For every episode we record, we want the speaker to be their three-dimensional selves. We ask questions to learn more about who they are, their biography and story—and then see how their personal background connects to their ideas, scholarship, faith, or core values.

The pandemic closing our doors led us into a new creative season at Upper House. Because we dearly missed our community events and the informal getting-to-know-you conversations with speakers and attendees, we found ourselves asking:  What other ways are available to us to connect with our community and dive deeper into topics that matter to us?

One of the answers Dan Hummel, Upper House’s Director of University Engagement, came up with was podcasting. As we celebrate the 1000th download of The UpWords Podcast, we are reflecting on the benefits of our podcast experience in its first few months. What are we enjoying, learning, and seeing happen?

Dan is an avid podcast listener. He reflects that not only do podcasts allow people to hear more than soundbites, but also the very way we listen to podcasts deepens our experience of what we are hearing. “Most of us listen to podcasts through headphones or earbuds, which viscerally allow listeners to sense a deeper connection with the speaker.”

Podcast interviews tend to be more informal and conversational than Upper House’s public events. Simply taking the audience out of the room allows for a different dynamic with more fluid interaction and personal reflection.  Dan says, “For every episode we record, we want the speaker to be their three-dimensional selves. We ask questions to learn more about who they are, their biography and story—and then see how their personal background connects to their ideas, scholarship, faith or core values.”

In its first ten episodes, The UpWords Podcast has touched on a range of topics across the spectrum of human experience and interest. On occasion, Dan notes, “We interview faculty or researchers about their academic work and very niche topics, some of which might only appeal to a certain part of our community. But these conversations are important. We value being part of a university community. We value all the hard work that people are doing to hash out ideas and nuances that in some instances might seem minor on their face.”

Details and nuances are revealing. A niche podcast can unpack new and interesting angles on topics, or insights into others’ unique perspectives, or clearer understanding of complicated issues and their resonances.

“We look for unique entryways into topics that bear on the life of the people we know, or perhaps address questions and interests in fresh ways.”

Dan is not the only one addressing these questions or topics. Several members of the Upper House team are hosting interviews with scholars, creatives, and community members to learn more about their work or life lessons they are learning.

Working in such a rich environment positions Upper House to engage in conversations that stretch us. We are committed to digging deeper into hard questions and ideas. We want to go beyond soundbites. The UpWords Podcast allows us to do both in creative, interactive ways that give us real joy.

If you’d like to subscribe to The UpWords Podcast, link here. Interested in exploring? Our first ten episodes are listed below.

Art + Faith with Makoto Fujimura

Healing, Power, and Christianity in Ghana with Paul Grant

The Laziness Myth with Christine Jeske

Science, Religion, and the Protestant Tradition with James Ungureanu

The Women of Exodus with Kelley Nikondeha

Learning to Lament with LaToya Wilson and Paul Kamps

Business on Purpose with Randy Franz and Kenman Wong

Christian Faith and Science with John Lennox and Science for the Church

Writing, Teaching, and Living into the Unknown with Marilyn McEntyre

The History of Modern American Evangelicalism with Darren Dochuk

(Feature Photo: Cameron Anderson, Associate Director of Upper House, interviews artist Makoto Fujimura for an episode of The UpWords Podcast titled Art + Faith.)