New history department podcast aims to make academic subjects more accessible

Posted by Centre News in Academics, Campus, History, News 22 Sep 2017

John Harney teachingListen to the Centre Trail podcast here.

Two Centre College history professors have created a podcast called Centre Trail to discuss topics ranging from the historical context of current events to the everyday life of students and faculty in the history department.

Starting this semester, John Harney and Tara Strauch, both assistant professors of history, combined their interests in sharing on-campus experiences to a wider audience to create Centre Trail. Each professor had worked on online platforms in the past and wanted to make a more Centre-centric project that encouraged student participation.

“I wanted the conversations that faculty tend to have to be shared with students and alumni,” Strauch said, “We also wanted multiple ways students could be involved—in writing and orally.”

Tara Strauch

Tara Strauch

Harney added that the student and class concentration on academic writing, while important in a college environment, could present communication barriers in other areas of life. Therefore, students on this podcast would learn how to better converse with the broader public about their research interests.

“We wanted students to be able to reproduce knowledge in an accessible way,” Harney said, “I knew from experience that the bars to access [on a podcast] weren’t high. And we tend to keep the format pretty conversational.”

The podcast has a growing audience, even stretching off-campus as he noted that Centre alumni had reached out and reacted to their project. Additionally, Strauch remarked that K-12 social studies teachers had found Centre Trail useful.

So far, the podcast has produced episodes on life in the history department on campus, baseball and current events, such as the recent hurricanes in the southern United States and the rising tension on the Korean peninsula.

The next episode will debut on Sept. 25, when their colleague Jon Earle, assistant professor of history, will talk about the upcoming movie “Black Panther” with a student.

In the future, they hope to discuss baseball for the week of the World Series and to invite history seminar students on air to speak about their research topics and their class experiences.

“This is a very safe way to make our community open,” Strauch concluded, “It lets people know how college students and faculty talk.”

Centre Trail releases new episodes every Monday on iTunes, SoundCloud and its website.

By Kathleen Murphy ’18
September 22, 2017