Excellence in Podcasting award winners honored at reception

Excellence in Podcasting competition winners 2022

Vanderbilt University held its second Excellence in Podcasting competition during the spring 2022 semester and presented awards in April to the students whose entries exemplified the goal of the competition: using audio storytelling to communicate ideas, share perspectives, make arguments and persuade others.

“This year’s competition demonstrated how students use podcasts to mobilize their skills in problem-solving, research and critical thinking to tell compelling stories of how and why the issues they care about matter to everyone,” said Professor Elizabeth Meadows, associate director of the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities. “These students bring human connection, communication and empathy to understanding our world. As Excellence in Podcasting comes to a close, we are reminded of the ways in which this medium engages both the creator and listener in thought-provoking research and intellectual conversation.” Meadows is also principal senior lecturer in the department of English and faculty head for East House.

The award recipients were recognized at an April 28 reception at the new Community Event Space. The Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities sponsored the competition in collaboration with the Office of Immersion Resources and the Center for Teaching. Undergraduate, graduate and professional students were invited to participate. Original audio pieces produced with critical or creative storytelling were accepted.

The winners are:

Graduate and professional students

  • First-place winner (joint awards)
    • “Lost in Transcription” by Steven Rodriguez
    • “Breath, Pt. 2” by Sebastian Spivey

Undergraduate students

  • First-place winner
    • “Diermeier and the Giant Unicorn” by Abhinav Krishnan
      • Created in partnership with Brynn Jones, Trent Griffith and Nandika Chirala
  • Runners-up
    • “Human Bioenhancement: When Superman Becomes Ordinary” by Maya Reddy
    • “Climate Change in Miami” by Emily Irigoyen

“Podcasting is an amazing way to let your voice be heard. It is an accessible way to communicate controversial topics and spark intellectual, compassionate conversations,” said Maya Reddy, one of the runners-up in the undergraduate competition. “I remember listening to podcasts throughout my childhood—learning and growing through their words. Now, as a young adult, through the production of Miss Informed (Reddy’s podcast), I am able to research important topics, interview interesting people and craft engaging stories for others to do the same.”

“I love podcasts as a medium because they are such an accessible and intimate way of sharing stories,” said Sebastian Spivey, a winner in the graduate and professional student category. “This episode was part of a series that a group of artists/students at the Divinity School put together during the pre-vaccine pandemic as a way to bring creative work with a high craft value to the school community and beyond. We were hoping that this episode might allow the listener some respite through art.”

For Emily Irigoyen, another undergraduate runner-up, podcasting was inspired by her coursework. “I created the podcast as a class project for my freshman writing seminar, Ethnography of Climate Change, taught by Dr. Sophie Bjork-James,” Irigoyen said. “I was tasked with creating a podcast that explores the effects of climate change in a particular city anywhere across the world. I chose Miami because it’s where I’m from, and it’s one of the places in the U.S. currently experiencing the negative impacts of climate change already. I was new to the podcast platform, but her class allowed me to explore the different ways that I can present my environmental research. Since then, I have created various podcasts for other class assignments, my Immersion project and for a Buchanan Library Fellowship.”

Winning pieces will be featured on VandyVox, a podcast from the Center for Teaching and Vanderbilt Student Media that showcases the best of student-produced audio at Vanderbilt University.

“VandyVox continues to provide a platform for students to present their work to the broader Vanderbilt community and beyond,“ said Derek Bruff, assistant provost and executive director of the Center for Teaching. “It is incredible to listen to the work of the students and to help bolster all they have accomplished.”

The Office of Immersion Resources collaborated on the competition because student-produced podcasts and audio documentaries can be  final, culminating pieces of Immersion Vanderbilt projects.

“We are continuously inspired by students who showcase their expertise and creativity in their final projects for Immersion Vanderbilt,” said Carolyn Floyd, director of the Office of Immersion Resources. “This competition is representative of incredible work from dedicated individuals, and our office is excited to witness the talents of Vanderbilt students.”

Information about next year’s competition will be announced in spring 2023.