Episode 6 – “Well Founded Fear” by Joshua Minchin

In this episode, we feature a short audio documentary by Vanderbilt law student Joshua Minchin called “Well Founded Fear.” Joshua produced this piece for an assignment in a refugee law course taught by Vanderbilt professor Karla McKanders. The assignment called for students to take some challenging legal issued related to refugee and immigration law and to convey it to a non-specialist audience through audio stories. Joshua’s motivation for this piece came from his personal experience working as an employment specialist for a refugee resettlement agency before he started law school. In writing about this audio piece, Minchin said it’s important not to lose track of the people who are most affected by immigration law.

Joshua’s piece first aired on the long-running podcast Life of the Law. For more information on Karla McKanders’ collaboration with Life of the Law, as well as other student pieces that aired on that podcast, listen to Episode 136, “New Voices Series: Law Students Take on Immigration.”

Episode 5 – “Writer’s Block Tango” by Sarah Eidson

In this episode, we feature a short audio story by Vanderbilt undergraduate Sarah Eidson about Maurine Watkins, the American journalist who wrote the play Chicago in 1926. Sarah produced the audio story for an assignment in the provocatively titled course “Women Who Kill,” taught in the women’s and gender studies program by English lecturer Robbie Spivey. The course provided a critical look at classical and contemporary representations of women who kill. Maurine Watkins, the subject of Sarah’s audio story, wasn’t a woman who killed, but she covered the murder trials of two women as part of her work at the Chicago Tribune, then wrote her play Chicago about women accused of murder based on that experience. In Sarah’s audio piece “Writer’s Block Tango,” Sarah blends fact and speculation to explore Watkins’ motivations.

For those interested in using audio assignments in their teaching, here’s a little background on Robbie Spivey’s podcast assignment for her course “Women Who Kill”…

Robbie asked her students to make a podcast episode of 8 to 13 minutes in length, using the audio format to respond to the following prompt:

“When we talk about women who kill, we need to talk about X because Y.”

Before scripting and recording their audio pieces, students were asked to conduct preliminary research to identify a topic, then collect sources and write an annotated bibliography. Here’s how Robbie framed the audio production piece of the assignment:

“Support your claims with good reasoning, valid evidence, and when appropriate, good story-telling. Take advantage of the podcast medium to convey your message in ways you would not be able to in a traditional research essay or classroom presentation. For example, strategically use pacing, music, sound effects, ambient noise, other voices, etc.”

Robbie also helped shape her students’ expected audience:

“Address an audience made up of both college students and professors at Vanderbilt and other universities like Vanderbilt interested in conversations about “women who kill.” Your audience is interested in the conversation, but has not participated in the conversation with the sustained attention that we have over the course of this semester, nor has your audience considered the significance of your chosen topic. They may not even be aware that your topic is relevant to conversations about women who kill… As you design your podcast, think about what you want your audience to know, believe, understand, ask, or do.”

Episode 4 – “Unpacking Health Care Disparities” by Sheuli Chowdhury

When Sheuli Chowdhury picked her topic for the podcast assignment in her health policy class, she didn’t take the easy way out. She decided to dive into the intersection of two very complex topics: healthcare and immigration. In this episode of VandyVox, we share her project, an audio exploration of recent research on undocumented immigrants and Medicaid enrollment. Her piece is titled “Unpacking Health Care Disparities.” The assignment, for an introduction to health services course taught by Vanderbilt health policy professor Gilbert Gonzales, asked students to take recent research in health policy and explain it for a lay audience. Sheuli reports learning a lot from the project, about both Medicaid and immigration policy.

For more student-produced audio on health policy, listen to Health Policy Radio with Gilbert Gonzales on SoundCloud. And for those interested in teaching with podcasts, listen to Gilbert’s interview on Episode 27 of Vanderbilt’s edtech podcast, Leading Lines, for information about his podcast assignment and how it helps him meet his teaching objectives.

 

Episode 3 – “The Panizzardi Telegram” by Charlie Overton

This episode features an audio peice called “The Panizzardi Telegram” produced by Vanderbilt undergraduate Charlie Overton. Charlie was a student in podcast host Derek Bruff’s first-year writing seminar last fall, a course on cryptography. The course is a busy one, with mathematics and codebreaking, history and current events, and, as of recent offerings, a podcast assignment. Derek asks his students to explore the history of codes and ciphers for a class podcast called One-Time Pod. Charlie’s contribution on the Panizzardi telegram deftly combines historical storytelling and technical explanations. It also communicates an enduring understanding about cryptography: If you don’t know how a message has been encrypted, it’s really easy to make up a decryption method that makes the message say what you want it to say.

For more student-produced pieces on the history of cryptography, check out Derek’s class podcast, One-Time Pod. And for those interested in using audio assignments in their teaching, see Derek’s podcast assignment and rubric for ideas.

Episode 2 – “The Name” by Layla Shahmohammadi

Last fall, Vanderbilt student Layla Shahmohammadi interned at Conexión Américas, a non-profit whose mission is to build community and opportunities for Latino families, particularly immigrant families, in Nashville. Layla’s internship was part of her capstone experience as a major in Human and Organizational Development (HOD). When Layla started working at Conexión, she noticed that staff members, who were mostly Hispanic, preferred others in the organization use the Spanish pronunciations of their names. She thought this was interesting, so she talked with her co-workers about their names and identities and produced a short audio documentary as part of her HOD capstone experience. This episode of VandyVox features that documentary, titled “The Name: Names, Identity, and Self-Perception at Conexión Américas.”

For more audio from HOD students, check out the HOD Capstone Learning podcast, available on SoundCloud.

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 students 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.