So you do the Informal Education podcast . What’s the point of the podcast?
The point is to connect people to the University of Calgary community whether they’re an outsider or someone who is in the community right now. Perhaps they’re someone who is thinking about joining the community by either deciding to work at the university or study. I also put this podcast out for former members of the community just to make them feel connected and allow people to gain further insight into the people who make the University of Calgary such a great community.
It’s not necessarily about the university though.
Yeah. It’s all about the people. It kind of irks me when people call these interviews. I don’t do interviews. I have conversations and then I record them. They’re the type of conversations I’d like to have if I were to run into someone on the street or just about and about. I’ve had members of the president’s office on the podcast and I’ve never really had the desire to talk about policy and that sort of stuff because that’s not what I would talk about if I was to run into them on the street. I want to talk about the things that I’m interested in and things that these people don’t usually get to talk about inside a classroom or in an office or on a field or on a court. It’s the stuff that I want to talk about because it’s the stuff that I want to know about these people.
How do you pick the people to talk to?
At first I had this list of people where I thought “okay I need these people it wouldn’t be a complete University of Calgary podcast without these people.” Druh Marshall or Patrick Finn or Ronald Glasberg. But then that list ran out because I had all those people on the podcast so then you gotta start looking for more people and so I kind of go to the Students’ Union website and I look at former teaching excellence award-winnners. That’s a great place to start. I look for students who are doing great things on campus. Students who are involved in the leadership and student engagement office. Students who are involved with the Students’ Union any kind of student leader. I also look for athletes. This is a great place for athletes. Not only do they have the Dinos athletes here we have a lot Olympic athletes or national team athletes. Just had Erica Wiebe and she’s on the national wrestling team. There’s so many people to pick from here and there’s always new people kind of popping up that I didn’t even know about.
You took design in New Brunswick?
I went to design school I went to the New Brunswick college of craft and design and then I moved out here and worked for a design firm called Western Sky Creative for about six years. I just got tired of sitting in front of a computer all day and not really interacting with people face to face. I actually started to experience anxiety and depression because of that and I made the decision to return to post-secondary learning. I came here to the University of Calgary kind of unsure of what I wanted to do. I kind of had this idea that I wanted to be a high school English teacher. Those plans have changed. The more I got involved in student leadership opportunities on campus I realized I had a real passion for student affairs and so now I’m looking at masters programs in student affairs down in the States.
I didn’t even know that existed.
Yeah it’s a real thing. They offer these masters in student affairs.
You’re doing English right now?
Just finishing up my English degree. I’ll be graduating in the spring.
I think it happened in a few phases. I used to listen to a lot of sports radio and that really got me interested in conversations. Then I started listening to podcasts. I took me a while to figure out what podcasts were but I started listening to them maybe in 2005 2006. I would listen to This American Life — I think that’s the gateway podcast for a lot of people. So I listened to that and then I started listening to other podcasts. Then over the last few years I got into these comedy podcasts specifically the Crab Feast and they would have these conversations and it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. I thought “I’m pretty connected here at the University of Calgary through all my student leadership activities” — I was faculty of arts representative for two years in the Students’ Union and I worked at the student success centre and I helped plan orientation week so I was well connected and I knew all these people and thought I should take advantage of this. I had never recorded a podcast. I had never recorded myself prior to recording the very first episode of Informal Education with Patrick Finn but I pressed record. I had this idea and I wanted to do it. I researched the equipment I’d need to do it and just did it.
Do you edit it?
A little bit here and there. For the most part what you hear is what’s been recorded.
What is it about the U of C that you find so fascinating?
You know I came back as a mature student a 31-year-old freshman. The moment I stepped on campus for orientation week in 2010 — now orientation week is normally a bunch of 18-year-olds but I went. I didn’t want my age to dictate the kinds of experiences I was going to have here at the university. The moment I stepped on campus I felt this vibe; it was electric. I felt like I belonged that I was home. This is an environment that allows people to try new things and to go at everything with an open mind and just look at yourself and figure out what you’re all about and who you want to be. That feeling has never died down. If anything it has intensified. I love it here. This place has really changed me.
Do you know how many subscribers you have?
No but it’s pretty popular at least I would think it’s pretty popular. It came out in the middle of February 2013 and it’s got about 23000 downloads at this point. I think it averages about 800 a week. It’s really picked up. Whether it’s 800 downloads a week or one download a week as long as someone’s getting something out of it I’m still going to continue to do it.
Why do a podcast as opposed to say getting a show on CJSW?
Because you just do it yourself. Who would voluntarily have a boss?
Are you going to keep doing this?
I think I’m going to do it for a year so middle of February I’ll be done. However I think I’ll do specials here and there. I want to do this new project. Me and a friend were at this hip-hop concert the other night and we were ripping on the opening act and I said “You know what? We can’t rip on this guy he’s up there doing it we’re not doing it.” My friend said “Well I bet you if you practise long enough you can do it.” I said “how long?” He goes “I’ll bet you six months.” So I’m going to start this new project called the six-month emcee. I’m going to write a song every week for six months trying to get better and better. After six months I’m going to see where my progress is at. I’m also going to record these songs and post them online.
As you’re going?
Yeah. And each song is going to kind of detail what was going on in the week. After six months we’ll see where I’m at we’ll see where my skills are at and whether I can get an opening set somewhere. I look forward to it. I’ve never rapped before but I love rap music.
Well why go through life in your comfort zone? Why not put yourself in situations where you’re forced to learn? You get those people right that 10 years removed from high school they’re braggin’ about how they’re the same person they were in high school. That’s not a good thing that’s a terrible thing. That means that person hasn’t challenged themselves they haven’t taken themselves out of their comfort zone. I always want to learn.