Students in Assistant Professor of Sociology Matthew Grace’s Sociology 101 class were given an unconventional opportunity to showcase their knowledge of course material while learning more about life at Hamilton. At the end of the semester, they presented podcasts of their own making that examined sociological issues on campus.

Topics ranged from students’ educational backgrounds, race relations on campus, “dark side” versus “light side” culture, and the relationship between Hamilton and the local community. “The main goal is to engage students with the material in a really interactive way,” Grace said.

According to Grace, the podcast project was inspired by Assistant Professor of Anthropology Mariam Durrani, who has plenty of her own experience incorporating technology into social science learning. Prior to her position at Hamilton, Durrani helped create CAMRA (Collective for Advancing Multimodal Research Arts) at the University of Pennsylvania.

In her view, incorporating digital technology into her classes is essential to students’ understanding of the way society has developed in the wake of technological innovation.

“[Digital technology] has changed the way we get our news, express ideas of self and community, and communicate,” Durrani explained. “It’s important for students to get firsthand experience.”                                                                           

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In Grace’s class, students took on specific responsibilities within a group to make the podcast, including audio engineer, reporter, and writer/producer. Staff from Hamilton’s library and IT services assisted students with sound engineering and recording, allowing students to produce professional-grade podcasts. The final products have not been published anywhere thus far but are saved in an archive available to students in the class.

Through the process of creating the podcasts, students have engaged with the local area and the Hamilton community in an intimate way. Grace Kupka ’22, a January admit whose group focused on the experiences of “Jans” in varying class years, spoke about her podcast. “It’s very interesting to interact with Jans from all class years and learn about how the Hamilton experience is shaped by the people of all ages,” she said. “There are some differences, but we all have the same underlying Hamilton-specific experiences that connect us all.”

In Professor Grace’s experience, students have also been able to make meaningful connections with the course material by examining a specific on-campus example. The class tackled topics such as cultural capital and intergroup dynamics, including social in-groups and out-groups. “At its heart, empathy is a really incredible and powerful learning device,” said Grace.

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