It’s not unusual for Evan Myers ’21 and Brent Nelsen, professor of politics and international affairs, to discuss campus issues, and higher education more broadly.
Today, the two host ZoomUni, a podcast that explores issues Furman and schools across the country face today, ranging from COVID-19, race, the role of sports, and Greek life.
Nelsen spent the summer serving on several university committees that planned Furman’s opening this fall.
“I woke up one night and thought we needed to do a podcast on universities and their strange year in COVID season,” he said, adding that Myers was a clear choice for the podcast.
Nelsen and Myers met during Myers’ first year at Furman. Myers had texted a student he had met during a campus visit and asked what 10 things he would recommend to an incoming freshman. One was to join a prayer group that Nelsen leads.
“I emailed Dr. Nelsen before I got to campus,” said Myers, a politics and international affairs major “Plus, Dr. Nelsen teaches a lot of international political economy and European politics, which were subjects I was already interested in. So it was just a good fit.”
Nelsen timed his podcast suggestion perfectly. Myers, who is editor-in-chief of The Paladin, Furman’s independent student newspaper, had been considering starting a podcast within the newspaper with two other editors.
“Our job at The Paladin is to be an independent voice on campus,” said Myers. “We want to provide more of a student perspective and be able to report on the good, the bad and the ugly about Furman.” The Paladin recently launched a new website, thepaladin.news.
While a podcast linked to The Paladin newspaper didn’t pan out, the ZoomUni podcast with Nelsen did.
“We’re charging ahead, and I’m enjoying being able to cover a lot of the issues that are going on right now,” Myers said. “There are a ton of them.”
The first ZoomUni podcast aired Aug. 11 and covered Furman’s COVID-19 response and return to campus. It aired on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and several other platforms. Other episodes discussed whether college athletics can survive COVID-19, the cancelation of the fall sports season and Greek life issues.
“Greek life is really the intersection of a lot of the issues on college campuses, from COVID-19 response to racial justice to classic college issues, such as partying,” Myers said.
Nelsen said the goal of ZoomUni is to increase the quality of conversation on campus – to model civil discourse and to encourage people to talk about important issues.
“We want to be a place where people might hear things that are a little more controversial using reasonable voices on campus,” he said. “A lot of these issues are hot-button issues. We want to talk to people with strong opinions, but we want to talk to them in a constructive way so that other people can talk about them in a constructive way in their dorm rooms, apartments or classrooms.”
A place for student journalists
Myers also founded the College Associated Press, a group of about 30 student newspapers from universities across the country, that meets monthly and collaborates on content. The organization’s first collaboration is an effort to gather how different universities are responding to COVID-19.
“I started the College Associated Press because I sensed that this fall, every student newspaper would be covering the same key issues: The COVID-19 crisis, racial justice and the election,” said Myers. “Campus news is national news this fall, and I wanted to make sure that the student voice was loud and clear by creating a space where student newspapers around the country could collaborate, support one another and share best practices.”