The Finding Your Place College Podcast
“You’re About to Grow..."
The Finding Your Place Podcast features compelling audio storytelling by six outstanding student producers.
The student producers share their own stories about college and conduct recorded interviews with experts in higher education. The podcast features immersive storytelling with sessions recorded everywhere from faculty offices to family homes.
Colleges across the country are grappling with issues related to student success and retention--and too many of our students are not reaching their potential and not finding their place in college. Can a podcast close all these gaps? No. But we strongly believe that these student-produced episodes can help students make more sense of college and of themselves ... and ultimately increase their chances for success in college.
The podcast was funded through a Minnesota State Innovation Grant. The grant allowed us to pay student producers for their time and purchase high-quality audio recorders for the students to use when documenting their lives. The competitive grant process involved a “Shark Tank” competition through Minnesota State. That process and the podcast itself are detailed in the video below (the podcast was originally called “Dreaming by Degrees”)
The podcast is designed to be particularly useful for first-year and first-generation students, and would be ideal for use in first year experience courses or seminars where students are being introduced to college. The podcast may well also serve as an effective tool for online college orientations and mentoring-at-a-distance in the summer of 2020 as colleges and universities maintain social distancing guidelines but still seek to offer admissions and orientation resources.
The podcast features 12 primary episodes
Episode #1: Welcome to the Podcast (4.5 Minutes)
In the opening episode, we consider what college means in the 21st Century, we meet the student producers who will serve as our guides for the series, and we preview important college-related issues to be explored in later episodes.
Episode #2: Why Are You in College? (7.5 Minutes)
What in the world are you doing here in college? In our second episode, we explore the motivating factors that can push us into and pull us through college. We’ll also sit down with Dr. Brenda Flannery, Dean of the College of Business at Minnesota State University, Mankato, to learn more about what college means to those who have returned to campus and devote their life’s work to higher education.
Episode #3: Choosing a Major (9.5 minutes)
How are you supposed to decide what to do with the rest of your life? In this episode, we dive into one of the most confusing aspects of the college experience: choosing a major. To figure this out, we’ll spend some time with Gina Maahs-Zurbey, Academic Advisor and Student Relations Coordinator at Minnesota State University, Mankato. We’ll also follow producer Sonti Brandts in her multi-semester struggle to find the major that fit her skills ... and her interests.
Episode #4: Getting Help (11.5 minutes)
No one can survive college completely on their own, but what happens when we don’t ask for the help we need? In our fourth episode, we return to Gina Maahs-Zurbey, the MSU Mankato Academic Advisor we met back in Episode 3. Gina’s got an important story to tell about getting the help you need in college, and she recently performed this story at a Finding Your Place live storytelling event. As always, our producers provide some additional context and support along the way.
Episode #5: Managing Fear in College (11 minutes)
Fear is such a common and powerful emotion in college, and if you’re feeling anxious, you’re certainly not alone. In this episode, Producers Tanita Cronk and Ana Leyva walk us through their social and personal anxieties in college, examining the ways they’ve been able to build relationships as well as get the counseling/advising support they’ve needed to feel more comfortable at college and to keep their fears to manageable proportions.
Episode #6: Seeking Financial Aid (10 minutes)
Money is always a challenge, but college expenses make earning, borrowing and managing money even that much more challenging. In this episode, Faculty Producer Dave Engen joins a first-year student on campus as the student meets with a financial aid expert for the first time. After that, Producer Tanita Cronk seeks out wisdom from a resources advocate who has experienced college while living in the crisis of poverty.
Episode #7: Exploring the Value of Gen Eds (11.5 minutes)
In this episode, we dare to ask a question that many of you are wondering about: why do you have to take all of these general education courses? Our producer team sits down for a roundtable discussion about the give and take of their gen ed experiences, and then Producer Monte Brown looks back on a general education course that ended up having a powerful impact on the way he saw himself as an African-American man and a scholar.
Episode #8: Going Back Home (12.5 minutes)
College changes who you are, and that can mean that “going home” can take on a different meaning after you’ve started college. In the eighth episode, our FYP producers take their audio recorders home, giving us a few of the sights and sounds of the places and people in their lives. But the focus of this episode is a story told by Faculty Producer Dave Engen. Engen reflects on the tensions of being caught between two worlds in college: the world of the professional middle class that college was preparing him to join and the working-class community in which he was raised.
Episode #9: Getting Involved Outside the Classroom (11 minutes)
In our ninth episode, we explore the important learning experiences that happen when we leave the college classroom and get involved with student life. Producer Emily Albright reflects on her first shaky steps into on-campus clubs and activities, and then later playfully crashes a celebration for a student-run newspaper, getting the staff members’ thoughts on what getting involved on campus means to their college education.
Episode #10: Creating Your Place on Campus (10.5 minutes)
How do you turn college space into your space? In this episode, we bring the title of our series into focus. Producers Ana, Marko and Monte share sounds from their favorite places on campus, while Producer Marko sits down with Maxwell Poessnecker, Associate Director of Student Life and the Director of the first U.S. community college LGBTQ Center. Together, they examine the specific challenges that LGBTQ+ students can face as they try to find security and visibility, as well as the general challenges that all students face as they seek a space where they truly belong.
Episode #11: Connecting with Mentors (10.5 minutes)
We’ve said it before, but no one really succeeds in college on their own. In this episode, our FYP producers get together to share their thoughts on being mentored in college and how it can make all the difference in achieving your goals. Producer Monte Brown then goes back to interview a vitally important mentor he met on his journey to becoming an education major and teacher.
Episode #12: Communicating with Your Professors (9.5 minutes)
Depending on how you’re raised, interacting with people in authority can be frightening, frustrating and something you’d rather avoid. In our final core episode, Producer Tanita Cronk bravely seeks out one of her professors during office hours to learn more about office visits, while other college and university faculty offer their advice for making the most out of your in- class and out-of-class interactions with your professors.
Emily Albright (Minnesota State University, Mankato) Emily majored in Communication Studies and minored in Mass Media. Emily is a known mentor and was heavily involved on campus as a Student Ambassador and a Community Advisor in the Residence Halls at Minnesota State. She graduated in Spring, 2019 and currently works as an Admissions Officer for Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Sontiana (Sonti) Brandts (Minnesota State University, Mankato) Sonti majored in Communication Studies and minored in Psychology. As she states in an early episode, Sonti was “navigating college from a wheelchair” after an automobile accident left her paralyzed. Sonti’s journey to college involved many ups and downs, starts and stops, and uncertainty in her chosen field of study. Ultimately, however, she found her way and graduated in Spring, 2019.
Monte Brown (Minnesota State University, Mankato) Monte majored in Education with an emphasis in Health Education. He was student- teaching at the time this podcast was made. A significant part of Monte’s educational story involved finding his place and his identity in college as an African-American man on a predominately white campus. He graduated in Spring 2019 and is currently a graduate student in the College of Education at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Tanita Cronk (Century College) Tanita is completing her Liberal Arts transfer pathway with an emphasis in Creative Writing and Communication Studies. She served as the editor of The Century Times, and has been employed at Century College as a much-in-demand in-class and Peer Tutor. She is the mother of two children, and she’s prepared to transfer to Metro State University during the 2019-20 year.
Ana Leyva (Minnesota State University, Mankato) Ana majored in Music Education. She describes herself in the introductory episode as “just another first-generation Hispanic student,” but she has gained much recognition and acclaim as an Honors student and in her role as a Learning Community Coordinator. Ana graduated and the Spring of 2020 and will soon begin her teaching career.
Marko Milosevic (Century College) Marko is completing his Liberal Arts transfer pathway with an emphasis in Communication Studies and a direction towards public policy and advocacy. Marko has earned multiple Bronze Stars for his tours of duty in the US Army. He’s a tireless voice for veterans in the classroom and in the community, a mentor and in-class tutor, and he continues to work with the Veteran’s Defense Project to promote restorative justice for returning veterans.
In addition to the 12 primary episodes detailed above, The Finding Your Place Podcast features 10 supplementary episodes focusing on more specific features of the college experience.
The supplementary episodes were created by students in Robert Jersak’s Interviewing class at Century College in the spring of 2018.
The supplementary episodes include...
- Episode 1: Getting Political and Critical in College
- Episode 2: The PSEO Choice
- Episode 3: Full Time Student, Full Time Worker
- Episode 4: A Veteran’s POV
- Episode 5: Expectations of a Muslim Student (Part one)
- Episode 6: Expectations of a Muslim Student (Part two)
- Episode 7: Disability Visibility
- Episode 8: Surviving Group Work
- Episode 9: Being a Single Mother in College
- Episode 10: Crossing Cultural Boundaries
- “It made it feel like I wasn’t the only one who had the struggles I was going through. Also it was nice knowing tips to get over the problems and see what you can do.”
- “I went to the MLC to get help for math because the podcasts made me feel more motivated to do so.”
- “I really did manage my time better after listening to one of the podcasts, I realized that I had to do this to be a successful student.”
- “The experience of listening to the podcast gave me a better understanding of college life. It made me feel more accepted and comfortable.”
- “The podcast makes you feel more comforted and not alone.”
- “I felt a calming sense when listening to the podcast. It made me feel like I was there with them.”
- "The Finding your Place Podcasts helped because real students answered a lot of my questions about college. I was very uncertain what I wanted to do as a career and the podcasts made me realize how common that is. I even listened to a few of them with my roommate and they helped her out as well. The FAFSA podcast answered quite a few of my questions that I had and was nervous about because I didn’t know the answers. I understand FAFSA a lot more and helped my mom understand it as well. I came into college with no previous college in my family so we’re all learning together. I felt very pressured coming into college because I didn’t know much about it and I figured I was the only one. These podcasts made me feel a lot better and made me actually believe in myself.”
The Finding Your Place Podcast is an open educational resource, and can be assigned much like a text would be assigned. We’ve also created a free supplementary Educator’s Guide as well, providing a range of resources designed to help with classroom use, including learning outcomes for each episode. Feel free to download and use as you see fit.