Perspectives Online

Podcasts lure future CALS students


Scripts in hand, two students prepare a podcast of information about N.C. State for prospective applicants.
Photo by Becky Kirkland

It's nearly impossible to walk through campus without spotting a student "plugged in" to an MP3 player. These tiny devices - often no larger than a deck of cards - can hold thousands of songs and other audio files downloaded from the Web.

And if Tricia Buddin and Leigh Jay Hicks get their way, these audio files, or podcasts, will be the next great student recruiting tool.

Buddin, assistant director of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Career Services, and Hicks, instructional technologist with the College's Information Technology Division, are spearheading an innovative effort to reach prospective students through podcasts. But they're quick to point out that while they might be "in charge," it's the CALS Ambassadors - true to their outreach mission - who are driving this project.

"We've been brainstorming ways to reach future students, and this technology will allow us to deliver real stories from the voices of real students," Buddin said.

A group of 25 CALS Ambassadors recently assembled in teams to develop concepts and write scripts for the podcasts. Topics include "Living on campus," "Balancing academics with student life" and "CALS opportunities."

They're also narrating campus tours, teaching the university's fight song and dishing on everything from where to eat on campus to the easiest way to get to a football game.

"So many students tell us that their visit to N.C. State makes a big difference in their college decision, and so many students can't make it to campus," Buddin said. "Now, they'll be able to hear directly from our students what life is like at N.C. State and in CALS."

In February, teams of CALS Ambassadors began recording the podcasts in a digital media lab in the university's library. Hicks will edit the recordings and post them to the Web. She'll roll out a new podcast each week on the CALS prospective students' Web site. The entire slate of podcasts also will be available on the site. And students who might not own MP3 players can simply download the podcasts to their computers and listen at home.

"A lot of kids browse the Web, especially for information about colleges or to apply to college," said Jennifer Tallent, a senior biological sciences major who is one of the CALS Ambassadors working on the project. "We figure we'll reach a large audience through these podcasts."

Beth Migliaccio, a CALS Ambassador and sophomore biochemistry major, added, "We're trying to bring the school visit to them."

Buddin, Hicks and the Ambassadors are dreaming big.

"My hope is that the students run wild with it," Hicks says. Eventually, she said, they'd like for students who aren't able to attend campus tours to be able to visit campus, check out an MP3 player and go on an audio tour at their own pace, choosing topics specific to their interests.

They're also exploring possibilities for developing podcasts for current students, such as consolidating Career Services' workshops into one-minute soundbites to pique student interest. And, Buddin says, they plan to create a mechanism by which prospective students can give feedback on the podcasts and make suggestions for future topics.

"We're providing the Ambassadors with technical support, guidance and editing, but this is their baby," Buddin said. "We're eager to see where the students take it."

- Suzanne Stanard

Want to listen to a podcast? Visit www.cals.ncsu.edu and click on "Prospective Students."