Exercise and Civic Engagement: 2 Podcasts that Deepen Thinking on Our Commitments to One Another

Eric Hartman, Haverford College & globalsl 

Like many folks in professional roles, I often sit at a desk – yet I want to stay in shape. In November I upped my jogging and walking efforts in a monthly Fitbit competition that I have so far lost throughout the year. Several of the outcomes were wonderful: it forced me to identify meetings and calls that can be taken while walking (not all, but many); it got me outside more often with family members; and even though I moved in silence for several of those early morning hours, it led me through extended visits with several podcasts relevant to engaged and civic learning. If, like me, you frequently find yourself stretching to balance your love for your family with your personal health and vocational passions in serious community-based learning – I recommend these opportunities for your earbuds:

  1. THE Community Engagement Podcast – #compactnation, bills itself as “conversations with leading community engagement professionals, book and literature reviews,  discussions of important topics in the field, and maybe the answer to what happens when a few community engagement professionals step into an elevator–or start a podcast.”

Hosted by National Campus Compact President Andrew Seligsohn, Iowa Campus Compact Executive Director Emily Shields, and Indiana Campus Compact Executive Director J.R. Jamison, Compact Nation is an ongoing exploration of major figures, movements, ideas, and questions in the field of community engagement. Now in its second season, the Compact Nation podcast has some of the markings of a scrappy start up and all of the insights of a well-positioned network thoughtfully interrogated by three experienced practitioner-scholars. They take seriously the advice dished out in an interview with Vu Le, Founder and Lead Writer at Nonprofit AF. That is: don’t take yourself too seriously. Perhaps nothing expresses that combination of joking familiarity and studied seriousness of inquiry better than the title of that particular podcast: Cultural Competency and Community-Centric Fundraising Meets the Golden Girls.

Independence Hall is one long walk from Haverford College – just under 10 miles.

Each podcast focuses on one topic (e.g. deliberative dialogue with Tim Shaffer, social justice in higher education with Tania Mitchell, or campus political engagement with Nancy Thomas). Cumulatively, this collection of podcasts provides individuals at any institution with a variety of tools, strategies, and insights that may be employed similarly or distinctly across varying institutional contexts. It’s absolutely a service to the field, and I particularly appreciate the way in which the podcast format pushes individuals to communicate with accessible language that works where community engagement must: across diverse fields, areas of practice, and populations.

  1. On Being with Krista Tippett, describes itself as, “Taking up the big questions of meaning with scientists and theologians, artists and teachers — some you know and others you’ll love to meet.”

I’ve always thought of On Being as a friend of the movement to advance the public purposes of higher education. That’s because – like best practice in rigorous experiential learning – Krista Tippett’s interviews present guests with excellent reflective questions that probe the intersection of theory, experience, lived insight, available data, and cultural contingency. Unlike so many spaces in our culture, the show creates an opportunity where deep and respectful curiosity is embraced across secular and sacred, scientist and theologian, academic and practitioner, right and left. There are scores of excellent interviews in the On Being archives. For instance, a colleague recently started a group email discussion about engaging students in thoughtful, critical conversations about Hope within social justice work, which led to my gathering this set of On Being investigations related to the topic:  

These few, extraordinary conversations on Hope represent a tiny portion of the On Being wisdom available to educators dedicated to working toward better possibilities with students and community members, together. The conversations model the essential attentiveness to both the humility necessary for working across difference and the chutzpah required to re-imagine and build more just structures. In particular, check out the Civil Conversations Series, an extensive set of interviews as varied as The Spiritual Work of Black Lives Matter and Tech’s Moral Reckoning.

I know, I know – someone out there, if they’re still reading – is thinking: “Give it a rest, Hartman! Don’t you ever do things outside of work?” Yes, I do. A wide variety of music via Pandora also fueled these walks and runs, along with a memorable Sound Opinions podcast on Songs of Thanks.

I also reacquainted myself with The Weight by The Band when Campus Compact President Andrew Seligsohn expressed his disbelief that there may be listeners who have never heard of The Band. And one day, through essentially the magic scramble of SoundCloud, I found myself re-motivated physically and otherwise by Spag Heddy’s Permanent. There’s a song that never would have come into my world otherwise. And knowing how much risk and boundary-pushing must be embraced by individuals pushing rigorous transdisciplinary inquiry and ethical community-campus partnerships throughout higher education, well, I dedicate this to you all:

Do you listen to podcasts that you’d like to recommend to others who work with community-based learning? Let me know on Twitter @emhartman or by email. I can always use more trail-based reflective learning opportunities. I’m a big believer in #moveslowlythinkdeeply. Thanks for reading.

Eric Hartman is Executive Director of the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship at Haverford College, and co-founder of globalsl. Through scholarship and practice, he is interested in seeking global citizenship and advancing ethical, community-based global learning. His writing is reflective of his own inquiry and is not advanced as a representation of official policy of Haverford College or the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship. 

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