Dr. Jessica McDonald (BA’11, PhD’20)
What started as a fun project to fill some of the silence brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has flourished into a creative podcast centered around McDonald’s commitments to social justice, antiracism, and anti-colonialism.
“I listen to podcasts every day, all day, whenever I need anything but silence. And I've been doing that for probably five or so years now. I knew I would eventually host (one),” laughs McDonald.
The USask alumna has a PhD in English literature and is currently completing her post-doctoral work at Simon Fraser University. The isolation McDonald experienced during COVID-19 was the catalyst she needed to kickstart her podcast; she realized conversation and dialogue were necessary to stay connected to the outside world.
“Every time I have an interview, it's just like a nice little boost across the social distance,” she said.
Her podcast, Teachin’ Books, consists of interviews with educators, scholars, book club members, students, and activists. The topics extend beyond the physical pages of books and tackle big issue items like activism, racial justice, ethics, and empathy.
“Teachin’ Books is all about the ways people teach, learn and work with literature. It doesn’t always have to be books; it can be films, music, video games,” explained McDonald. “I really try to only approach and address topics that I think fall within essentially a social justice mandate.”
To McDonald, her podcast is a way to make literature more accessible to people who might not see how literature applies to their lives.
“I don't just want to be some academic sitting in the ivory tower like that cliché where none of my work actually is in dialogue with other communities. My main long-term goal is just to keep on building the communities that listen to the podcast.
Jade Roberts (BEd'18)
Still Here, Still Healing
Jade Roberts was just 16 years old when her father passed away. His death ignited a spark in her to find the truth about his past as a residential school survivor.
“Entering university, I definitely learned a lot more about our history as Indigenous people and our history here in Canada about residential schools specifically. I was angry and I was also curious. I didn't really have that family member that I could turn to and ask questions. I guess that kind of sparked the podcast, that curiosity,” she said.
Still Here, Still Healing is her answer to this personal quest for the truth. The podcast dives into the real-life experiences of residential school survivors.
“Canada is in this stage where we want reconciliation and before we have that we need the truth,” she said.
Originally from La Ronge, Sask., Roberts is a USask ITEP graduate and a current teacher at Pleasant Hill in Saskatoon. In 2019, she put out a call on her Facebook page asking members of her community to share their stories. Several people reached out saying they were interested in being interviewed, including one of her dad’s friends. Others weren’t ready to share. Roberts acknowledges that the subject matter is oftentimes very difficult for her guests to relive.
“We know that residential schools happen, and we know there's still survivors living. But a lot of times we don't hear those stories, and so I really wanted to give a platform for those people that were open to sharing.”
Roberts uses the platform to educate her listeners and bring the dark history of residential school to the forefront. She has interviewed intergenerational survivors and says that her focus going forward will be to continue to educate her listeners and celebrate Indigenous voices.
“I really wanted to like uplift and share the voices of people that are doing really good work.”
Eric Anderson (BEd’06)
Former CBC reporter Eric Anderson doesn’t mince words about the strains that come with being a modern-day journalist.
“I was a victim to the daily news grind. When I moved into communications in 2016, I had work-life balance for the first time ever in my working career,” said Anderson.
But while Anderson finally found some temporary relief from the hustle and bustle of the news bullpen, he couldn’t ignore his longing to tell stories.
“I missed meeting new people and interviewing them. So I thought, ‘Why can’t I do that? I could make it my own!’ There was a great freedom in realizing that.”
Thus YXE Underground was born – a podcast that focuses on the everyday, often overlooked community members helping make Saskatoon a better place.
It was an easy transition for Anderson to move from journalist to podcaster as he already had a myriad of technical radio skills in his repertoire. The subject matter also came naturally; he knew he wanted to tell the untold and undercelebrated stories of local influencers and changemakers.
After three seasons, a slick website and dozens of interviews, YXE Underground has most definitely achieved its initial goals, and then some. Centralizing around current events and topics including Black Lives Matter, housing security and the COVID-19 pandemic, Anderson has unearthed many untold stories.
“What I'm trying to do is show the broader community. Maybe they've never been in the news before, but they're doing awesome things and you might find their story really interesting."