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The voices behind Duke's boom in student-run podcasts

From climate activism to comical parodies and health policy, student-run podcasts at Duke have grown substantially over the last year. 

With a student body increasingly burdened by Zoom fatigue, these podcasts have provided students with an outlet to express their voices, passions and ideas in a fun yet impactful way. 

The co-presidents of the Student Collaborative on Health Policy (SCOHP), sophomore Josee Li and senior Charlotte Thomas, were quick to jump onto the podcast bandwagon over winter break. 

The SCOHP brings together undergraduate and graduate students across a multitude of disciplines to explore and advocate for health policies. The team of 10 SCOHP members releases weekly episodes discussing current events with policy makers and relevant stakeholders.

“Podcasts are really critical because you are providing a space for student voices,” Li said. “And student voices are so important, especially now during COVID in a time of separation where students might feel isolated in online classes.”

Operation Climate, spearheaded by junior Katherine Li and sophomore Matthew Brune, was founded to promote education and advocacy about environmental issues. 

While the podcast originated from a Bass Connections research project that investigated the risk and benefits of geoengineering the climate, Operation Climate has grown into a hub for environmental activism. Students on the podcast team share an affinity for inspiring the next generation of students to advocate for the environment.  

“This podcast has been really near and dear to my heart and came at a critical time,” Katherine Li said.  “As people are stuck inside and there is limited access to resources on social justice and environmental issues, we have been a platform to share this information.”

Operation Climate has partnered with the Duke Environmental Alliance to broaden the podcast’s focus, exploring the intersection of COVID-19 and climate change. 

Co-founder Matthew Brune’s passion for the podcast first stemmed from his interest in investigating the technological approaches to tackling climate change, but has now grown into a deep passion to enlist people in the fight against climate change. 

“One of the most rewarding things that has come from this podcast is the team of people and how quickly they hopped on board,” Brune said. “It is incredible to be a part of a group of people that are all passionate and geared towards a mission.”

One podcast, Freshly Squeezed Pulp (FCP), offers students an escape into fictional worlds. Duke’s student pulp fiction podcast allows listeners to immerse themselves into an audio script of modern twists on classic writings. While humour is a serious trademark of FCP, their mission extends beyond comedy, engaging students in discussions about old themes and ideas through a modern lens. 

FCP President Victoria Wang, a sophomore, described it as “not just a podcast, but a community of writers that enable creativity to flourish.”

“No one is a professional writer. This is an avenue for new writers to explore creativity and comedy in an exciting and meaningful way,” Wang said.  

As a result of the disconnect between students and faculty caused by the pandemic, seniors Rohin Maganti and Becky Arbiv have used their podcast After Office Hours as a tool to connect students with professors and industry professionals, who share their experiences and insight.

“Every guest has a ridiculously good story, you just need to ask the right questions,” Maganti said.

In a time of separation, this rise in the production of campus podcasts has let students express their ideas.

“A podcast is here to tell you that students are still learning, growing and have a voice that deserves to be heard,” Josee Li said.  

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