For students, their journey begins and ends with Commencement. As they come to terms with the end of their college experience and the challenges of entering the real world, there’s an opportunity for alumni relations and career services offices to help fuse these two experiences and ease the transition while finding new ways to share meaningful stories.

In 2015, the Pew Research Center made an important point about the proliferation of podcasting. “Advances in technology – in particular, the rapid growth in use of smartphones and mobile devices in addition to the increased ease of in-car listening – have contributed to the uptick of interest in podcasts.” A trend recognized by the producers at Higher Ed Live, the podcast is all about storytelling and therefore can be used as a tool to convey the student journey narrative.

Help students transition into the real world

As engagement pros, we must take note of graduation and pay special attention to the anxieties and concerns of our students as they approach this marker in time. We need to build a strong network that allows for students to connect with alumni and share what it means to follow in their footsteps.

Student graduation speeches often convey the journey metaphor, but we should be telling stories about life-long engagement year-round. The journey narrative needs to infiltrate the student experience. Representatives from the alumni association can offer their shared experiences and act as sherpas and guide students through commencement and beyond. In other words, we need to tell the story of being part of something bigger as an “alum from day one.”

Podcasting student success stories

Podcasting has been around for more than a decade but it’s going through a rebirth after the success of NPR’s Serial. If you’re like me and are lucky enough to have a long commute to work, podcasts are possibly your new obsession. Many of the audio shows delivered as a podcast are incredibly elaborate and entertaining. Some of my favorites are Snap Judgement, This American Life and Embedded — all brought to you by NPR. If you are new to podcasts, these feature great storytelling and I promise you’ll be hooked. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Higher Ed Live podcast, too!

My podcast habit has turned me from listening to producer of one at Longwood University, called Day After Graduation that’s currently in production. After creating a five-episode pilot to share the vision with university leadership, we’ve doubled-down on the effort, received funding and hired three producers for a 12-week summer job. Our producers graduated just last month and are aspiring communicators with experience in radio and broadcast. We’ve given them high quality recording equipment and turned them loose with a plan to interview alumni and find stories that answer questions about the world after graduation.

Archive meaningful stories

Can we make the podcast a cultural artifact at Longwood?

That’s the million dollar question. We’ve put the resources in place to give it a try. We’ve hired an audio engineer and a team to will help transcribe the interviews and pluck out the juicy sound bites. Two team members from the Office of Alumni and Career Services will provide narration, but our producers and the stories they find make up the bulk of the podcast content. They’ll record themselves as they prepare for job interviews and experience life back at home with their parents.

We hope these recent grads will use their connections with current students will help with generating excitement and word of mouth marketing. The university can use the podcast to cross promote key initiatives for alumni or programs at the career center while our alumni tell unique stories and share advice about the real world.

The podcast medium has been virtually unexplored from the standpoint of engaging students at Longwood, but we have a hunch that we’re building something special that will resonate with students and entice university stakeholders to subscribe.


Article Author

Ryan Catherwood

Ryan Catherwood

Higher Ed Live blogger and Former Host of Advancement Live
Assistant VP for Alumni and Career Services, Longwood University

Ryan Catherwood is the Assistant VP for Alumni and Career Services at Longwood University. Prior to joining Longwood, he was the Director of Digital Strategy in the University Advancement office at the University of Virginia. His work is dedicated to strategies that utilize events, crowdsourcing, inbound and content marketing, email marketing and social media community management in order to drive alumni and student engagement, participation, connections, networking, volunteerism and giving at Longwood University.


Ryan Catherwood

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