College is an exciting time for students and their families. It’s also a time of transition and new challenges in a place that, for some, is their first experience away from home. A group of Clemson students developed a podcast series called In the Spotlight to help.
The podcast, led by Honors students Terryn Witherspoon, Aaron Woolfolk, Ashley Larkins and Jason Teets, focuses on the lived experiences of college students and research that can help them thrive.
Last year, Witherspoon and Larkins recruited Woolfolk and Teets to help build a program called CCARE, a safe and welcoming space for students to discuss issues they may face during their first year of college.
The program, which offered virtual meetups because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was so successful that they realized there was an opportunity to expand their efforts to a wider audience.
The group reached out to Danielle McFarquhar, associate director of the National Scholars program and Clemson Honors coordinator of diversity initiatives, for help turning their program into a creative inquiry project, where students earn credit hours by engaging in long term, team-based projects that combine research with community outreach.
“We talked about how we could turn what this group had already created into a creative inquiry for the purposes of longevity,” said McFarquhar. “Terryn, Ashley, Aaron and Jason wanted to expand their program in a way that could be transitioned to another group of students after they graduate – and that could continue to grow – and felt that a creative inquiry made the most sense.”
The students spent last spring developing a curriculum for the creative inquiry with McFarquhar, and the fall creating the podcast.
The group meets weekly with McFarquhar to discuss current research about each episode topic, review published articles and relate study findings to situations in their own lives.
Their first episode, available for download on all major platforms, focuses on social media, with the hosts sharing their personal experiences and current research. Their next will focus on time management.
Podcasts are designed to be conversational, as if listeners are hearing from a group of friends, instead of using a lecture-style approach.
The creative inquiry is growing next year, with several more students from across campus applying to join the team. Larkins said she’s excited to bring more perspectives to the conversation, especially as the group moves closer to their senior years at Clemson.
“A lot of podcasts change as their hosts grow up, so they’ll often talk about things relating to the season they’re in, and we’re not going to be in college forever,” said Larkins. “When our season of life changes, the podcast is able to be very dynamic and change with the College scene, when new students come and generations change.”
At the end of the day, Woolfolk says that he’s hoping that the podcast provides some help for students that really need it, while also encouraging them to be intentional about their well-being.
“It’s about being intentional about what you’re doing to take care of yourself, and what you’re doing because it’s your life, for better or worse,” Woolfolk said. “I feel like this is a great opportunity for other people to learn from my experiences, and I’ve learned a lot.”
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