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Introducing Gradcast: the Graduate Student Assembly’s Original Podcast

February 10, 2017

Gradcast (http://gsa.yale.edu/news/yale-gradcast-gsa-podcast), a new initiative organized by the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA), launched its first digital audio file on January 19. In the coming months, Gradcast will present a mix of pieces on topics ranging from the structure of university administration to issues facing Yale as a whole or graduate students, in particular. Additional episodes will introduce listeners to some of the interesting people and fascinating places around campus.

We are trying to share the experience of being a graduate student,” says Alicia Steinmetz (Political Science), chair of the GSA Public Relations Committee. “Graduate study can be very isolating, and we want people to know they aren’t alone in what they may be thinking or feeling and the challenges they may be facing. We also want to pay attention to specific situations faced by different populations within the Graduate School.”

The first episode, “Brainsss,” is an entertaining audio tour of the Cushing Center, a small museum in the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library that contains 450 jars of brains (or parts of brains), along with medical specimens, haunting photos of brain surgery patients, and memorabilia about groundbreaking neurosurgeon Harvey Cushing. In this podcast, Steinmetz and co-producer Matthew Shafer (Political Science) join Terry Dagradi, Cushing Center coordinator. She shows them around and tells them the origins of this odd collection and how, after years in an all-but-forgotten basement storage area, it was given a proper home.

“I was a Yale undergrad before I returned for the PhD, but somehow in six years I'd never made it to the brain room,” Shafer says. “It was fascinating to see such an unusual, unique space; and it's this kind of episode — highlighting the little-known and wonderfully bizarre details of Yale and New Haven — that I'm most excited about making. The podcast is a way to help grad students discover sides of the university they might never have thought about before.”

The second podcast, “Inside the Hearing,” released on January 26, is a scrupulously impartial presentation about the recent National Labor Relations Board decision to allow teaching fellows in some departments at Yale to vote for or against joining a union. Steinmetz and Patrick Dunn (Cellular and Molecular Physiology) present arguments for and against the issue.

We attempt to share information in such a way that multiple viewpoints on any issue can be given their fullest articulation, subject to time and resource constraints,” Steinmetz says.

The organizers assert that “All views expressed here are those of the students who produced this podcast or the individuals interviewed; they are not the official positions, statements of advice, opinion or information of Yale University nor are they screened, reviewed, or endorsed by Yale University,” according to their website.

The third podcast, “Science and Identity,” will be released February 20.

Ten students, some from the GSA and some from the graduate community, meet every other week to pitch ideas and coordinate progress on the episodes in production. They solicit topics from the GSA General Assembly and encourage the Graduate School community to email suggestions to them at gsa@yale.edu. They plan to release at least one episode a month during the semester. 

“The GSA as a whole has been trying to explore new ways of communicating and interacting with its constituencies to increase transparency, accountability, and feedback,” Steinmetz says. Nicholas Vincent (Microbiology), current chair of the GSA, was head of the Public Relations Committee for the past few years, and “he definitely has brought this outward-looking focus to his new position. The podcast is one part of this larger effort.”

We’re really excited about this project because it’s giving us a chance to communicate with our fellow students in a way that’s more than just sending an email newsletter or posting an advertisement on Facebook,” Vincent says. “Our goal is to reach as many students as possible and to get out as much information as possible. There are lots of misconceptions about various aspects of our community, and we’re trying help everyone have access to the same information in a new and exciting format.”

Because GSA members are able to get information not readily available to the student body as a whole, “We wanted to find a way to share that privileged access with our constituencies in a format that would be easier to consume than reports or emails,” Steinmetz says. “Our goal isn’t to tell people what to think. It’s to offer them the kind of information GSA representatives have, in the hopes that all students can feel like they’re part of a shared conversation. Most of us are really avid podcast listeners, and we were excited at the prospect of using the medium to help serve our work in GSA.”

Shafer is not a member of GSA, but became involved in the podcast “because it provided a new way for me to develop my skills as a writer and a researcher,” he says. “The podcast is a creative outlet for me to experiment with my ideas and interests in ways that I can't always do in the classroom. And honestly, it's just a lot of fun to wander around town looking for cool interviews and weird settings.”

The GSA Podcast Producers

• Bara Badwan (Engineering and Applied Science)
• Laura Brown (Music)
• Nicholas Curry (Music)
• Patrick Dunn (Cellular and Molecular Physiology)
• Pratima Gopalakrishnan (Religious Studies)
• Kang Wei Heng (East Asian Studies)
• Steven Paniagua (Genetics)
• Elizabeth Salm (Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program)
• Matt Shafer (Political Science) 
• Alicia Steinmetz (Political Science)