June 7, 2021
Read time : 8 min

Up to Us Alumni Step Up To The Mic

Storytelling is one of the most effective ways to share your aspirations, perspectives, and to talk about the issues that matter most. So what’s your story? If given the chance to delve deep into an issue that is important to you, your future, and your community, what would you share? That’s exactly what we asked our Up to Us alumni this past spring when we offered the opportunity to win a scholarship to take a podcasting course and record their own podcast episode. In partnership with University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism Advanced Media Institute, our alumni were able to learn the technical and narrative skills needed to immerse themselves in one of today’s fast-growing storytelling mediums. 

Podcasting at UC Berkeley

People are spending more time than ever listening to podcast episodes, with this medium representing 6% of the total time spent listening to audio in 2020. But what does it take to make a great podcast? It turns out, podcasting requires more than interesting ideas. Content creators need solid tech skills to record and edit audio. They need to acquire storytelling and interviewing skills to present their ideas in a way that is engaging. And in today’s job market, these skills are becoming increasingly desired. 

That’s why we decided to offer our alumni the opportunity to make a podcast under the guidance of expert teachers and professionals at the Advanced Media Institute at the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Of those who applied, seven alumni were selected based on their desire to learn this new skill and on the creativity of their topics, with pitches ranging in themes from supporting grassroots organizations, the lack of financial accessibility to four-year colleges, and the effects of bankruptcy in countries across the world. Our scholarship winners included:

  • Amy Drake, Fall 2020
  • Cathleen Jeanty, Spring 2015
  • Sahej Verma, Fall 2018
  • Shreyansh Budhia, Fall 2018
  • Bisi Oyelola, Fall 2018
  • Khalil David, Fall 2020
  • Fadi Manuel, Fall 2020

As part of the program, these alumni took a five-week course called Podcasting: Telling Stories in Sound to hone their skills and learn how to produce their stories.

Over the course of the class, alumni learned about the techniques that work best when telling stories in audio format. They gained experience with interview methods, creating a narrative arch,  and learned about scriptwriting. They also perfected the art of recording and editing audio to deliver a quality podcast.

The Experience

The core mission of the podcasting program was to give our alumni a new way to talk about the issues that matter to them while gaining valuable experience and skills for their careers. Sahej Verma, for example,  decided to draw attention to the challenges that students face in higher education, finance and otherwise. He learned to share information in a way that guides listeners to the main takeaway of the podcast, which is a valuable skill for addressing complex and multifaceted issues:

"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 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."

Up to Us alumna Cathleen Jeanty chose to focus on the Eurozone and look at how this initiative benefited different countries disproportionately. The podcasting course taught her how to engage her audience and get people to think and ask interesting questions:

"I hope my podcast foments a sense of curiosity in my listeners. Though there are many countries utilizing the euro, there’s a clear inequality among them, and I want my listeners to look more deeply at that."

The podcasting course also covered interviewing skills, a skill set that alumni can apply in many areas to bring expertise and authority to a discussion by incorporating voices from experts. Amy Drake used her interviewing skills to create a podcast where entrepreneurs discuss the role of social entrepreneurship during the pandemic and challenge the idea that profit is the ultimate goal:

"I love the power of storytelling to share knowledge, culture, and information to create positive change. Learning how to podcast has so many applicable skills! Being able to conduct an interview and reach those important insights in an effective manner is an incredible skill to bring to any interaction."

Stay tuned over the coming weeks as we share the episodes our alumni produced and discuss further with them about their creative process. 

Learn more

Up to Us is constantly developing new ways to amplify the voices and support the growth of its alumni community. You can learn more about our different programs and opportunities for alumni by visiting our website.