Featured / January 20, 2016
By Sandy Deneau Dunham

IN LATE AUGUST, PLU debuted “Open to Interpretation,” a podcast devoted to exploring the meanings and implications of words commonly used in the news, on social media and on college campuses.

Hosted by Associate Professor of Communication Amy Young, each monthly episode features unexpected pairings of faculty guests representing all corners of scholarship. Through lively dialogue and debate, “Open to Interpretation” reminds listeners that rarely, if ever, can a word’s meaning be reduced to a single understanding.

The inaugural episode, which quickly became one of the most-listened-to features on PLU’s audio site, focused on a discussion of the word “advocacy” between Young, Associate Professor of Religion Kevin O’Brien and Clinical Assistant Professor of Communication Justin Eckstein. The second episode, between Young, Professor of Psychology Michelle Ceynar and Associate Professor of Philosophy Pauline Shanks Kaurin, centered on the word “violence,” and the third featured professors Caitlyn Sill (Political Science) and Michael Behrens (Biology) discussing the word “climate.”

Young, who serves as Chair of the Department of Communication & Theatre, says she has long been a consumer of podcasts, and she is hopeful that “Open to Interpretation” will serve as a public model of intellectual engagement and welcome listeners into conversations commonly found on college campuses and in intellectual communities.

Open to Interpretation on SoundCloud

Listen to all episodes of PLU’s “Open to Interpretation” podcast.

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“Scholars tend to write for the ‘priesthood,’ to have our work circulate only among other experts in our own disciplines. By bringing together smart people from multiple disciplines, I think this podcast demonstrates the value and impact of engagement around ideas that touch our communities,” Young said. “Also, I want scholars to try and speak to and for non-experts, and I want to ask them to talk about something that may not be in their research wheelhouse. I think it helps us hone ways to take our work public, to communicate relevance and to open lines of communication with other communities and audiences.

“University faculty have a unique platform by virtue of our position and perception, and we ought to use it to shape public life in positive ways,” she said. “The podcast is an accessible way to talk about things that matter to people who are not in our classrooms or aren’t interested in reading our books or journal articles or papers. It is a way to have discursive circulation outside the ivory tower. I think PLU has that kind of ethos, and I think faculty will be excited by this opportunity.”

Sandy Deneau Dunham
Sandy Deneau Dunham
Sandy Deneau Dunham has worked as a reporter, a copy editor and an editor and team leader for The Phoenix Gazette, The (Tacoma) News Tribune and The Seattle Times, and as Communications Manager for Town Hall Seattle. She graduated from the University of Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has volunteered at the Washington Soldiers Home & Colony (and maintained the website SoldiersHomeStories.com) since 2009.

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