically, the women reference her article, “the Gendered Ethics of Female Enslavement: Searching for Southern Slave Women’s Religions in the African Atlantic”, which was published in The Journal of Southern Religion, Volume 18. The citation of and the link to a free, online-published version of this article can be found at the end of these show notes. The research and planning involved in the creation of this podcast is evident and is a beautiful representation of how learning can be extended through podcasting, and, in particular, the podcast-interview format.

When asked about their process for creating a podcast, the women said that the first thing they do is create a list of the different components they want to include, for example a self-care section or a quote of the day. Once this list is completed, they divide it into an introduction, main section, and a conclusion; this results in the core structure of the podcast. However, the women go above and beyond this and give their podcast personality and soul by choosing a communication style, integrating relevant music, and creating smooth segment transitions. JoHannah and Shay revealed that they center their sound around “an almost ‘gossip-like’ conversation” that gives the podcast its relatable feel. In addition to the conversation feel, enticing music and soundscapes, like the tea preparation sounds and the African American spirituals, were used create seamless transitions that support the overall messages of the content.

The research, planning, and creativity, of Black Tea truly makes it a masterful piece of student produced audio, and once again shows how interview-style podcasting is an underutilized learning tool. JoHannah and Shay use the software Audacity to edit their podcasts and upload them through the Anchor.fm platform. Links to these tools, and more episodes of Black Tea, can also be found below.

Alexis S. Wells, “The Gendered Ethics of Female Enslavement: Searching for Southern Slave Women’s Religions in the African Atlantic,” Journal of Southern Religion (18) (2016): jsreligion.org/vol18/wells [http://jsreligion.org/vol18/wells/]

Black Tea: https://anchor.fm/johannah-chanteria/episodes/Black-Tea-Politics-of-Black-Gender-eadlaq

Anchor.fm, the platform Shay and JoHannah use to distribute their podcast: https://anchor.fm/

Audacity, the free software JoHannah and Shay use to edit their podcast: http://www.audacityteam.org/

Episode 23 – “Novel Hand” by Alexa Bussman

Today, we’re featuring audio from a podcast called Novel Hand that was produced by Vanderbilt Alumna Alexa Bussman. Alexa studied Political Science, Economics, and Spanish while at Vanderbilt and interned at non-profits like International Justice Mission. Alexa is the founder and editor of Novel Hand, a project that aims to explore the best solutions to global humanitarian issues, and the podcast is an extension of this project.

She created Novel Hand to address a disconnect she noticed between her generation’s passion for social issues and innovative solutions that exist to solve these problems. We are featuring episode 2 of the Novel Hand podcast titled Ethical Fashion with Connie Tsai. Connie is an executive assistant at Nisolo, a Nashville company that desires to push the fashion industry in a more sustainable direction through intentionally designed, ethically made, fairly priced clothing.

While there was no formal rubric for creating this podcast, if you listen carefully you can discern that Alexa has created her own structure. She frames the podcast around these main points:

  • What does ethical fashion look like and how can we recognize it?
  • How did Connie get involved with ethical fashion?
  • And what do we need to know, moving forward, as consumers?

By providing this structure, Alexa creates a cohesive piece of audio while leaving room for Connie to passionately discuss topics from protecting producers with living wages to the intricacies of designing ethical footwear.

Alexa’s podcast is just one aspect of how Novel Hand uses their values to move towards their goal, and this multi-level scaffolding can be applied to academia. Rather than entirely replacing an existing assignment or essay with a podcasting project, consider using a podcast in place of a traditional PowerPoint presentation with a podcasting assignment. This audio demonstrates that podcasting doesn’t have to be the main avenue towards reaching a goal but is clearly an effective and enticing tool to add to your toolbelt. To learn more about Alexa’s project Novel Hand, please see the link below.

Novel Hand: https://novelhand.com/

Episode 22-“Your VU: Beyond the Classroom” by Zoe Rankin

This episode features an independently produced piece of audio by Vanderbilt undergraduate Zoe Rankin. Zoe produces a podcast called Your VU: Beyond the Classroom, where she highlights the passions and experiences of Vanderbilt students outside the classroom and brings light to social justice issues through education and storytelling. In Your VU Episode 6: Vanderbilt Prison Project, Zoe interviews Jenny Pigge, a Vanderbilt undergraduate who is the President of the Vanderbilt Prison Project.

Because this is independently produced audio, Zoe told us she had to come up with her own goals, outline, and rubric. As you listen to this episode, take note of the three questions Zoe asks on each of her podcasts, “What is the issue?”, “What is your story or connection to the issue”, and “how can people get involved or take the next steps to learn more?”. Now Rolling, Your VU: Beyond the Classroom, Episode 6: Vanderbilt Prison Project by Zoe Rankin, featuring Jenny Pigge.

Zoe started podcasting when she was the student host on the Dean of the Commons podcast titled Commons Cast. Through Commons Cast, she got to interview the commons Faculty Heads of House and RAs, amongst others. This opportunity ignited a spark to learn more about Vanderbilt students outside the classroom and the desire to use podcasting as a medium to educate. Then, with the help of Vanderbilt Student Media, Zoe created Your VU: Beyond the Classroom.

This audio is a great example of the interview-style podcasting that has surfaced on previous episodes of VandyVox. Zoe told us at VandyVox that she outlines all of her podcast episodes in the three-question format because it’s important to learn about the issue before bringing in the individual student’s context. Finally, she likes to end with ideas for listeners to educate themselves or become involved with ideas from the guest star. Zoe chooses her topics and guest stars based on gaps in her own knowledge she wants to fill and does her own research prior to recording each episode.

She said that doing your due diligence and creating thoughtful questions prior to recording is vital to maintaining a cohesive structure throughout the episode. When asked about any insights, tips, or tricks she’s learned while podcasting, she stressed the importance of active listening, and while it’s crucial to have research-based questions prepared, being able to listen and respond can lead to conversations that you couldn’t anticipate. Balancing that prepared structure with active listening and the flexibility to go off-course, is what makes Zoe’s audio connected and flowing.

Zoe tackles some important social issues throughout her podcast, and I urge to you go listen to more of her audio. A link to Zoe’s podcast, Your VU: Beyond the Classroom, can be found below. Additionally, if you’d like to learn more about the Vanderbilt Prison Project, the link to the Vanderbilt Prison Project website is also below.

Vanderbilt Student Media:



Zoe Rankin’s podcast, Your VU: Beyond the Classroom:



Vanderbilt Prison Project:


Episode 21-“The Peril of the Sonoran Desert” by Rebecca Dubin

In “The Peril of the Sonoran Desert” undergraduate Rebecca Dubin talks us through the changes happening in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. This audio was produced for the Anthropology first-year writing seminar on Culture and Climate Change, taught by Professor Sophie Bjork-James. Rebecca incorporates the interview-style podcasting we’ve seen featured in previous episodes this season. In this format, she artificially conducts interviews with experts on this topic using real-life interviews she found online. The responses of her interviewees are the actual answers of each respective expert; however, these responses are voice acted by some of Rebecca’s friends.

Rebecca’s use of soundscapes to accentuate the issues faced in the Sonoran Desert results in superior quality audio that grips and engages the audience. Growing up in Tucson, this issue is something Rebecca is passionate about and expressed that even if the Sonoran Desert does not draw interest or concern from our listeners, this sentiment can be applied to any natural ecosystem we hold dear. Throughout the audio, she draws wonderful connections and uses this interview format to personalize the issue and relay the words of experts in the field.

This interview-style of podcasting is something that’s been heard before in season 3 of VandyVox and could be a useful tool for audio assignments. If given the proper notice and time allotment, it could be beneficial and unique for students to interview experts in a chosen topic.

The assignment criteria had students focus on a specific region and Professor Sophie Bjork-James encouraged them to look for multiple sources from their chosen area to encourage further learning. Professor Bjork-James said she chose to assign a podcast instead of a regular essay so that the students could experiment with both form and voice in a productive way. She indicated that, in particular, first-year students often stick to the five-paragraph essay format when tasked with a writing assignment. Shifting away from a general essay and into a new medium of expression encourages the student to think outside the box, experimenting with new ways of presenting information and discovering their own voice along the way.

Here it’s demonstrated that podcasting can be used as a means of creative break out from the steeped structure of a five-paragraph essay. Rebecca even said herself that at first, she was a little nervous to work on this project because it was unlike anything she’d ever done, but as she dove deeper she truly enjoyed the research and the creative nature of this project, finding her voice along the way.

The interview-style podcast is a type of assignment that could be used to elevate the quality of a research paper, where the interview itself can develop interpersonal connections and foster academic discussions, while the podcasting format can be tinkered with to be an authentic performance task. Below are some quick links that can help students set up their podcast and provides some specific considerations for preparing for a podcasting interview:

NPR: Starting Your Podcast: A Guide for Students (there is a specific section about conducting a podcast interview on this page too!)


Mark Schaefer’s 5 Steps to Conduct a Superior Podcast Interview