Episode 100 - Innovation in Higher Education: Lessons Learned - The 100th Episode

President Scott L Wyatt and Steve Meredith are joined by the entire Solutions for Higher Education team. From recording to distribution, this week’s guests cover all the steps in the podcast’s production. Bailey Bowthorpe, Libby Meredith, Natasha Johnson, Lexi Carter, and Jill Whitaker join in to share their part of the process and their favorite episodes from the years.

Full Transcript

Steve Meredith: Hi again everyone, and welcome to Solutions for Higher Education, a podcast featuring Scott L Wyatt, the president of Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah. I'm your host, Steve Meredith, and I'm joined in this special 100th episode podcast on Zoom by President Wyatt. We are not in the same room, Scott.

Scott Wyatt: No, we are far apart.

S. Meredith: Well, about 18 feet. You're in your office and I'm in my office. But that allows us to have COVID compliance, and isn't that a wonderful thing? No one has to wear masks today, because we're all six feet apart and walls away from each other.

Wyatt: We're all in our own offices.

S. Meredith: Pretty awesome. So, we were just chatting about the fact that this podcast actually fits pretty well in a couple of different ways. For those of our listeners at home that tune in regularly, they know that the 2020-21 academic year is going to be focused on us talking about "how the sausage gets made" in higher ed. Looking behind the innovations that we have undertaken and seeing where they stand and what things have worked and what things haven't worked. And today, in celebration of this, our 100th episode, we decided to talk about how the podcast sausage gets made. And I don't know that it will be interesting to our listeners, but it's actually pretty interesting. At least in my opinion.

Wyatt: If it's interesting to us, Steve, how could it not be interesting to everyone else?

S. Meredith: Yeah. Two smart guys like us, how could it not be interesting to everyone else? [Both laugh] We were talking about the fact that we couldn't believe, in fact, that this was our 100th episode. And probably, President, it's worthwhile jumping in before we introduce everyone to just a little bit of the history. Why in the world did you have the idea to do a podcast? What could have possibly possessed you to think that was a good idea?

Wyatt: There are those that still ask that question of themselves.

S. Meredith: [Laughs] Including those on the screen here.

Wyatt: No, this actually started as a means to try to communicate to the employees at the university some of the things that we're thinking about and answer questions and explore ideas. So, that's kind of how it started, and we started by bringing in faculty to talk about their research and innovations at the university and challenges that we face. I remember when we were talking about the title for this that that kind of shaped how we approached the podcast itself.

S. Meredith: Yeah, we agonized a little bit over the title and ran some analytic studies of what we thought would work and what wouldn't.

Wyatt: And we ended up saying, this is Solutions for Higher Education. We're trying to find answers to a lot of the different questions, and I think that's helped guide us. And so, in particular lately, we've really focused on the core of that title: solutions. We've talked a lot about the challenges in the innovations that come our way.

S. Meredith: Especially, I think, we've had a focus on as you say innovative practice, and we've tried to I think also act a little bit as watchmen on the fence to kind of warn people about what's upcoming, whether it's demographic shifts or enrollment collapses or even just campus changes that are likely to occur. I had one of my fellow co-workers say to me, "I never really knew what was going on at SUU and then I subscribed to the podcast, and now I know exactly what is going to happen next because the president always talks about it." And so, I think we've tried to give people a heads up in that way as well.

Wyatt: Yeah. But if we really focus on how this thing got started, this is how it happened. I said to you Steve, "Hey, Steve, it would be a good idea to have a podcast." And you said, "OK, let's do it." And then I turned around and you've got the first person scheduled and you've got all the technology put together…so, we're actually doing this because you actually made it happen.

S. Meredith: Well, if you just want to make chit-chat, you always need to let me know, otherwise I'm going to take it as a direct order and just do it. [Both laugh] That's…I think that's been the nature of our relationship is you say something and I try to make it happen. And hopefully, we're both good at that.

Wyatt: Yeah, the word "try" doesn't work, though. You make it happen. Well, that's great. Should we start introducing our guests?

S. Meredith: Yeah, let's do that. We have a number of people that work every week on the podcast that are really the unsung heroes, here, and they've joined us on this Zoom broadcast, and if you're watching this on video you can see them. If you're just listening at home to the audio portion, President Wyatt, why don't you start? And we're going to go kind of around the room, if you will, based on how we actually make podcasts. And so, the first thing we do is we find a topic and we find interesting people to discuss that topic with us.

Wyatt: So, we're going to start out with Bailey Bowthorpe. She's my colleague and her desk is right outside of my office, and everything that needs to be done, she finds a way to get it done, and Bailey schedules our guests. So, Bailey, it's all yours.

Bailey Bowthorpe: Yes, thanks President. It's been fun, I haven't been working here at SUU for too long, but it's been really fun to be a part of the podcast and get kind of the inside scoop about all of the guests that you have come on. So, it's fun to be able to work with them and schedule them to come on and talk with you and Steve. And then from there, it goes over to Libby Meredith after they've been interviewed.

S. Meredith: So, Bailey, talk just a little bit more about your…how do you book somebody? I mean, do you just make cold calls? Or President and I say who we'd really like to talk to? How does that process unfold?

Bowthorpe: Yeah, a little bit of both. Well, I think for this season that we're in right now, we took some time, the three of us, to do some brainstorming about what topics you wanted to cover and then who would be a good fit to come on as guests. So, it's a collaboration for sure. For the podcasts that we did this summer, it was cold calling. For all of the authors that we had come on to discuss the President's Book Club for this summer, those were just doing research and finding their information and giving them a cold call to see if they'd be a part of the podcast. And I think we were really lucky this summer to have all three of the authors of the President's…

S. Meredith: What's your experience been in booking them? Famous people, in booking famous people? Have they largely been kind and nice and agreeable or have they…? What's it been like? What's that experience been?

Bowthorpe: Yeah, they've all been very kind and nice and agreeable. I think everybody is anxious to share what they've been doing or what they've worked really hard on to achieve, like writing a book…I'd say that's a pretty big deal. [Laughs] So, I think they're always anxious to share and have a platform to share like a podcast. It's really easy, especially right now, it's easy for them to get on the phone and record a conversation with someone. Everybody's got a little bit of extra time.

S. Meredith: So, President, we should be clear about the fact that we run this podcast on a zero-dollar budget. And the entirety of the swag bag that we send out is a coffee mug. And so, these very highfalutin people that we had for the summer book club all got an SUU mug, and that was the extent of the payment they receive. So, it's pretty amazing that we've been able to book people of national stature to come on the podcast with so little financial enticement.

Wyatt: Yeah. Well, the SUU mugs are pretty amazing, so I think . . .

S. Meredith: They are good mugs. I think they're lead-poisoning free and everything. So, yeah, they've good mugs. Bailey, what's your favorite episode of the podcast? You say you've been here a short time…have you had a chance to listen to them?

Bowthorpe: Yeah, I'm actually going to go with one that was quite recent, but it was from the summer when you talked with David Shively, the author of The Pacific Alone. I… when I booked him for the podcast, I decided I wanted to read the book. So, I went and got the book and read it in just a few days. It was such an interesting story to me and really captivating, and I loved the conversation that you all had in that podcast, Episode 89, about just resilience and grit and how you kind of tie it in the story of Ed Gillette who crossed the Pacific alone in the kayak to how we are capable of doing things beyond what we think we are. And that was a good little motivation I think this summer when things were looking so different and we're all kind of in a new environment. I found that to be particularly inspiring.

S. Meredith: So, we're going to go ahead and take just a second and listen to an audio snippet from Episode 89. The book was, The Pacific Alone, by Dave Shively and it talks about Ed Gillette and his kayak adventure.

Episode 89 - The Pacific Alone with author Dave Shively

Wyatt: …One of the interesting things about this book was several references in it that he didn't want to talk about this story. Tell us about how you got to know him and his willingness to open up to you?

Dave Shively: Yeah, so in 1987 Ed did the kind of never before, never since crossing 2500+ miles over 64 days from California to Hawaii, and he did it without the aid of GPS, no satellite phone, no navigation aside from a compass and a sextant. So, he didn't have any sort of inbound or really toward the end of the book, outbound communications systems. So, he arrived in August in 1987 in Maui to no fanfare. You know, no one knows he's going to arrive, washes up on the beach, and by the time he is able to contact his family and is greeted, it becomes sort of a thing. And the only reason he's able to fly back to the mainland is an invitation from The Tonight Show. So, he lands himself with spot-on instant fame. At the time, Johnny Carson was the one and only show that America was tuned into, so, kind of increases his cachet to instant celebrity, comes back to San Diego where he was running a kayak job with his wife at the time and all of the sudden, everybody knows who he is, is asking him questions and sort of peppering him and asking him…just, I don't know, inappropriate things about this what he saw as more of an internal solo quest. He did this journey completely out of pocket, no sponsors, no media fanfare. He really internalized the voyage as the test itself that really did test his limits. He wrote a will to his wife because he thought he was going to die when he ended up running out of food along the way. So, it was this really intrinsic, important thing to him that when he was just questioned casually about it, calloused him and he kind of turned away from it and people ended up coming to his shop and he didn't' even tell them it was him who did the trip and year after year, he didn't publish anything about it, he didn't write about it, he stopped granting interviews. So, in the kayak community, he became this sort of living legend. The feat that no one had really heard about. And then in the process of reporting, fast forwarding 25 years, when I was working at Canoe and Kayak, I started covering a handful of these attempts in late 2012-2013 to replicate his trip. No one had…no one before, no one has since paddled to Hawaii. So, there was a handful of guys that were trying to replicate his trip in a standard sea kayak, and in the process of recording them, three in a row had pretty spectacular failures on day one of launching their trips. And reporting and finding out more about these guys who were trying to get a lot of media fanfare, were trying to get a lot of sponsorship dollars and they all got turned around on the first day and had State Coast Guard rescues involved, I started thinking to myself, "Are these guys really the story? Or is the story this guy Ed Gillet, who 25 years ago did this with…went way further using way less?" So, I called Ed up and we had a conversation that sort of lit the fire for what sustained me through this book project for the next five years.

S. Meredith: That was a really interesting book. I remember actually being pretty entranced by that whole thing. I love all the books we choose, President, but what drew you to The Pacific Alone? I remember you saying it was sort of the ultimate COVID distancing book…

Wyatt: [Laughs] That's right. I think there were two things. One, I tend to spend most of my time, and we talk about this a lot, but I spend most of my time reading nonfiction works and most of it's kind of academic-like, but when I have event, I love to read some outdoor, true-to-life story. And so, reading the story of this guy taking the one-person kayak from California to Hawaii just seemed like a really neat story. But we picked it because it was the ultimate social distancing book. You can't social distance more than that, so that was the deal.

S. Meredith: If you haven't had a chance to either read that book or visit Podcast Episode 89, you should take the time to do it. It's pretty interesting. So, Bailey, after you book the guests and the President and I record the podcast, then what happens?

Bowthorpe: Then it goes over to Libby who helps make sure the audio is good to go and she's the expert on that, so I'll let her…

Libby Meredith: So, yeah, I'm Libby Meredith. I am an alumni of SUU, I got my Master's Degree in Music Technology just in 2019 I graduated. And now I currently work for the OTL department as part of their new media team that is helping faculty and different groups on campus put together online videos and resources to improve their classes, and so that's what I'm doing right now.

Wyatt: So, Libby, for our listeners, what is OTL department?

L. Meredith: The Online Teaching and Learning Department, yes.

S. Meredith: And President, we've made a big push in online learning. We've actually been talking about that, and the OTL production team represents one of those big pushes. They do…I just know because I've watched Libby literally travel the entire length and breadth of the southwest all summer long shooting videos for geography classes and outdoor learning, and they've been very, very active since they've started here. But, yeah, Libby's job is to get the file from me.

L. Meredith: Yes.

S. Meredith: So, let's talk a little bit about that. We delve into…not too much in the tech weeds, but President and I actually record this podcast at the Center for Music Technology…

L. Meredith: Yes.

S. Meredith: Which we also call "The Bradshaw House," from the original owners. And we make fun of it…it's a mid-century home adjacent to the campus and someday we'll take pictures and post it online, but it really is the best of 1952 American home building. A beautiful old home, it just is a funny place for a podcast recording, but we love it. And we record on a Rode Podcaster Pro, which is a little four to eight track unit. I take those little audio cards, they look like camera cards most of us would recognize, SD cards, and I take the multi-track version—and when I say multi-track, Scott's on one track, I'm on one track and our phone guest is on one track, if we have live guests, they are on yet another track and the music is on yet another track. And so, you have to keep track of somewhere between typically four and eight tracks of audio and…

Wyatt: And keep track of the tracks, Steve.

S. Meredith: That's right.

L. Meredith: Yeah.

S. Meredith: And it's harder than that, too, because…well, you tell. What is it that you do? When you get the audio, what do you do to it?

L. Meredith: Well, so the main thing I am looking for is…so, because you're all close together, everyone's mics are kind of picking up when everyone is speaking, not just when that person is speaking. So, what I'm trying to do is kind of clean up that person's track from the stray audio, you know, that's coming from when you're speaking but it's being picked up by President Wyatt's microphone or something. And that really improves the overall sound. And I'm also trying to look for anything I can do to help the conversation flow better. Like if there's a point where you guys start over because somebody messed up, I'm going to take that out…or if there's an especially long pause because somebody is trying to think of something to say, I'm going to shorten that so it kind of flows like a more…a little bit better than it would and doesn't sound so awkward or…coughing or stuff like that.

S. Meredith: We are never awkward and we never make mistakes.

L. Meredith: [Laughs]

Wyatt: What if a car pulls up in front of the Bradshaw house with a very, very, very loud idle?

L. Meredith: [Laughs] Oh man. Well, sometimes I can't do anything about that. Some sounds I can't really get rid of if somebody is talking over that sound, then I cannot delete…obviously I can't delete when that person is talking. So, sometimes sounds…you're just going to have to live with it, unfortunately.

S. Meredith: We actually have some pretty sophisticated software that can model the noise of a room and just, if it's consistent noise…

L. Meredith: Yes.

S. Meredith: Like the air handler or buzz of a light or something you can get rid of it. But the President brings that up because you're going to have some interesting challenges coming up, because we've had some people open the door and we've had a few more idle their cars.

L. Meredith: I have heard I think on the podcast…so, I'm currently editing the audio for one of your recent podcasts, and I did hear a door open at one point. So, it's…yeah. You can't get rid of everything, but I try to make it sound as clean and nice as possible.

S. Meredith: She makes us sound way smarter than we are. The queen of deleting the "hums" and "uh's."

L. Meredith: [Laughs] Yeah.

Wyatt: So, Libby, what's your favorite podcast?

L. Meredith: My favorite is Episode 32 – YouTube vs. Higher Education with Guest Dan Anderegg. I got to know…I had the pleasure of getting to know Dan Anderegg as a student in the Master of Music Technology Degree and he's very interesting. He was one of my favorite professors, and just hearing him talk more about his story was really fascinating and also getting…that subject I thought really applied to me and my experiences at the time. I was actually in the degree program at the time when that came out, and we did use YouTube as part of our learning process within the degree, but as is discussed in the episode, they were videos that were chosen by our professors and not just random videos we got to go choose. So, there was the context of, "This is a good source of information to teach you about how to use this software or to teach you about this specific technique" or something. And so, I just thought that was really interesting. And…yeah, just knowing how much my generation relies on YouTube as well, I felt like it's a very applicable subject.

S. Meredith: Let's listen to a snippet of Episode 32, that's YouTube vs. Higher Education with our guest Dan Anderegg:

Episode 32: YouTube vs. Higher Education

S. Meredith: …What extra value does higher education add that you cannot get through a YouTube tutorial?

Dan Anderegg: …I will admit that there is a wealth of knowledge—whether it's YouTube or a paid for service like Pluralsight or anywhere else, there's so many places online you can find this information—whether it is paid for or not, there is a wealth of knowledge and I could learn information—it's just at my fingertips—about anything. I could learn quantum mechanics. Someone has put the information online. But, curating it, because there is so much of it, the quality of that needs to be curated by somebody who actually understands the subject, and then, beyond that, there's a mentorship element to it that teaches you application. So, you know, I can read, if I want to learn photography, I can read and read and read all about lighting and how to use lighting and then go experiment with it, but who's going to tell me who's right or wrong in an environment that I'm going to learn it in a safe way? Unless they go out there and get a bunch of gigs and take people's money and get the lighting really wrong and have a whole bunch of really mad customers, I'm going to learn from that, but it's a really painful, painful time.

S. Meredith: And you probably are out of business before you get the lesson all the way learned.

Anderegg: Right, you know, word of mouth. There's no way I'm going to get more clients in that city. So, I really feel like the benefit there is curating the right content. Finding the content that teaches the right thing without misinformation. There are a lot of people that put stuff online that have learned it themselves or learned it from another YouTube tutorial, and they may just not know a couple of pitfalls because they haven't run into them yet. But a trusted mentor, who's curated it, and guides you through the process of implementing it into your own art, or maybe you're not doing art, is invaluable. Absolutely invaluable. And that is prolonged after you receive your actual degree piece of paper and walk away from school. I'm still in touch with professors who I worked with in higher ed, and like I said, our texts were watching clips of videos on YouTube and discussing them and critiquing them and rescoring them and I think that's really the value and the difference between just hearing and knowing the information and really, truly implementing that into what I do.

S. Meredith: So, Dan actually is now the program director of our Music Technology degree as I've stepped away from that, President, and he not only was a terrific guest, but he wrote the music for a couple of years of Grey's Anatomy. It's one of those things where it is fun to get people of national stature not only on the podcast, but actually working for SUU. So, Libby, then you pass the podcast to whom?

L. Meredith: Yes. So, after I finish the audio, I sent the files to Natasha Johnson and she begins the process of transcribing the podcast, and so I'll let her talk about that.

Natasha Johnson: Yes. So, I actually am no longer officially at SUU. I worked there as the administrative assistant for the Biology Department for two years. My husband graduated back in 2018 so we moved away, so I was no longer able to work in that capacity. But here I am still doing podcasts, which is actually really fun for me because I get to sort of stay in the loop still with what's happening at the university, which is fun for me because I am also an alumni from there. So…but yes, I am the transcriber so I'm the one responsible for the typos, or hopefully, there's not all that many typos, but if you do see any, that's my bad, though after me sometimes those do get caught as well. But, yeah, I listen to the audio and I type it out. Some people aren't…they'd rather not listen to the audio, they'd rather read the text—that's usually me because I usually sort of speed read things maybe faster than just listening to the audio, but yes, so that we have another format available for people to…

Wyatt: Well, and we do that also because we need to have this available and accessible for those that are hearing impaired.

Johnson: Right. Yeah, of course. So, that makes it so that they are also able to read the podcast if that is something their…

S. Meredith: Tasha, you take a .WAV file or an .MP3 file…

Johnson: Mhmm.

S. Meredith: And…now, you have separate software, don't you? That you use to transcribe that sort of slows things down without making them [in low voice] "go like that…" Just slows down the speed of things so you can type as you hear. Is that correct?

Johnson: Yes. Yeah, I did try at one point…I mean there is software that you just load audio into it and it transcribes it for you, but I found that it took way longer to clean that up than it did to just go ahead and type it all out. So, yes, I have some software. It does deepen the voices a little bit. I can never do the podcast while my husband is at home because he knows both you and President Wyatt, and he just laughs. He's like, "Oh, it just sounds like they're on drugs." [Laughter] So, it does lower your voices a little bit. So, yeah, I can never do those while he's in the room because I can't get any work done because he's laughing about it. But yes, I do, I slow down that audio so that I can go ahead and type it out.

S. Meredith: Scott's a tenor, he could use a little of that. [All laugh]

Johnson: Yeah, it makes you pretty low though, so…

Wyatt: Yeah, I could use a little lowering and Steve can't get much lower.

S. Meredith: I don't know about that. So, Natasha, what…you've, as you say, you started…you were I think our first transcriptionist and you've been with us maybe as long as anybody. What's been your favorite podcast over our now four years of work?

Johnson: So, yeah it actually was kind of fun to look back because I have been here since podcast number one, so just kind of looking back and remembering some of the great podcasts that we have had, and I actually chose Podcast 2 as my favorite, if you will, and it was one free speech and I remember at the time listening to it, I just was really interested with that topic, especially as it pertains to higher education. And re-reading it this time, it was almost even more interesting because the way that the political climate is right now. I just think that it is so pertinent…I mean, it's a great solution for higher education, but also in so many other facets of life. And there actually is no special guest on that, you and President Wyatt are the special guests. Those that know President Wyatt or listen to the podcast know that he has a background in law and I think that that offers actually a really cool perspective on the podcast sometimes. And you guys just talk about how it's not the job of the university to censor speech. I mean, 100% yes, promote appropriate speech, but when there is speech that is maybe hurtful to somebody or offensive, not necessarily to censor that or stifle that but to take those two parties and teach them how to have a conversation about it, which I think if universities really focused on that more, we wouldn't have so many problems post-university. I mean, people would have the skillset then to agree to disagree if that's what it comes to, but to not have so much divisiveness and so…anyways. I really enjoyed that podcast.

S. Meredith: The good news is that we completely ended the discussion with that and it's all been the same since then, right, President? You don't have to deal with this on an almost daily basis? [All laugh]

Wyatt: Well, we did that podcast and another one similar to it later.

Johnson: Yeah.

Wyatt: Yeah, this is one of those real challenges, because many people think that the number one value should be kindness, and that all speech that has any negative tone to it should be thrown away, or that, "Speech that disagrees with my political views should be censored," however you phrase it. But our job is to be the marketplace of ideas, and the good ideas rise to the top and the bad ideas get washed out. And you're right…and I was thinking, Tasha, as you were describing that—I'm super happy that was your favorite one and that you still remember it from so long ago—but I was thinking as we look back at the debates that were in the middle of leading up to this election. We as a country have a great need to figure out how to listen to things that might be offensive to us and have intelligent conversations about those things.

Johnson: Yeah, for sure.

Wyatt: Rather than being divisive.

Johnson: And honestly before that podcast, I did a bachelor's, I did a master's, and it never once occurred to me that, as you point out in that podcast, the university is a government entity. So, if universities are censoring speech then that's essentially government censoring speech which is never a good thing.

Wyatt: Never allowed. Not allowed. Very good.

S. Meredith: Yeah, let's take a listen. This is going way back. This is Episode 2: Free Speech and the College Campus and this is Natasha's favorite episode.

Episode 2: Free Speech and the College Campus

Wyatt: …Universities and colleges today find themselves between competing interests. On the one hand, we really want an environment that is welcome to all. We really want our students to be respectful and courteous, and to make a place where everybody feels comfortable, wanted, welcome. But in order to do that, too often times there is a temptation to curtail speech. You know, the kind of speech that creates an environment that might be less than warm and welcoming to everyone. And we sometimes attach a name to this type of speech called "hate speech". Speech that expresses negative and disparaging things about groups.

S. Meredith: Groups that are typically thought to be either minority or aggrieved in some way, or worthy of special protections under the law perhaps?

Wyatt: Yeah, or groups that have been marginalized in one way or another, and so it's just a real temptation that . . . universities—at least public universities—are government spaces, and the employees are government employees. The president of the university (that's me), the faculty (that's you), and all of the staff and faculty members—we're actually government employees. Sometimes we don't think that. We're members of the executive branch of government, and therefore, the First Amendment protections of free speech—which bars government from denying free speech—applies to us. We're government. The First Amendment was written to keep us from censoring speech.

S. Meredith: So, President, I made a joke about you having to follow up on free speech. The combination of your legal background and your political background has made this…this is an issue you're passionate about, isn't it?

Wyatt: Right. And even today a student made an appointment because he feels like he doesn't have as much opportunity to speak because of his political views, and I was reassuring him that all views are welcome here. And as we kept talking, he started complaining to me about some of the other things that had been said on campus in The Journal or wherever they might be, and I got to remind him [Laughs], "It's free speech."

S. Meredith: A two way street.

Wyatt: And I got smiles from him because he realized the challenge. So, my advice to him was to speak more. [Laughs] Not to try to find a way to silence somebody that disagrees. That's the right answer. But even today, you said this is a constant issue.

S. Meredith: So, Natasha, after you've transcribed it, you and I review it for accuracy and we talk a little bit about it. I typically will pull a couple of quotes out—usually I'll focus on something I think is really hard hitting or something that's funny that will capture somebody's attention if they're just barely glancing at the new podcast episode, there's something there that might attract their eye, always thinking about marketing which is where it goes next.

Lexi Carter: Yes. I'm Lexi Carter and I'm the marketing manager here at SUU and I've also been with the podcast since the beginning, which is crazy.

S. Meredith: That's right, yeah.

Carter: Yeah. But I work in the Marketing and Communication Office here and run all of SUU's advertising, mainly their digital advertising, I run SUU's main social media channels, and then I do a lot of work with Jill's team, who is also on this call, with the website. And specifically, with the podcast though, once I get the transcription…I'll be honest, I've read way more podcast episodes than I've actually listened to. I'm the one you're writing the transcriptions for, Natasha. But I read through the transcription and I draft a short summary that tries to incorporate everything that you guys talk about, and sometimes that's difficult because sometimes the episodes are pretty long and lengthy and you cover a lot of different topics with your guests. And then after I write the summary, I send it off to Jill but then once it's published, I get the link back and I help promote that on some of SUU's social media channels.

S. Meredith: So, Lexi, what is your favorite episode?

Carter: Yeah, one of my favorites—there's a few in there—but you've done a few different enrollment series', and that's right up my alley of what I'm working on of digital advertising and recruitment. And so, one of my favorites is actually one of a more recent one, Episode 83 with Madeleine Rhyneer, I believe you say, and she works for EAB and wrote an article in The Chronicle titled, "No, Your College is Not an Exception." And in that…in your episode, she talks a lot about how at a university, it's easy for us to sell the transformational experience of a university, but sometimes a 17 year old in high school isn't ready to like…they don't even know that there's going to be that big of a transformation and that's a really hard sell. And so, looking at it more as a transaction and being able to find out what your values are as a brand and as a university and clearly communicate that to a 17 year old. And she, again, was relating it all back to the enrollment…the looming enrollment crisis that has been in The Chronicle and things like that and how no college is an exception to that crisis, but how if you really want to stand out in the marketplace, you really need to drill down to what your values are and be able to communicate that in a very clear, succinct way to your audience.

S. Meredith: Well, let's listen to a little snippet of Episode 83, it's called "Your College is Not an Exception" and, as Lexi suggested, our guest that day was Madeleine Rhyneer and she works for EAB. This is Episode 83:

Episode 83 - Your College is Not an Exception

Madeleine Rhyneer: …Most people look at the looming demographic crisis in '25, '26, it's always, "That's the other guy's problem, because we, whatever our institution is, we are so special and we have such a unique sort of offering to students and families that the trend that could be impacting other people, it just…it won't impact us." And so, I feel like it's important to have honest conversations and sometimes they end up being pretty direct conversations to say, "Actually, in the mind of the public, we all do more or less the same thing, and we do it more or less close to them, more or less well or not-well, more or less online or in a virtual format." And that sort of the traditional, "If we build it because we're here, they will come," that just isn't working anymore. And I think especially, and this was born out of the results that then became clear later in the fall of 2019 because so many schools last year did not meet their enrollment headcount or net tuition revenue goals or both that there was, because I'm a huge Star Wars fan, there was a big disturbance in the force. [All laugh] Many people have believed that you see all the demographic charts and everyone is reading Nathan Grawe's work and trying to plan ahead, you thought you had some time to inoculate yourself, your institution, against these pretty discouraging market demand numbers. And yet, with the disturbance this last fall, I think it…to me, it makes even more clear the notion. When the most elite schools in the country are failing to meet their enrollment goals or those who have to work really hard every year to do that, you just need to recognize you're not that special and you're going to need to…you're going to need to think about things differently to be successful in both the current market and the market that's coming.

S. Meredith: One of my favorite parts of that episode, President, was Madeleine's discussion about in her work with the EAB, she would go out and try to get a university, before they've had a chance to think about it, to give her their elevator pitch. And her description of what elevator pitches are typically always makes me laugh. "We're student-centered," OK, so far that's every university.

Wyatt: Out of 4,000…

S. Meredith: You're not distinguishing yourself.

Wyatt: We'd all have the same elevator pitch.

S. Meredith: "Well, we're small." That's not the argument that you think it is.

Wyatt: There's 2,000 small colleges in this country. Or whatever the number.

S. Meredith: I found her to be very insightful and very funny. She was fun to talk to.

Wyatt: Yeah.

S. Meredith: So, Lexi, after you're done with your part of the special sauce, then what?

Carter: Then I send it off to Jill Whitaker who's in Web Services and she does her magic.

Jill Whitaker: Yep, that's my next step. I'm Jill Whitaker, I'm the Director of Web Services and I've also been with the podcast since the beginning. In fact, I think I've been at the university longer than any of you because I am just a few months shy of my 20th anniversary of working for SUU on the website.

S. Meredith: Wow, that's awesome.

Whitaker: I started when I was 12…we'll say that.

S. Meredith: Back when you had to…they were hand-chiseled websites.

Whitaker: Yes, exactly. We carved them out of stone and we put them up for people to see. [Laughs] But yeah, that's exactly where I come into play on this, because everybody has done their part but now we want to make sure that our podcast gets out to the masses. So, I take the description that Lexi has written, I take the transcription from Natasha, I take the audio file that has been cleaned up by Libby, I take the pulled featured quotes from Steve and I package those all up into our actual podcast. That's when it becomes the actual podcast and it goes out into a podcast feed tool, and we want to do that so that people can listen to the podcast and if they like it, they can subscribe to it so that all future episodes just show up automatically in their podcast player for them. And part of that is also making sure that we show up in different podcast markets. You can kind of get your podcast to show up organically in some of these podcast players over time, but I have gone out and put our podcast in several different podcast markets, so we're in the Google Play Store and we're in the Apple App Store and we're in Stitcher and Overcast and as of just two weeks ago, Amazon Music added a podcast library to their music player and we are represented in that. So, it's mainly my job to make sure that we get all of this stuff grouped together and then pushed out to the world so that everybody can hear our wonderful words of wisdom.

S. Meredith: So, Jill, we're not going to put the Joe Rogan Experience out of business anytime soon, but we do have a pretty wide range of listeners. You run analytics for us from time to time…

Whitaker: Yeah.

S. Meredith: And I've been interested to see that we have regular listeners in the Middle East and Australia and New Zealand and in Asia…we're kind of all over the world.

Whitaker: Yeah, I have some analytics pulled up right here, right now and it shows little yellow dots across the country and so we've got representation across the United States, but then there are dots all over in Europe and in the Middle East as you mentioned, and it's just kind of interesting…and there's even some spots in Africa and South America that are lit up because people are downloading our podcast all these places around the world. It's pretty cool.

Wyatt: Wow.

S. Meredith: I think it's because of the pictures that we put up of you and I, Scott. [All laugh] That's what's selling it.

Wyatt: Yeah…

S. Meredith: So, Jill, what…I'm sorry, go ahead President.

Wyatt: [Laughs] No, yeah I'm sure that does it.

S. Meredith: Jill, what's your favorite episode?

Whitaker: I vary from time to time because we've been doing this for so long, but this summer I actually re-listened to Episode 33 which is The Pursuit of Happiness with Grant Corser from on campus in our Psychology Department. And I listened to that one because 2020 has been a weird year, and it just felt really strange and kind of hopeless, and there were some parts of the podcast that resonated with me on the first go around, such as when we have successes, we are quick to attribute that to ourselves, but when we have failures, we are quick to attribute it to an outside source. But later on in the podcast, there was some information about how we are actually, as human beings, we are happier when we are working toward a goal. And that kind of resonated with me in light of 2020, especially earlier this year, because we were all in kind of this holding pattern. You know, "You can't go out in the world and do as many things" and there are so many things that are shut down and we were all kind of in this holding pattern and not even knowing how we could work toward a goal. And I think that that was probably contributing to worldwide unhappiness in some regards. And so, if people can actually even think of some kind of small goal that they can fit into it, even if they are on some kind of lockdown like we've had experience, maybe that will help boost their happiness.

S. Meredith: This is Episode…

Wyatt: That…

S. Meredith: Sorry, President, go ahead.

Wyatt: No, I agree. That was a wonderful podcast and it changes the way I view the world, because every time I have a success, I remind myself that Dr. Corser told me that I will naturally give myself credit and I shouldn't; and when I have a failure, he's told me that I would naturally blame someone else and I shouldn't. So, that's really been fun to think about in terms of just our own personal successes and failures.

S. Meredith: So, let's take a listen. This is a snippet from Episode 33 – The Pursuit of Happiness with our faculty member from psychology, Dr. Grant Corser:

Episode 33: The Pursuit of Happiness

Corser: …It turns out that we as humans don't like to spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves, and part of the reason for that is we're really the most happy, we're really the most content when we have a slightly exaggerated sense of our skills, capacities, and abilities. So, often taking a close look at who and what we are can knock some of those things down and put them into a state of reality that we then are equipped to fix.

Wyatt: So, as long as I continue thinking that I'm just a little bit better than I am, then I'm happier?

Corser: That's what the research indicates.

Wyatt: Wow.

Corser: And again, when you look at this at face value, you go, "What's wrong with us humans?" But then understanding that our emotionality is really driven by just a slightly better sense of who and what we are rather than what we actually are seems to be quite useful for us. It allows us to function well.

Wyatt: So, when I talk to some people about whatever it is they're doing, I commonly hear, probably from myself as well as anybody else, that if we fail at something, we tend to seek an external cause first rather than immediately try to re-examine what we might have done wrong.

Corser: That's accurate, and a lot of psychologists refer to this as a self-serving bias. And so, it's a protective function that's built into us. If we fail at something, our first reaction is to somehow give it an external cause, just like you are saying, and a common example that's used in a classroom setting is if I'm a student and I fail an exam, the easiest way to maintain a sense of positive self-view is to blame it on the exam, blame it on the professor. If I am getting closer to a self-evaluation or a self-cause then I might say, "Well, it's because I work too much." But it seems to be pretty difficult for us humans just to say, "I failed this exam because I did not spend enough time studying" or "I failed this exam because I'm just not at a place where I need to be in order to be successful at this exam." By externalizing it, by putting it on to some other cause other than an internal cause, it really allows us to protect and maintain that slightly higher sense of who and what we are.

S. Meredith: I remember that episode now better having listened to it, President. I have to say, I love all of my faculty colleagues, but there's a special place in my heart for Grant. He's not only really interesting to listen to, he's just fun to work with.

Wyatt: Yeah.

S. Meredith: So, President, it's up to you and I to kind of kick this thing home, and since it's your podcast, you get to go last. So, I'm going to go second to last. And Natasha took my favorite, so I'm going to off the top of my head, talk just a little bit about a particular episode that I thought we got right. So, we have at various times celebrated the accomplishments of our students. We've had student athletes on and others, but there was a particular episode that was about student…the need for student scholarships. This is Episode 40, for those of you that are following your program at home. Episode 40 is called, "The Importance of Student Scholarships," and I loved it because it told the story of two of our amazing students, Shana Bartell who found herself a single mother who wanted to learn to fly. She wanted to have a pilot's license and was pursuing that in the midst of pursuing that. And the other student that was on the broadcast was Nouman Kante, who is one of our students from Africa from the country of Mali. Nouman is our current student body president, and just an amazing story of how he went from Ouelessebougou in Mali and literally living on the street from the time he was about five years old. Because he wanted to learn to read, he ran away from home to live on the street in the city so that he could learn to read. And through those contacts, ended up with a scholarship to a private school in central Utah and he made his way to Southern Utah University, where I think we're all agreed he's going to be a really dynamic student body president, but also probably the president of Mali someday. And so anyway, that was my personal favorite episode of the ones that didn't get stolen by the others here on the call.

Wyatt: And Nouman is graduating this semester.

S. Meredith: He is.

Wyatt: Looking at graduate school. And to think of this little kid, barefoot kid running from his little teeny village to the city so that he could go to school is approaching grad school. Pretty amazing.

S. Meredith: It is. So, let's listen to just a little bit of a snippet from Episode 40 – The Importance of Student Scholarships with our student guests Shana Bartell and Nouman Kante.

Episode 40: The Importance of Student Scholarships

Nouman Kante: …When I was four years old, I left my family and go a part of Mali. I always wanted to go to school and learn different things and try different things and where my parents were, there was no school. I never see a person have a book or writing something. But, when I saw my dad paying somebody to…he sell the chicken. When I first saw him, you know, he told me to grab a chicken and he sell that chicken to pay somebody to write his letter and read it. And that moment, I thought, "My dad is uneducated. He didn't go to school. But now, as his son, what I can do about that?"

Wyatt: So, how old were you when this happened?

Kante: I was four years old.

Wyatt: Four years old?

Kante: Yes.

Wyatt: Your dad has got a letter, he needs to read it, but he can't read.

Kante: He cannot read.

Wyatt: And nobody will read it to him unless he pays them?

Kante: Yes.

Wyatt: So, he turns over a chicken, which is a pretty valuable thing.

Kante: Yes.

Wyatt: In order to get somebody to read for him. You're watching this and saying, "I'm not going to be paying chickens for people to read to me."

Kante: To read for me, yes.

Wyatt: So, you left home and stayed…who did you stay with?

Kante: I didn't stay with anybody. I left home, I was around, you know, just lay down around next to a building or I would stay in the school.

Wyatt: You were homeless?

Kante: Yes, I was homeless at that time.

Wyatt: But you were going to school?

Kante: I was going to school.

Wyatt: How far away was this from your home?

Kante: It was 50 kilometers.

Wyatt: 50 kilometers from your village.

Kante: From my village. So, I didn't get to see my parents that much and I didn't have a phone or write them a letter because nobody could read that, and I was just completely disconnected with my family.

Wyatt: That's a pretty heavy price to pay to go to school as a kid.

Kante: Yeah.

S. Meredith: The story of Nouman's father being unable to read the letter and having to give away a very important chicken that would have been used to feed the family so that he could hire someone to come read the letter is heartbreaking to me, but also an indicator of the type of grit that Nouman has to overcome what is just astounding, almost unbelievable hardship.

Wyatt: And on the other side of that, astounding support because he has been able to go through high school and college receiving help and assistance from so many people. Employees and also donors of scholarships and everything else. The most popular person on campus right now.

S. Meredith: Yeah. We frequently talk about how student scholarships…donations for student scholarships are not maybe the most popular thing that we do in…you know, people want their name on a building or to do something else, but that in terms of impact, there's not greater impact that you can have in a person's life than to donate to a student scholarship fund.

Wyatt: Well, should I finish up with my favorite one?

S. Meredith: Yes.

Wyatt: This is going to take a while, because there's about 99. Let me start with the first one…just kidding.

S. Meredith: Actually, the first one we both agree is by far our worst episode. Don't listen to Episode 1.

Wyatt: It's…the content is good, but we were learning how to make it work.

S. Meredith: Yeah. We decided we would script it out and so we both sound as though we are reading cue cards, which we were, and it is just so unbelievable stilted and awful that we don't recommend Episode 1. Good content, bad podcast.

Whitaker: I have power, I could remove it. [Laughs]

S. Meredith: Nah, it reminds us of how much better we've gotten. Hopefully.

Wyatt: So, for my favorite one, it is almost impossible because there are so many that I love and being on the early stage of this, of course, I get a lot of input on who we interview. And so, just a long list of them that I like. But for this, I think I would say that maybe at least in the top listing and particularly today, I would say my favorite is Episode 27 from our first season. It was in the President's Book Club for that summer, and it is the book on The Ghost Map. And we had a visiting guest, Dr. David Blodgett, he's our Public Health Director, and The Ghost Map is the story about how the cause of cholera was discovered in England 150+ years ago. What I love about the story is that it's great science, it's a great detective novel, it's all true story, and it has a challenge in there for everyone, and that is that the scientific and medical community in the mid-1800s believed that cholera was caused by miasma. Poisonous air. And everyone believed it, and those that questioned them were ridiculed. So, in order to get rid of this poisonous air, they drained all the cesspools into the Thames River, which meant that they were causing much, much more problems with cholera. And anyway, I love the story, and I frequently ask myself when I have an opinion about something, "Is this miasma? Or is this the truth?" And we all have to be open to new ideas. It's kind of one of the heart pieces of a university is being willing to accept that our assumptions might be false, and there's a beautiful story about it. Fun to read.

S. Meredith: Let's listen to a little bit of Episode 27. This is from our first year, the first Summer Book Club, which was The Ghost Map with our guest Dr. Dave Blodgett:

Episode 27: The Ghost Map (Part 2) - Summer Book Club

Dr. Dave Blodgett: …So, ironically enough, or non-ironically enough, I don't know, because people didn't really…this is the birth of many kind of renaissance moments. Lots of learning going on, lots of changing going on, and you could have people that could be kind of cross-disciplinarian and really kind of geniuses in multiple areas…that's kind of the hallmark of the era and it's really pretty remarkable. So, this John Snow, he is that guy. He developed anesthesia almost single-handedly, he had three or four other areas where he really excelled, but he was interested in cholera, largely because as he had studied the cholera outbreaks and the epidemics, he came to believe that they miasma theory—which is kind of the antagonist in this story if you want to call it that—wasn't the reality. And he wasn't to prove that it wasn't in order to better public health and things like that. So, as he enters into the scene, he's interested because he notices that these people are getting sick rapidly and they're in a fairly focused area in the city. And then it became much more study-able than these general kinds of outbreaks of cholera where it had been broad based throughout the whole city. So, the fact that he began to notice that people were concentrated in a small area really led him to believe that this might be a small chance for him to really study cholera and how it was spread. So, in modern days, we know that rehydrating is the way to treat cholera. In those days, they thought that stopping fluids was the way to treat cholera. So, they made the problem much worse by, well once you were sick, they said, "OK, no more water." When it was exactly the opposite that was necessary, you start tanking up. And so it's kind of a testament to the helter-skelter nature of medicine at the time that 20 years before, somebody had figured out that, "Hey, if you inject somebody with a little bit of salt water, they do much better" but in all of the publishing that was going on about cholera, it got lost for another 40 years before somebody figured out, "Hey, IV fluids might have a rule here."

S. Meredith: That is kind of an astonishing story, as you say. Trying to avoid people getting sick and making it infinitely worse in the avoidance, it does make you wonder how…in this world right now, we're all kind of trying to imagine what is best for us and hearing from lots of different scientific opinions. It's a great challenge.

Wyatt: Yeah.

S. Meredith: Particularly in the politically charged world that we're living in. It seems like science used to kind of cut across all that stuff and that maybe it doesn't quite so much anymore.

Wyatt: Well, we keep learning. Science keeps getting better, but sometimes the smartest people in the world are wrong. Sometimes.

S. Meredith: So, President, let's wrap this episode up. Is there anything else you want to say?

Wyatt: No, this has been fun. My favorite part of this episode is just listening to everybody talk about their part and it's a reminder to me of how much work it takes to get this podcast out. It just seemed like magic to me. You and I talk and then all of the sudden it shows up.

S. Meredith: And all it takes is six other people to do it.

Wyatt: So, in addition to thanking our listeners, here's my thanks to all of you who help us put this podcast together and do such a very nice job. So, thank you all.

S. Meredith: You've been listening to Solutions for Higher Education, a podcast featuring Scott L Wyatt, the president of Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah. This is our 100th Episode celebration, and we've had as our guests Bailey Bowthorpe, Libby Meredith, Natasha Johnson, Lexi Carter and Jill Whitaker, who are our unsung heroes in getting the podcast out to the public. We thank them for their amazing behind-the-scenes work, sometimes on very short turnarounds, and all the other things that you do. And we thank you, our listeners, for letting us get better over the course of 100 episodes. We hope that we've warranted your continued listening, and we'll be back with another podcast very soon. Thanks again, bye bye.