Updated: 10:41 a.m., May 31, 2019.
Extraordinary and challenging are both words communications lecturer Donna Pazdera has used to describe the podcast project she assigned to her spring 2019 Multimedia Storytelling class. Pazdera said she wanted to challenge her students to do something no other class she’s taught had ever attempted before.
She said it was a “crazy idea,” but she believed this group of students possessed the right mix of talent and dedication to meet the demands of the assignment. Pazdera tasked the class with a group project of producing a podcast from start to finish.
“This is probably the most, if not one of the most ambitious things I’ve ever done with a class,” Pazdera said. “And it was kind of scary at times because I wasn’t sure how people would take to the idea because I know people really hate group work. But, I don’t know, I felt really good about this group in particular. … They all wanted to work with each other.”
Their goal was to decide on an overall theme for the project, break out into teams, decide on sub-topics for each team, interview local San Antonians, edit their audio interviews and then combine all of the team segments to produce a one-hour podcast. Childhood aka San Antonio Connects was published May 1, on SoundCloud.
“It reminded me a little bit of my master’s program on a small scale,” Pazdera said. “And for a group of undergrads who are juggling a lot of classes, one or two jobs, and outside family and social obligations, I feel like this is an incredible accomplishment.”
Pazdera said since they were just making things up as they went along she thought the teams needed some sort of peer-mentors to help guide the groups, so she assigned three executive producers to help oversee two teams each. The executive producers were responsible for combining the individual team segments into the final group project.
Kevin Castro, a communication senior, was one of the executive producers for the podcast. He said the challenge was making sure every producer was where they needed to be when they were needed. Additionally, he said it was important to make sure they were able to bring all content together since it was ultimately their responsibility to assemble the final product. The second challenge, he added, was in coming up with introduction narration for each segment.
“Because the writing for some of these podcasts was so well done, and there was no other way to describe it…they’re perfect,” Castro said. “So, I would say script writing and coordination, those were the two challenges we faced as executive producers putting this together.”
Castro said many of the interviews covered people who weren’t students. They were real people who had their own lives and their own story to tell. He said the focus wasn’t necessarily to tell a touching story, but to tell something real.
“It was just to be like an honest, real slice-of-life story here … this is what’s going on, this is how people were raised, this is how it affected them, this is who they are,” Castro said. “I think that was the aim here. It was never to be a sad story or a happy story, it was just to be real, you know, as realistic as we can be because these are just people living their lives.”
Pazdera said the idea came to her last fall while running at the park. She said she has an outside-the-box teaching style and thought it would be interesting to try this podcast idea, leave the parameters wide open and see what happens.
“I listen to a lot of podcasts when I run,” Pazdera said. “I was listening to Serial, the latest one about the courthouse in Cleveland, Ohio. And they spent like a year hanging out at this courthouse just getting stories.”
She said she thought it would be “really cool” if they could come up with something like that about San Antonio. It was a huge risk but it paid off, she said.
“At least one of the other faculty members told me that he really, really liked it and said it was an important piece of work and really said something about the city of San Antonio,” Pazdera said. “And as someone who’s still kind of new here, that felt good to hear.”
A&M-San Antonio does not really teach audio production, Pazdera explained. Therefore, she is extremely proud of completing a project of this caliber and doing a first-rate job.
“We also consider that experiential learning … real-world stuff, and there’s something to be said for that,” Pazdera said. “It’s real journalism. It’s throwing yourselves out there; that’s what it’s like. Yeah, it’s terrifying, but it’s also exhilarating.”
Castro said the podcast tells six intriguing stories about childhood experiences and the people who shared those stories.
“I love it,” Castro said. “And I think that if you enjoy those NPR stories like ‘This American Life,’ then you’ll love it too.”
Podcast Show Notes:
- Production Team: Jaguar Student Media
- Communication lecturer and Student Media adviser: Donna Pazdera
- Narrators/Executive producers: Kevin Castro, Mariah Gonzalez and Oziel Trevino
- Inner City producers: Aricela Mendez, Tracy Lopez and Tony Wilson
- LGBT Shelter producers: Raul Plata and Rene Orozco
- Southside Bias producers: Carl Fears and Stephanie Marquez
- Boxing Kid producers: Miguel Garcia and Jonathan Quesada
- Living Abroad producers: Valerie Champion, Gabrielle Téllez and Kayla de La Pena
- Generational Change producers: Joyce Raposo and Tessa Peña