Since the Center for Democracy and Civic Life’s 2020 presidential election “Cast Your Whole Vote” campaign, the organization searched for other ways to show the power of stories and the importance of civic engagement outside of voting. This month, the CDCL unveiled Retriever Tales, a podcast that they hope engages the University of Maryland, Baltimore County community and shows that “stories are everything.”
Sponsored by the CDCL and run by senior Information Systems Major Tirzah Khan, the podcast invites any UMBC students, staff or alumni with a story to share about their journey and relationship with the university and its community.
The first four episodes featured interviews with two-time alumna and Vice President of the Graduate Student Association Meghan Lynch, alumna and UMBC’s chief of staff Candace Dodson-Reed, faculty member in the Gender and Women’s Studies and Sexuality departments Kate Drabinski and Student Government Association Finance Board representative Rehman Liaqat.
“They shared the importance of the community in their identity,” said Dr. Romy Hübler, Assistant Director of the CDCL.
Driving the podcast is the Civic Life Maxim that “stories are everything.” “They have the potential to connect the UMBC community, spark inner reflection and create a sense of belonging,” continued Hübler.
“Stories reveal the power that people have,” concluded CDCL Director Dr. David Hoffman.
While presenting individual stories may appear counterintuitive to uniting the campus as one community, interviews consist of questions attempting to reach the core of empowerment created by sharing unique experiences in a shared space.
Khan, who conducts the interviews, designs the questions to highlight those experiences in order to transform people’s relationship to campus.
“As a student who felt disconnected from campus for a long time…I really try and understand what other people experience,” she explained. “UMBC has an interesting reputation of people just passing through. I want to change that.”
Khan’s insights reflect another Civic Life Maxim, “change happens.” The principle underscores the dynamic nature of an institution such as UMBC; it is a work in progress and constantly being improved by the people in it.
As a result, explained Hoffman, a podcast about stories falls naturally under the CDCL umbrella.
“Civic life and the idea of being engaged with your community is not just centered around voting and protests…it’s centered in relationships and understanding others’ stories,” he said.
However, the CDCL does not claim exclusive territory on UMBC voices. The goal, Hoffman explained, is to provide as many spaces as possible for students to share their stories and take action on shared concerns. The more opportunities, the better.
Hübler said that Retriever Tales’s did not face any technical development challenges, though deciding on a name for the series sparked a “great creative process.”
“We wanted a UMBC-specific name, and Retrievers have tails!” she said.
Khan explained that since the podcast is basically a solo project, the amount of time spent editing and interviewing is challenging.
Interested students have multiple opportunities to become involved with the podcast, including story-sharing and technical production.
“There are a lot of good stories that not a lot of people have heard,” said Hoffman. “We want to find and tell them, to create a culture of sharing stories.
To hear this month’s episodes, visit https://civiclife.umbc.edu/retrievertales/.
To learn more about getting involved, contact the CDCL at firstname.lastname@example.org.