Beyond the Front Page: “Matters of State” Alumni Podcast
The weekly podcast “Matters of State” was created in fall 2015 by several Elliott School graduate students, now alumni, to explore underreported international affairs topics. We recently caught up with Kevin Fairdosi (MA ’16), Lacey Bruske (MA ’16), John Blaha (MA ’16), Bobby Shields (MA ’17), James Goymour (MIS ’15), and Lindsey Spanner (MA ’16) about their project.
How did you meet?
Lacey, John, and Kevin all met during first-year orientation, before even starting the semester. Kevin and John bonded over their Texas roots from the start. There were several other original members who have since parted ways, and we began looking for new recruits. Bobby, JB, and Lindsey all impressed us with their experience and enthusiasm.
Tell us a bit about the beginnings of the podcast.
Kevin first had the idea of starting a podcast related to our studies in international affairs, but it took the whole team (and some trial and error) to really define our goals and develop it into what it has become. We held many meetings in Gelman, coffee shops, and peoples’ apartments, where we planned our goals, defined positions and responsibilities, and deliberated over things like the podcast name and what topics to cover. Though we had many ideas for what we wanted to discuss, we also wanted to bring something unique to the table. That’s why we decided to focus on important global issues that aren’t getting a lot of attention on the front pages.
What have been some challenges and highlights?
We’ve had plenty of challenges along the way! Just producing the podcast presented a lot of technical challenges. None of us knew the first thing about recording audio or how to publish a podcast. Now we are comfortable with that, and we have the weekly challenges of creating each episode. None of us pretend to be experts on the particular issues we discuss. Rather, we present ourselves as people who spend time researching a topic and then scratch the surface of that topic on the air. Scheduling episodes, doing the required research, writing outlines, and even finding the time to meet can be challenging.
It has been well worth the work, though. For one, we have had the opportunity to pick the brains of experts in their respective fields, such as former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and Jamie Franklin, executive director of Mines Advisory Group America. We’ve also all become more well-rounded IR professionals, because the nature of the podcast requires us to study things that are outside of our areas of expertise. Last but not least, we’ve all built friendships through this project.
We’d love to hear how you get your ideas for each episode…
So many ways! We have regular meetings where we discuss the next month or so of episodes. Some ideas come to us from listeners or friends (contact us if you would like to share ideas!). Sometimes one of us will read a blurb about a subject that we want to dig into further. Many of the topics are also issues that we have discussed in classes, like our episode on unorthodox illicit financing.
Are there particular classes and/or professors that influenced you in your journey to create Matters of State?
A number of professors inspired our episodes. Kim Thachuk, for example, really inspired us to explore how international problems are interconnected and how almost everything is a part of a vast web. This is a common theme in many of our episodes.
Any words of advice for today’s Elliott School students who would like to make a positive difference in the world through new media outlets – or other entrepreneurial ventures?
Define your personal goals, and make a concrete plan on how to get there. This advice could apply to any entrepreneurial venture, as it is so important. On reflection, we could have reached out to more people who had already gone through the challenges we were likely to face. It can be most enlightening to speak with others who have made it in the field that interests you.
Also: contact us! We are always looking for talented people who want to contribute to our mission by doing research, speaking, managing the website, editing audio, and any other creative way possible. To those who aim to make a positive difference through media, we really think that Matters of State is an important pursuit worth taking seriously.
To contact Matters of State and sign up for the podcast, visit their website: http://www.mattersofstate.org/.