Every week, the Society of Skeptics lecture series offers Blair community members the opportunity to learn from a fascinating speaker. Sometimes, however, the hour-long presentation and Q & A leave the audience wanting to know even more. To help shed additional light on guests and issues, four enterprising students have founded The Academy Talk Show, a podcast of one-on-one interviews that bring listeners deeper into Skeptics speakers’ lives and work.
Since last spring, Daniel Dai ’21, Ethan Rackleff ’21, Jack Weber ’21 and Dong Bin (DB) Won ’22 have produced six episodes of The Academy Talk Show, each featuring an intimate conversation with a guest who especially piqued their interest. Their goals with the interviews are to learn more about Skeptics speakers and to share what they learn with a wide audience via their podcasts. In addition, they hope their interviews will serve as a condensed version of Skeptics for those who don’t have time to tune in for entire lectures.
The four club members have each played a role in bringing The Academy Talk Show to life. Jack has helped write interview questions, DB and Daniel usually conduct the interviews, and Ethan edits and produces the podcasts. Their advisor, history department chair and Society of Skeptics director Jason Beck, connects them to the Skeptics speakers they want to interview and facilitates their meeting, but otherwise, he says, his role is minimal.
“It’s really been a team effort on the part of the club members, and I think it’s great that they are interested in speaking individually with so many of our guests,” Mr. Beck said. “The speakers they have interviewed, both in person last year and online this semester, have really enjoyed their questions and the conversation. And, I've been quite pleased that they've been processing and publishing a number of the conversations they have worked on over the past year.”
When asked which podcast has been his favorite so far, DB noted that it was a great honor to interview Raymond Seitz, former U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, on the importance of bipartisanship during Brexit. Daniel especially enjoyed talking to award-winning author Sergio Troncoso about coming from an immigrant background and “what our lives mean for those in generations after us.”
“In working on The Academy Talk Show, I’ve realized that there are so many more stories to be heard and things to be learned from different people,” Daniel reflected. “It is important, especially in the current sociopolitical climate, that we listen to what others have to say and process that before we make our own opinions.”
DB also shared a larger lesson he has learned through The Academy Talk Show. “Every issue or problem portrayed to the public is not as simple to resolve as many people may think it is,” he said. “There is no simple solution to solving any significant issue. Even within a seemingly straightforward problem of illegal immigration, no clear solution can be agreed upon because each proposed solution compromises a significant intricacy or issue within the wider issue of immigration.”
The club members plan to continue interviewing Skeptics speakers and, hopefully, other guests as the year unfolds and creating podcasts to share their work. Their catalogue of podcasts is available here.