“Who we are as people shapes who we are as teachers.”
The Other Side of Campus brings you the voices and experiences of faculty from all across UT Austin who want to innovate, create, and grow as teachers.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, I experienced a curious (and not so curious) rise in my popularity. Whereas pre-Covid, most of my podcasting suggestions to UT administration didn’t quite get anywhere, once everything shutdown and isolation and separation became the norm, everyone was suddenly open to hearing what I had been preaching for a couple years in the academic world. Start a podcast. Start a podcast now.
While The Other Side of Campus was not one of those podcasts I had proposed pre-2020, it definitely was one I was keen on producing when the idea was presented to me in May 2020 (following my unglamorous graduation from UT Austin). The podcast didn’t have a title or a look or anything, but it did have a pretty great faculty organization within UT, the Provost’s Teaching Fellows (PTF), that wanted to do something to connect in very human ways with their fellow disconnected faculty, and really teachers everywhere.
Several meetings of the PTF podcast committee took place, spearheaded by none other than the inimitable Dr. Mary Neuburger. She initially brought me in as someone who could help realize the very general vision that the PTF faculty had to create a podcast. What would it be about? Well, teaching and learning. Okay, but the comparisons in this education arena were all not to anybody’s liking, which was good, because I might have stepped away right then. Dry and didactic are not words with which I want to be associated.
Pretty soon, after a lot of discourse which was needed but ultimately yielded no clear results or direction, I remember saying something like, “You just have to start interviewing people and see what you get. The podcast will take shape.” Also, I realized that the organization itself (PTF, that is) didn’t even have a UT branded logo, didn’t have a proper website at the time, and didn’t have any real identity other than being a powerful but tiny subsection of the Office of the Provost — and at that, not even listed on the Provost’s subdomain, even though funding for fellows comes from this office. Anyway, it was then I figured that PTF had a bit of an identity problem and so no wonder it didn’t know what the podcast should sound like. So while these super brilliant faculty deliberated around questions of, well, very academic-y things, I decided to give them a look. As I like to say: You have to brand it, to believe it.
First, I designed a UT-approved logo for the PTF and made them Texas PTF, to distinguish from other similar orgs at different universities. Secured a domain (texasptf.org). Created their official Twitter account (@texasptf). Created the podcast artwork before even one episode had been recorded, receiving approval from the University Communications branding folks. I also got them added to the Texas Podcast Network, which I was also in the process of making happen (once UT’s director of marketing accepted my proposal for the network’s creation). After all that work, it was clear that creating a brand boosted the confidence of the faculty involved. I still remember the day I showed them their artwork (via Zoom). Big bright smiles. They saw the brand, and now they believed it.
The first interviews took care of the sound of the show (and I started to use the term “show” rather than podcast to shift focus away from the “medium” and towards the actual “media”). I could hear that these ultra-intelligent PhDs had so much character and fun personality, so, I wanted the episodes to convey their color and charisma. Some of the guests were especially wonderful and this made editing them and shaping the interviews a pleasure. Other guests were a little on the drier side, but they just presented a nice challenge to keep the episode entertaining and story-driven.
My tenure with TOSOC is coming to an end, however, I am proud of what these faculty of PTF have accomplished. I am especially proud that they did so at the height of a global pandemic. We all learned so much about storytelling, branding, remote recording, and more. Despite being born in a crisis, this podcast will definitely retain its relevance because of the stories and the memories and the journeys presented here from diverse faculty across academia.
“Like hanging out with the coolest teachers…”