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GSPM to launch new podcast this month featuring successful alumni

Dean Whitelaw | Staff Photographer
The podcast will release its first episode later this month and feature interviews with former GSPM students who have pursued careers in fields like political management or strategic public relations.

The Graduate School of Political Management is launching a podcast this month to catch up with successful alumni in political advocacy and communications.

The podcast, called “Mastering the Room,” will release its first episode on Sept. 23 and feature interviews with former GSPM students who have pursued careers in fields like political management or strategic public relations. Officials said the podcast will allow students to connect with the podcast’s guests and will showcase how the school prepares alumni for their careers after graduation.

University spokesman Jason Shevrin said the podcast was created to highlight graduates, spread awareness about the school among prospective students and show how the skills the school teaches – like public relations – set it apart from other similar schools.

“The ‘Mastering the Room’ podcast gives us the freedom to spotlight our distinguished alumni and demonstrate how GSPM prepares talented and determined people for success in politics, communication and advocacy,” he said in an email.

He said Steve Piece – a GSPM alumnus who has worked on several political campaigns, like Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid in Utah – will host the podcast. Shevrin added that guests for the podcast will include a presidential campaign manager and a former vice presidential candidate.

“Graduates from all three of our master’s degree programs will be featured, and every one of our guests has an excellent story to tell,” he said.

The podcast’s producers will release nine half-hour episodes every couple of weeks in the podcast’s first season, which will span the fall semester, Shevrin said.

He added that the podcast will give students a chance to learn about the types of careers they could pursue after they graduate with a degree from GSPM.

“The podcast offers our students a glimpse into their potential future,” Shevrin said. “They can listen to some of our most accomplished alumni talk about how the lessons and experiences they gained at GSPM helped them achieve success in their professional lives and perhaps draw some inspiration.”

Media experts said GSPM’s new podcast follows a trend of academic institutions taking advantage of new technology to attract students.

Christopher Byrne, a lecturer in the communication department in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, said universities across the country are using podcasts to communicate with students as the technology has become more accessible.

“Podcasting has been exploding across the board and academia has certainly caught on to that,” he said.

He added that the inclusion of alumni interviews on the podcast gives guests the chance to act as mentors to student listeners and possibly connect with future graduates who are entering the job market.

“Students value the opportunity to network with alumni in terms of professional opportunities,” Byrne said. “The University wants to be able to connect to the alumni and with the students. So it’s really a win-win-win situation all around for everyone.”

Anna Amirkhanyan, an associate professor of public administration and policy at American University, said podcasts are an avenue for institutions to distance themselves from the narrative that academics are “individuals who are sitting in their ivory towers and generating research that was published in peer-reviewed journals.”

She said many students who graduate from universities in the District, like GW and American, remain in the area after graduation, making them available to come onto the podcast and further facilitate connections between them and current students.

Nearly half of the undergraduates in the Class of 2018 chose to stay in the District after graduation to maintain their network of alumni and professors who can help them land internships and jobs.

Amirkhanyan said the fact that faculty and students can hear alumni talk about their careers and the skills they learned from GSPM will demonstrate to them what lessons alumni learned in their classes that were useful in the professional world.

“That could be of value not only for the current students, but also for the faculty, to be able to hear, ‘Something that I covered in my class was actually valuable for this individual,’” she said.

David Brown, an assistant professor of instruction in the public relations department at Temple University, said the podcast’s launch leading up to the 2020 presidential election is especially useful to current students and recent graduates because elections provide lots of employment and volunteering opportunities that listeners can learn about.

He said a potential downside of the timing could be that other politics podcasts could draw listenership away from GSPM’s podcast. He said the producers of “Mastering the Room” must ensure the podcast can stand out in a “crowded field.”

“That may be something that needs to be taken into consideration in terms of how to get it out there within the clouded environment,” he said.

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