June 14, 2021
Read time : 6 min

Podcasting with Up to Us Alumni: Sahej Verma


This spring, we challenged Up to Us alumni to tell us about an issue that matters to them and then create a podcast about it. In partnership with University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism Advanced Media Institute, a selected group of alumni were awarded a scholarship to learn the technical and narrative skills needed to immerse themselves in one of today’s fast-growing storytelling mediums. We provided the microphones, and our alumni brought their stories. Here is what they created. 

Name: Sahej Verma, Fall 2018

Tell us what you do: Program Management Analyst at Lonza AG 

Your podcast: Indebted to Grow 

What is your podcast about?

Indebted to Grow depicts how the path to higher education is lined with hurdles such as high cost of university, expensive housing, job insecurity, and economic discrimination. By charting the alternating paths of two undergraduate students who graduated from UCLA, Indebted to Grow juxtaposes the apparent necessity of higher education with the prohibitive, exclusionary objective of leading universities to remark how the American Dream is getting ever farther away for many.

What compelled you to pick the subject matter you chose for your podcast?

Throughout my undergraduate studies at UCLA, I met students who faced significant hurdles to get a quality public college education. While they were struggling to make their apartment rent for the following month, they saw the development of luxurious sports facilities worth hundreds of millions of dollars of public funding to ensure a bright future for the sporting heritage of their university. I thought it was important to create a podcast that gave students an opportunity to speak up on the topic of affordability and accessibility of higher education. 

What was one thing that surprised you or that you learned about using the podcast format to tell your story? 

I found the format of a podcast to be less iterative and more purposeful – if you have a point to make, you have to get to it. Guiding questions such as what would the listener think? Is this easy to follow? What will they take away from the audio? It is crucial to address all these issues in the background as the listener has a tendency to create a simple narrative arc, and the more checkpoints you provide them the easier it is for them to get to the same final message as you had intended. 

How do you see learning how to podcast benefitting your current job or your future career goals? 

Podcasting is a creative medium that I enjoy crafting. I am more of an enthusiast than a professional and I intend to keep it that way. Podcasting is a sanctuary for me to retreat to when I have something on my mind that I want to communicate to the world. If it was mixed with my professional life, I would not enjoy it as much as I would no longer be creating the audio for myself. 

What do you hope listeners will learn or take away from your podcast? 

Higher education is becoming more prohibitive with every passing year. High school students are sold the narrative that only by passing through an elite university will they become successful. And simultaneously, parents are made to feel as if they have failed if their child does not attend college. Such expectations have fueled the creation of the higher education industrial complex that is becoming larger and greedier. Simple classrooms give way to multi-million dollar real estate investments, and university endowments have become some of the largest investors on wall street rather than helping students service their debt. It is important for us to challenge this industrial complex rather than give in to it. 

To listen to all of the podcast episodes created by our alumni and to learn more about this opportunity, click here. To hear more about our different alumni programs, visit our website.