February 22, 2024

Right Place, Right Time, Right Person: CHaSS Student Selected to Produce Presidential Podcast

Video by Taylor Emerson, Digital Journalist, University Marketing & Communications

Written by Andrea DeHaan, CHaSS Communications Editor

Hannah Castro has been interning with Utah Public Radio since 2023, when she transferred to Utah State after starting school in her hometown of Rexburg, Idaho. As a journalism major, Castro was taking the news writing course during her first semester, when UPR co-Manager Tom Williams and Student Reporter Anna Johnson visited the class one day.  

“They just came in the class and talked about Utah Public Radio, here's what we do, and we're always looking for interns, and I thought, oh I'm way too young in my degree to be looking for an internship, but then I decided to reach out,” Castro said.

But Castro never imagined she’d be the lead student working on USU’s first presidential podcast. When Williams mentioned the possibility of producing the president’s podcast to Castro last summer, she expressed interest but did not realize that in expressing interest, she was essentially being offered the job.

“I thought it was scary at first, but I saw it as a really good opportunity to get to know Utah State better, the president better, and also … the production side of a podcast better,” said Castro. “And it was scary, but also I'm so glad I decided to take interest in it, because I've learned so much.”

The first episode of “Future Casting With Utah State” features President Elizabeth Cantwell and University of Utah President Taylor Randall discussing the state of higher education. Cantwell will host the monthly podcast and use the popular platform to explore USU’s mission “to envision the future and empower all people to lead successful lives of involvement, innovation, and impact.” She will do this by talking with featured guests like Randall and Utah Women & Leadership Project Director Susan Madsen.

“As a producer, I'm going to be present in every episode live, just to make sure all the levels are okay, just to make sure that [Cantwell] has her outline with her, just so that she can touch the topics that she wants to, and I'm just going to be in the studio … making sure it's being recorded, making sure everything sounds good,” said Castro, who has been working with a music producer and recording an outro for every episode. “I'll just put all those elements together and then send it to get approved,” she said. “It's a lot of editing and … you have to be patient, … but it's been a good, a really good process so far.”

Cantwell expressed interest in starting a podcast early in her presidency, and Castro and UPR have been working with University Marketing and Communications since last fall to prepare for the first episode, which they recorded last month. Due to the demands of a university president’s schedule, Castro and Cantwell were not able to meet each other in person ahead of the first recording, but Castro said the excitement for the first episode was infectious, with multiple UPR staff crammed into a small studio with Cantwell and Randall to ensure day one went off without a hitch.

“Honestly, it went a lot smoother than I thought and I'm very excited to work with her again,” said Castro, who looks forward to hearing Cantwell hold conversations with other guests.

For the foreseeable future, Castro will have a front-row seat to the topics covered by USU’s new president and her guests. It’s the chance to learn a lot about higher ed, R1 research, and the communities impacted, and Castro hopes it will also be a chance to solidify her skills in a high-demand field. She credits UPR and JCOM faculty like Brian Champagne and Christopher Garff for helping her learn the ins and outs of editing, storytelling, interviewing, and production.

“Podcasts are going to be such a … beneficial part of everyone's lives because that's how people are going to learn now through audio and through just having people talk about their experiences,” Castro said. “After I graduate, I definitely want to stay in the podcasting world … because of how fun and interactive it can be for everyone involved — the production team, the interviewers, the host.”

As for casting this college student’s future, given that her current job title is "USU President Cantwell's Podcast Producer," Castro is probably right to expect hers to be bright.

To access current and future episodes of "Future Casting With Utah State," visit https://www.upr.org/podcast/future-casting-with-utah-state


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