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Professors Uncensored: The Podcast Version

Professors Uncensored: The Podcast Version

Ask any Bethel professor, and they’ll tell you one of the best parts of their jobs is the unique collegiality among faculty. After spending countless lunch hours exchanging entertaining conversation, one group of friends decided to hit the record button.

Ever wonder how to dissect the day’s political news? Whether the television show Justified is worth a try? Which teams to pick for your March Madness bracket? There’s a podcast for that, and it’s probably hosted by the same people who taught your Christianity and Western Culture class.

A growing number of Bethel professors are signing up to share their opinions—expert and otherwise—on Live From AC2nd, a catch-all podcast network run by faculty who like their jobs and each other too much to spend their lunch hours grading papers. Titles range from academic—like “Sara Shady: Public Philosopher” and “The Pietist Schoolman”—to silly and tongue-in-cheek, like “Nothing Rhymes with Gehrz” and “CWC The Radio Show: Better Than You Might Think.”

“We’re trying to create an intellectual culture with these podcasts,” says Assistant Professor of History Sam Mulberry, who founded the network in 2006 with nothing more than a digital audio recorder and a few forward-thinking colleagues. “We’re taking the tools of our discipline and applying them to current issues, news, and events.”

Episodes often begin with light-hearted banter about office décor or Christmas music preferences before honing in on a heavier topic, like truth in the media or the significance of monuments in public memory. While some recordings clock in at more than an hour, it only takes Mulberry about 20 minutes to produce an episode—largely because of his colleagues’ agreement to keep the conversations unedited. “That’s the thing I love about podcasts,” Mulberry says. “They’re immediate, they’re real, and they allow listeners to get to know the personalities of their hosts.”

That’s certainly true of the network’s most popular podcast, “Election Shock Therapy,” which launched during the 2016 election. After deciding it was time to sort the facts from the hype, three political science professors recorded weekly episodes with their takes on the latest political news, pulling in 300–400 listeners with each conversation. They continue to offer analysis on the Trump presidency, with Mulberry along to ask questions for the lay-listener when the other three get caught in a nuanced volley of political theory.

“It was clear that there was a desire for meaningful political conversation throughout the election season,” says Chris Moore, assistant professor of political science. “I got to have that with my colleagues—my friends—every time we went to lunch. So we thought, why not hit the record button? Let’s see if there’s added value in this context.”

Over the last decade, podcasts have become increasingly popular nationwide. According to a 2017 study by Edison Research and Triton Digital, 40% of Americans listen to podcasts—up from just 13% in 2007. Nearly half of those listeners are 18- to 34-year-olds, making college students and recent alumni likely audiences for the Live From AC2nd lineup.  

“We live in an increasingly atomized world,” Moore says. “It’s a world of sound bytes, tweets, and tiny blasts of information. Podcasts are a way to have a longer conversation with someone over a course of time that you might not otherwise have time to sit down for.”

Despite the network’s relative success, both Moore and Mulberry agree that the podcasts’ worth can’t be measured by popularity or ratings. They hold inherent value, serving as a medium through which to channel their expertise and encapsulate the friendships they’ve built over the years. Mulberry estimates he has between 200 and 300 hours of recorded conversations with professors from different fields, highlighting the spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration that exists among Bethel faculty.

“When you bring different disciplines, perspectives, and information into conversation, they enrich each other,” Mulberry says. “We’re at our best when we’re working at the intersection, and it’s the close relationships we have that make people want to stay and listen.”

That, or the faint hope that Moore will give in to Mulberry’s pestering and launch a podcast exploring the politics of pop culture giants like “Star Wars” and “Game of Thrones.”

Stay tuned.

Check out the Live From AC2nd network on PodBean, iTunes, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.