Five Berkshire students were recognized last week in The New York Times’ fourth annual Student Podcast Contest.
Congratulations to Sofie Fisher ’21, Grace Wood-Hull ’21, and Lydia Wu Davis ’21, who were chosen as runners-up, and to Phoebe Mulder ’22 and Esslynne Truong ’21 who earned honorable mention.
Students across the world were invited to submit an original audio program up to five minutes in length exploring a topic of their choice. Berkshire entrants submitted the podcasts as part of their work in the School’s Advanced Humanities Research (AHR) program with Dr. Sandy Perot.
This year, The Times received over 1,500 entries–a record. Of the total, they selected just 12 winners, 13 runners-up, and 29 honorable mentions, less than 4% of all entries. Submissions included a range of formats and techniques including storytelling, interviews, and sound clips. In the last three years, seven Berkshire students have been recognized for their work.
For Fisher, the podcast contest was a chance to share her story of being adopted. “I've always known I wanted to publish something about my experience, but never had the right platform or enough courage,” she explained.
Fisher and her peers taught themselves how to use GarageBand and other software to record their own voices and incorporate found and original sound clips to enhance their narrative.
For Wood-Hull and Davis, the podcast was a chance to explore their shared love of music. In it, Wood-Hull interviews Davis in a spontaneous-sounding conversation about one of Davis’s unreleased songs, “See U in the Morning.” “Each question in the podcast is a genuine question I had about Lydia's music,” explained Wood-Hull. “As we were drafting the script, we wrote down her actual answers before expanding them and adding more detail.”
“It was really fun being able to share a deeper analysis of a project I’ve been so passionate about,” said Davis. “This song holds a lot of symbolism in the importance of self care and self love. Mental health is something I always want to bring to light in my music.”
Mulder discovered that being an avid podcast listener was helpful when it came to creating one of her own. “Over quarantine, I listened to podcasts while walking my dog. ‘This American Life’ with Ira Glass informed my music choice and the overall style I tried to embody,” she said. “I like podcasts because you can share academic topics using a more creative narrative, and unlike a nonfiction essay, podcasts allow for storytelling and tension.”
Regarding Berkshire students’ notable success this year (they comprise 9% of those recognized), Perot credits topic selection. “These students created very original, professionally put together stories that they actually cared about. That makes a difference: the authenticity of the narrative and the desire to connect with an audience.”
The Times’ competition is well-timed for AHR students because it lands in the second semester, allowing them to showcase what they’ve learned about research, writing, and presenting their work. “I am really impressed by these students’ ability to craft relevant, meaningful narratives that are audience-driven, creatively engaging, and smart,” said Perot.
In addition to applying to speak and present their work at academic and professional conferences, the podcast competition is a chance for students to learn firsthand the impact of sharing their ideas with the world. “The class provides the tools to help students hone their research and writing skills,” said Perot, “and also gives them a hearty nudge to make sure they learn to believe in the power of their own ideas.”
Congratulations to all for their exceptional work and recognition!
LISTEN TO THE PODCASTS BELOW
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See U in the Morning Breakdown by Grace Wood-Hull '21 & Lydia Wu Davis '21 A Real Story: Understanding the Influence That Society Possesses When Shaping the Identities of Transracial Adoptees by Sofie Fisher '21