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Podcast Course Now Part of the Academy's Liberal Arts Curriculum

COM-150 will introduce students to the “fastest growing form of audience entertainment in the world”

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School of Communications & Media Technologies instructor and Urban Knights Radio General Manager Matty Staudt. Photo by Bob Toy.

The popularity of podcasts continues to soar. According to Edison Research, some 35 million people listened to a weekly podcast in 2016, and members of this group downloaded an average of five podcasts per week. Academy of Art University recently added COM-150—a beginning podcasting class—to its liberal arts curriculum. Previously, the course was offered mainly to School of Communications & Media Technologies (COM) students who had to meet certain prerequisites before enrolling in the course.

“Podcasts are the fastest growing form of audience entertainment in the world,” said COM instructor Matty Staudt, who teaches COM-150 and the more advanced COM-250. “Folks who listen to podcasts are the same ones that our students want to sell their brands to. Podcasting is used more and more to build brand awareness. Our students have their own brands, and podcasts are a great way to promote them. And they’re also really fun to do.”

In addition to introducing students to the basics of creating a podcast, COM-150 provides them with a hefty dose of the critiquing, writing and presenting skills that comprise a solid liberal arts education and will serve them well in their careers. “They get their feet wet in audio and learning how to present a podcast script,” explained Staudt. “The class has elements of writing and speaking that you need in day-to-day life. I’m often told by students that they become much better presenters in this class.”

According to Staudt, students majoring in fields such as advertising and fashion design had expressed interest in the podcast course. But the number and variety of students who enrolled for COM-150 as soon as the school offered it as a liberal arts course surprised him.

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Whitley Sandretto, COM student and host of podcast High Heels on the Sideline. Photo by Bob Toy.

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COM major and host of award-winning podcast Shark Bait, Kiyomi Mitsuda. Photo by Bob Toy.

“We were overwhelmed by how many students signed up,” said Staudt. “We had students from music, graphic design, Web design and other majors across the school. Podcasting is something they can do now and keep doing after the class is done.”

Whitley Sandretto signed up for COM-150 because she’d heard a lot about podcasting but didn’t know exactly what it consisted of. She explained that in addition to teaching her how to edit, produce and host a podcast, the class helped her find a platform for her voice.

“I’m always telling people I’m funny, but it doesn’t always show because I’m shy,” said Sandretto, a COM major who enjoys sharing her opinions through her podcast High Heels on the Sideline. “On my podcast, my shyness disappears and I just go for it.”

The Academy was one of the first universities in the country to offer podcasting courses and is known for the quality of podcasts its students produce. For the second year in a row, COM major Kiyomi Mitsuda’s podcast Shark Bait has been named a finalist in the prestigious Intercollegiate Broadcasting System (IBS) Awards competition. Last year, Shark Bait earned Mitsuda the coveted Podcast of the Year Award, beating entries from large universities such as U.S.C. The 2017 winners will be announced at the 77th Annual IBS New York City Conference in March. Mitsuda is looking forward to attending the awards ceremony with her father.  

Mitsuda admitted that she was a bit intimidated at the beginning of her COM-150 class. But as she began to understand how podcasting and radio work, and with Staudt’s encouragement, she grew more confident in her abilities. She went on to create Shark Bait, a fun and educational podcast featuring interviews with scientists, surfers and activists who are interested in protecting the ocean, in Staudt’s COM-250 course.

“Matty gives you so much freedom to be creative,” said Mitsuda, who has produced 13 episodes of Shark Bait to date. “Audio challenges you to be a better creator and to be as entertaining as possible, because you don’t have visuals. COM-250 was one of the hardest classes I’ve taken, because you have to figure out how you’re going to stand out from millions of other podcasts. But I learned so much. It teaches you marketing techniques, demographics and how to get your voice heard.”