MiraCosta College professors Sean Davis and Curry Mitchell have created a new podcast that places students and faculty into dialogue with each other about issues impacting teaching and learning in community colleges.
SAFE Topics, an acronym for Student & Faculty Engaged Topics, is proving to be pretty popular, too. The podcast was downloaded by more than 400 people during its first month alone.
“We want student and faculty voices to be unfiltered, reactionary and raw,” said Davis, whose official title is at MiraCosta is Joyful Teacher in Residence. “Through these discussions, we will not arrive at decisions or solutions, but rather provide listeners of the pod with a range of perspectives to weigh the interests, values, and outcomes of pedagogical and policy decision-making processes.”
The idea evolved after Billy Gunn, chair of the MiraCosta Film Department, suggested that faculty should engage in conversations on a single word or topic at the new Teaching and Learning Center at the Oceanside Campus library. Inspired also by former Professional Development Program chair Jim Sullivan, who had hosted several ‘Dangerous Topics’ open conversations for faculty, Davis and English Professor Curry Mitchell had found all the motivation they needed.
“We realized we could talk about one thing for a long time,” said Davis. Before long, Davis and Mitchell were exploring the possibility of a podcast they would call SAFE. In the trailer for the podcast, launched February 11, Davis and Mitchell query faculty, staff and students by invading classrooms, Student Services and even administration offices at the Oceanside Campus in search for relevant topics. Among the topics they settled on: syllabus, bootstraps, relationships and surfaces.
The premier episode aired February 18 with this business Professor Annie Ngo, mathematics Professor Shawn Firouzian, astronomy Professor Rica French and sociology Professor James Garcia discussing their thoughts about the “syllabus.” All agreed with Ngo’s depiction of a syllabus serving as a “roadmap.”
That was followed a week later with students tackling the same subject.
“I got one specific syllabus yesterday. I was mind blown,” said Melissa Ortega, a Social Justice and Equity Center intern. “I mean there’s just no resources on there. The language that’s used. Just what they say about absolutely no late work. It was just very um, there’s no welcome message. There’s nothing about the professor. It just goes straight into the material and it was just not welcoming at all.”
One-word topics were not chosen on a whim. “We chose ‘syllabus’ because that’s how the semester starts,” Davis said. “We chose ‘bootstraps’ because determination and seeking help is big at community colleges. We chose ‘relationships’ because there is a lot of talk about faculty and staff relationships at the college.”
Added Davis: “We hope to be funny, sometimes salty, and always relevant. We see opportunities to become partners with student programs on campus (such as The Student Justice and Equity Center, The Chariot newspaper, and others) as a go-to source promoting student events, programs and resources. Finally, we hope to provide a space where students can create content they are proud of and that they can reference as an employable experience.”
About MiraCosta College
The MiraCosta Community College District has served the coastal North San Diego County area for over 80 years. More than 21,000 credit students per semester in over 70 disciplines enroll in associate degrees, university transfer and workforce readiness certificate programs. The college also serves a wide spectrum of educational needs in the region ranging from programs for adult education, basic skills, and ESL to a California Community College pilot program offering the nation’s first baccalaureate degree in biomanufacturing. MiraCosta College is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).