“History Behind the Headlines” podcast launched by Wilkes History Department

The History Department has launched a new podcast called “Wilkes University History Behind the Headlines.” The first episode is available on Soundcloud, and more episodes will be released in the future.

The podcast is student-led with help from communication studies majors as well as history majors. It provides historical context to recent events in the world today.

“As historians, we realize how crucial the past is in understanding today,” said Jennifer Boch, a student host. “So when we see a news story, that’s where our minds go: What’s the history behind this current event?”

With only one episode released, the podcast is looking toward advancing their segment.

“We have high hopes for the future of the podcast,” said Dr. Jonathan Kuiken, an associate professor of history. “Going forward, we hope to get into a rhythm of producing an episode each month next academic year.”

The second episode of the podcast is currently in production and is scheduled to be released before the end of the Spring 2021 semester. 

“The next episode will be on the history of drugs, especially cannabis, against the current issues surrounding the legalization of marijuana,” said Dr. Akira Shimizu, an assistant professor of history. “Dr. Adam Rathge of the University of Dayton, the specialist in this topic, kindly agreed to be the guest for this episode. Also, potential future topics include the history of wages in relation to the current issues of minimum wages as well as the history of censorship and U.S.-Iran relationship.”

The idea for a podcast initially started years ago as an idea between Kuiken and Shimizu while organizing events for the History Department’s Contemporary History Project.

“We thought that a podcast like this could be a great way for providing our history majors, particularly those majors with a concentration in public history, with an opportunity to put their research and writing skills to use in a way that would demonstrate the vital necessity of understanding historical context if we want to be truly informed individuals,” said Kuiken.

Boch is excited that the podcast has finally taken off and has been “given some legs.” 

“This idea has been in the works for a while,” said Boch. “I remember Dr. Kuiken mentioned it when I was a first-year student.”

Shimizu said Kuiken had suggested the idea to him again recently, and they were able to make it happen.

“Dr. Kuiken had a discussion with Dr. Mia E. Briceño when Dr. Kuiken’s suggestion turned into a prospective project for the students in communication and history,” said Shimizu. “Mrs. Kristen Rock (manager of 90.7 WCLH) agreed to assist this project.”

According to Boch, “After deciding on an idea, we researched to get a general understanding of the topic, and from this research, we met to brainstorm questions to ask our guest expert.”

The first episode of the podcast focuses on relations between the U.S. and China, which was sparked by a speaker at Misericordia University, Dr. Yanqiu Zheng.

“Dr. Zheng’s specialty is U.S.-China relations, and he is just an absolutely brilliant scholar and has a wonderful presence, either in front of a group or behind a microphone,” said Kuiken. “When Dr. Zheng agreed to help us with this episode, we knew that it would make a great initial foray into the world of podcasting.”

Zheng was interviewed by two history majors on the historical significance of the relationship between the U.S. and China.

“Dr. Zheng is a specialist in this field and generously shared his in-depth understanding of the relationship between two nations beginning in the 19th century,” said Shmizu.

Kuiken reported that Boch, as well as fellow history students Adam Piston, Nick Chupela, Jamison Shaw and Jacob Kudysch, were responsible for researching and writing the questions that were asked of Zheng.

“The process of working with the students from both history and communication studies has been great,” said Kuiken. “It shows how much we can accomplish when we draw in talented people from various departments and disciplines.”

Boch notes that the goal of the podcast is to inform students on current events and understand them in relation to history.

“History is the backbone to everything that is happening, and without understanding it, we won’t be able to stand and move forward,” said Boch. “This podcast is meant to provide that backbone.” 

As a final note, Kuiken shared: “We would love it if (The Beacon’s) readers sent us ideas for topics they would like to learn about.”