History podcast launched

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SVSU’s Department of History has kept itself busy with the creation of a new podcast and blog.

The blog, called “Know the Past, Know the Present,” is home to the podcast “Argument without End.” The latter was named by SVSU students via Twitter and Facebook polls.
The department decided to create the blog and podcast last December and first posted it this May.

“We wanted to increase the social media presence of the history department and show our students what our interests are outside the classroom,” said Associate Professor of History John Baesler. “The website gives us a chance to extended conversations about history and its relevance to the world outside the classroom.”

Kathleen McGuire, an adjunct faculty involved in the podcast, echoed that point.

“One of the things we run into a lot in the classroom is the conception that history is boring,” McGuire said. “Certainly, we understand where that comes from, but we hope to use the podcast to peel back the curtain. Let’s bring you in, sit you down at our table and talk to you. We might be able to tell you why we think history is valuable.”

The history department also hoped the podcast and blog would show students the knowledge and connections their professors have outside of the classroom.

“The professors that students are taking classes with in history are linked to a broader community of scholars that are international,” said Assistant Professor of History Isaac Stephens. “It shows that we are peers with these people. Students are really getting the cutting edge of how people are thinking about history today.”

The podcasts are largely ad-libbed, meaning the professors do not have notes off which they read. Although the topic is planned in advanced, the conversations are largely self-moderated and unscripted.

“We want it to feel as much like a natural conversation as possible,” Stephens said.

The topics chosen are up to the discretion of the professors and what they believe are the most relevant topics. In the future, though, polls to choose the next topics may be posted on Twitter and Facebook.

So far, there have been three podcasts. The first podcast discussed neoliberalism and its connection to the election of Trump and Brexit. The second episode discussed why history matters, such as describing what history actually entails and careers within the field of history.

The latest episode of the podcast discusses the similarities between the American Civil War and the British Civil War of the 1600s. The blog also relates those past civil wars to current ones, such as the ongoing conflict in Syria.

While the podcasts and blogs share certain professors’ thoughts on an event or concept, each posting also has a list of further readings for viewers to research and form their own opinions.

“We want to give people the opportunity to think about what we’ve said in the podcast and then explore for themselves any of the subjects they are interested in,” McGuire said.

The history department asks other academic departments for help, especially when they are ready to record a podcast.

“Thankfully, (Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Professional writing Scott Kowalewski) has been very gracious in recording the podcast in the studio his department runs,” Baesler said. “That has made recording the podcasts very easy.”

Given their success, the history department is also developing a spinoff podcast, “Chat with Clio,” who is the muse of history. Instead of the roundtable setup of the current podcast, this would focus on one-on-one interviews.

In fact, the history department already has some interviews lined up, including Samantha Engel, the historian for the Dow Gardens, and Vanessa Wilkie, the curator for medieval and British manuscripts at California’s Huntington Library. They also plan on interviewing historians on the English Restoration Era of the 1600s from a conference in Milwaukee.

In the meantime, the history department hopes students will keep tuning in to their blog and podcast.

“We hope that the website will help us showcase the fact that the SVSU history department has dedicated faculty with a lot of expertise in their fields of study,” Baesler said. “(I also hope) that students will get to know us better, not just as teachers in the classroom, but also as conversation partners and, frankly, human beings with beliefs and opinions of their own.”

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