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Stories to go: Nevada Today's new UNPACKED podcast

Marketing Communications offers a mobile way to hear the backstories of people from throughout the University community

One of the primary roles of Marketing Communications is to help spread the word about the University of Nevada, Reno. Ultimately, my colleagues and I are storytellers, crafting and presenting the contributions of faculty, staff, students, administration, supporters and alumni. Among the tools our team and partners across campus use to tell those stories is Nevada Today, the source for insightful daily and weekly coverage of the top University news and newsmakers.

After coming to MarCom from KUNR last December, my first Nevada Today assignment was to write about the potentially game-changing research of University chemical biologist Yftah Tal-Gan. His team’s synthesized peptides have gained international attention for their potential to disrupt the communication of Streptococcus pneumoniae, potentially preventing countless deaths without leading to the drug resistance that is such a problem today.

The research was absolutely brilliant and equally engaging, yet what really stood out to me was Yftah, the person. I was curious: Just how does one become a chemical biologist in the first place? I inquired about his life, his family, his childhood (snakes were involved) and his life-long fascination with all things chemical and biological. Really, though, he had me at, “I fell in love with bacterial communication.”

And with each Nevada Today article I’d set out to write, I’d meet brilliant people with intriguing stories, just as I recalled from interviews in my public radio career.

To help MarCom tell the stories of the “who” behind the “what,” a podcast seemed like the perfect vehicle. And with the full support of MarCom’s Executive Director Kerri Garcia Hendricks and my colleagues, that podcast became reality on July 16 as Nevada Today launched UNPACKED: Backstories of the University of Nevada, Reno.

The first episode is now available on the Nevada Today web page, and for download from Spotify, Apple Podcasts and other common sources, with a new episode being released next week and about every two weeks thereafter.

UNPACKED gives a literal human voice to the University community. Its aim is to connect listeners to the people behind the stories through conversations presented in a personal, credible, relatable and engaging way. As host and producer, I’m excited to have the opportunity to “unpack” the stories of people from all facets of the University community – their journey, their passions and their impacts. (Yftah Tal-Gan’s story will be featured in a future episode).

The first episode: the experience, passion and hopeful perspectives of Steve Maples

Given the challenge COVID is presenting for recruiting and admissions teams across the country, I selected the University’s Director of Admissions Steve Maples as my guest for the premier episode. When you listen, you’ll quickly see why. 

You’ll likely find yourself quickly drawn to Steve’s passion for students, his optimism and energy, his talent for instantly making a human connection, and his institutional knowledge and life wisdom from nearly three decades promoting our University and working with students and their families. If you think it’s about mundane academics, admissions and recruiting, you’ll be surprised to find it’s really well worth the 30 minutes to listen for anyone with a love for or interest in this University. I still get inspired by it, even after listening to the content dozens of time as I completed the editing and production.

A little bit of background for those who may not be regular podcast listeners. Audio today is experiencing quite a renaissance across demographics. Podcasting especially is seeing unrelenting growth in content offerings and listeners right now. In my many years as GM at KUNR, NPR was a national storytelling and journalism powerhouse that became a leader in the podcast format – a perfect fit for developing a new pipeline for listeners in the digital age. Their popularity is why a number of well-received podcasts have recently begun being offered from across the University.

According to the 2020 Global Podcast Statistics, Demographics & Habits from Podcasting.org, there are now more than a million podcasts combining for nearly 30 million episodes, downloaded by over 68 million people each week. In fact, nearly a quarter of the U.S. population say they listen to a podcast at least weekly. Listeners are nearly evenly split male/female, and 25% have a college education. Some 16 million Americans consider themselves “avid podcast fans.” 

We hope you'll join them.

UNPACKED is portable for hands-free, mobile listening around the house, in the car, at the gym or on the go. We trust you’ll enjoy each episode, and please help spread the stories in UNPACKED by sharing it with others!

David Stipech
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