Excellence in Podcasting award winners honored at reception

The award recipients of the inaugural Excellence in Podcast competition were honored at a reception on Aug. 24 at the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities. (John Russell/Vanderbilt)
The award recipients of the inaugural Excellence in Podcast competition were honored at a reception on Aug. 24 at the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities. (John Russell/Vanderbilt)

Vanderbilt University’s first-ever Excellence in Podcasting competition was held in spring 2021. Awards were presented in July to the students whose podcast submissions exemplified the goals of the competition: using audio storytelling to communicate ideas, share perspectives, make arguments and persuade others. Undergraduate, graduate and professional students were invited to participate. Original audio pieces produced in the past year with some critical or creative storytelling were accepted.

The award recipients were recognized at an Aug. 24 reception at the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, which sponsored the competition in collaboration with the Office of Immersion Resources and the Center for Teaching.

“All of these students, representing a wide range of disciplines, have excelled as storytellers,” said Holly Tucker, director of the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, professor of French and Mellon Foundation Chair in the Humanities. “Whether their stories start in a lab or through literature, they all showed imagination, technical proficiency and strong communication skills as they made their topics accessible to a broad audience.”

The two first-place winners received $500, and five runners-up received $250 in graduate and undergraduate categories. The winners and their submissions are as follows:

Graduate and professional students

  • First-place winner
    • “How Real is Silicon-based Life?”  by Nicole Kendrick and Natalie Wallace
  • Runners-up
    • “My Humanities Moment: Children’s Experiences and Voices in Social Research and Literature” by Marta Eugenia Zavaleta Lemus
    • “Going Viral: Basics of Epidemiology” by Pranoti Pradhan and Saimrunali Dadigala

Undergraduate students

  • First-place winner
    • “Noise Pollution, COVID-19, and Your Health” by Emma Fagan
  • Runners-up
    • “Gene Drives” by Olivia Pembridge
    • “PRISM: NSA’s Information Net” by Rishabh Gharekhan
    • “Anchor Down, Burn Out” by Abhinav Krishnan and Julia Tilton

“I think what really stood out for me was how many ways you can do science communication,” said Nicole Kendrick, first-place winner in the graduate and professional category. “When we started this podcast, there was the writing of the podcasts, doing the audio, social media, just word of mouth, and talking to your friends about it. It helped us shape how we talk about science to everybody.”

“This was the first podcast I’d ever created,” said Rishabh Gharekhan, BA’24. “One of my favorite parts about creating a podcast is seeing how much goes into it—the music, the background noises, your own voice, the story, and how to make it a really cool narrative that actually attracts viewers without the visual portion of things. Podcasts are an awesome and great tool to learn and to discover new things that you never really thought about.”

Winning pieces will be featured on the upcoming season of VandyVox, a podcast from the Center for Teaching and Vanderbilt Student Media that showcases the best of student-produced audio at Vanderbilt University. “We launched VandyVox a few years ago because an increasing number of faculty and students were exploring audio production as academic work,” said Derek Bruff, assistant provost and executive director of the Center for Teaching. “I’m excited to use VandyVox to connect the winners of the first Excellence in Podcasting competition with a bigger audience for their fine work.”

The Office of Immersion Resources collaborated on the competition because student-produced podcasts and audio documentaries are examples of potential immersion projects. “For a student to take what they’ve learned through their immersion experiences and reflections and share that through audio storytelling is very exciting,” said Carolyn Floyd, director of the Office of Immersion Resources. “I hope we will see some impressive audio productions as immersion projects in the coming years.”

Information about next year’s competition will be announced in spring 2022.