Hoping to spark conversation on dialogue across difference, Dean of Students Kimberly Moore started a podcast titled “We Need to Talk,” in collaboration with Miami University senior and Student Body Vice President Jessica von Zastrow.
Each episode involves an expert giving background on a certain topic followed by a discussion between two Miami students. Moore and von Zastrow select the experts by looking around campus for faculty members that have done research or have taught classes in the field of their discussion topic.
The Office of the Dean of Students has many outreach options, but Moore said when speaking to students with concerns, she learned students have difficulties speaking to others with differing viewpoints and backgrounds.
“This is a microcosm of what is happening across our country,” Moore said. “We wanted to explore this and work with students.”
Moore chose to address students through a podcast because the pandemic prevents mass gatherings of students for lectures and panels. The podcast also lets students listen to content on their own time, whereas panels and lectures are one-time experiences.
“A podcast served our context,” Moore said. “Students are busy and are over being on Zoom.”
von Zastrow helps produce and plan the podcasts. She was passionate about creating any type of podcast with her role in Associated Student Government (ASG).
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The summer after her sophomore year, von Zastrow participated in Inside Washington, a study away program in Washington, D.C., where she interned at Voice of America. There, she gained experience in podcasts and wanted to apply her skills to ASG to create interactive content.
“I wanted to create a podcast [that focused] on educating students and creating a discussion,” von Zastrow said. “[This podcast] was very collaborative and a great way to make sure that everyone can hear their voice when listening.”
The Office of the Dean of Students works closely with ASG, and when Moore realized von Zastrow also wanted to create a podcast, she reached out to collaborate. The pair had their first meeting in early January.
The podcast features two episodes so far. Moore plans to produce three episodes per semester in the coming school year. This semester will only have two, as April is a busy month for faculty and students, Moore said.
The first episode of the podcast, “Dialogue Across Differences,” aired Feb. 28. Moore discussed barriers in dialogue among students of differing perspectives and ways to overcome discomfort while doing so.
The episode began with Tarah Trueblood, director of the Center for American and World Cultures, discussing the context for our polarized world and providing tips for engaging in dialogues with people of different viewpoints.
“It was an honor to be invited and talk about something that I am passionate about while getting my work respected,” Trueblood said. “It is important to invite people to be intentional in how we communicate with people to break down some of the barriers that we have.”
Trueblood said the podcast was a good model in warming the campus climate.
“I am passionate about discovering intergroup dialogue, and I hope to help continue to provide people with dialogue,” Trueblood said.
Trueblood’s section was followed by a conversation between two students: Brandon Small, ASG’s secretary for diversity and inclusion, and Taylor Armstrong, president of Miami’s College Republicans.
Armstrong said he did not hesitate to be a guest on the podcast when invited via email, as he is a proponent of dialogue across differences.
“It is a good opportunity to bridge some gaps that have been exposed in the pandemic,” Armstrong said. “We all face certain issues in our daily lives that define who we are, but we need to respectfully talk about these differences while maintaining respect.”
The second episode, “Creating Space for Dialogue,” aired March 31 and focused on creating a space for individuals to engage in dialogue without harming marginalized communities.
As of now, the podcast garners more than 50 listeners per episode, though Moore said she hopes that number will grow.
Moore and von Zastrow want to make sure that there are different identities in the podcast, so all people can hear their own voice, von Zastrow said.
“We are getting positive feedback from students,” Moore said. “Students and faculty have said that this is a necessary topic. I am really proud of our work. I hope people listen. There are takeaways for everyone after each episode.”