Paying it Forward

Karis Brown; Jack Harte; Jessica Saunders; Tami Albin; and Shannon O'Lear


[Karis Brown:] Welcome to the discussion of Podcast Perspectives of Environmental Geopolitics. In this episode, the crew will be discussing how this class influenced our future trajectories and how we plan to pay it forward for other people.

[Dr. Shannon O’Lear:] We are here in the Makerspace of Anschutz Library at the University of Kansas. My name is Shannon O’Lear. I’m a professor of Geography and the director of the Environmental Studies program here at KU, and I am here with three students from the Environmental Geopolitics class. And I will ask them to introduce themselves.

[Jessica:] Hi, my name is Jessica Saunders. My pronouns are she/her. I am currently a junior at the University of Kansas, majoring in Environmental Studies with a minor in Political Science.

[Jack Harte:] I’m Jack Harte. My pronouns are he/him working towards a Bachelor of Arts in Geography at the University of Kansas. I’m about a senior and a half at this point, I guess I’ve got one more semester to go, but we’re working towards it.

[Karis:] You minor in anything?

[Jack:] I’m minoring in Business.

[Karis:] Look at that. [laughs] Well, I am Karis Brown, also a senior and a half right now. Oh, I use they/them pronouns. I am also majoring in Environmental Studies and I minor in Anthropology and Journalism. I like to write.

[Jessica:] And we are also accompanied by our superhero Librarian Tami Albin, who has been the glue for our podcast projects and our OER project, which we will discuss now.

So Tami asked us, how do we think that being in this class, working with Dr. O’Lear, working on this podcast or excuse me, this Pressbook, How do we think that that can change the trajectory of our-

[Tami, from the background:] How will it influence?

[Jessica:] How will it influence the trajectory of our environmental- [chuckles] Things.

[Tami, from the background:] How do you think it’s changed how you work?

[Jessica sighs]

[Jessica:] Karis I’m going to let you start with that one.

[Karis:] Well, so Dr. O’Lear’s class was one of the first environmental studies classes I took in general when I switched my major, and it was— it changed from me, like- It changed from me wanting to go into science like create data, generate I guess those objective truths. And I instead wanted to, I wanted to talk about them with people. I wanted to implement them. I wanted to do something with them. I wanted to teach people, but not behind a paywall. I think that’s kind of why I’m so passionate about this open educational resource, It’s like the idea that it’s not gonna be stuck in floating around KU.

Yeah. No. I I want to I mean, to be honest, I think I’ve decided that I want to go into policy and try to bring a more interdisciplinary approach to the government. And because that’s what’s key, it’s not like singular perspectives is what I’ve learned, it’s not singular ways of thinking or singular ways of going about it is the right way to do it. It’s involving the input from everyday people in involving the perspectives and everything that like colors, our own experiences. I mean, yeah, No, I want to, I want to [chuckles] It might be a big goal, but I want to change the world. So-

[Jessica:] Oh, really? Same!

[both laugh simultaneously]

[Jessica:] No you pretty much hit the nail on the head. I’m personally, I don’t have a dream job in mind. I never have. I just want to do something that I feel makes productive change, something that makes me feel good in my heart at the end of the day. Again, like I’m a very conceptual thinker. And this class was really, really helpful for me because it, it literally, and I’ve told Dr. O’Lear this before, everything in her book I just read and I was like,

“This has been in my brain for so long. Now I have a way of actually getting it out clearly and concisely.”

And it’s so refreshing and empowering. And doing this project, doing the Pressbook, it’s, it’s been really, really fulfilling. And just knowing that I’m gaining skills that could help me get a job one day or, yeah. Or, you know, people might see this and think that it’s really cool.

[Karis:] People will see this and think that it is really cool.

[Jessica:]This is true. Great things could come out of this, and that’s so cool and it’s really nice to have all of our hard work recognized. Yeah.

[Jack:] Yeah. And just to kind of build on that conciseness specifically, again, throwing all the way back to the start of this kind of podcasting session with durable versus disposable assignments. I feel like a lot of academic papers I’ve written in undergrad. They’re just written for undergrad. But having to put this into a podcast format, having to utilize this method of discourse analysis, it kind of colloquialized it a little bit, it kind of like brought it back down to earth and allowed me to kind of refine my arguments.

And so, you know, I spent a summer fighting wildfires in Oregon. And so I was interested in fire, but this is kind of made me like a fire ecology nerd because it gave me time to like, er- it gave me a direction to head in which I could, you know, have a 10-minute podcast that made an argument about human, about ecological and about spatial relations. Within that, it was a good introduction to the academic world, specifically fire ecology. But just academia as a whole— it’s just this whole process has been just a little taste of academia, which has been good to have.

[Jessica:] Well and how often do you get to go on a 10 to 20 minute tangent about something that you’re actually passionate about, right?

[Jack:] Yeah. And that’s, like I said, about recognizing my my nerdiness or is it it forces that out of you. Er- you know because again, it’s like you’re saying like when else do you get that opportunity to flip the script and become the educator?

[Jessica:] Yeah.

[Karis:] Mhm.

[Jessica:] That’s a good point. I liked that.

[Dr. O’Lear:] I have another question-

[Jessica:] Yes.

[Dr. O’Lear:] For all three of you. So given how different and unique and everything you’ve said about this whole project, both the podcast and this OER, how are you going to pass this on or pay it forward?

Jessica:] In terms of the project itself or like socially… blah blah blah blah blah?

[Dr. O’Lear:] However you want to answer the question.

[Jack chuckles]

[Jessica:] Oh man.

[Jack:] I mean, I think in some ways it gives a- just an idea in day-to-day life of how to call out false or misleading claims. So when somebody is saying something that’s just a little wrong, you can be like okay, but like, you know, like, how are humans playing into that? Like is the environment really— Is that how the environment should be defined in this circumstance? I guess more so paying it forward both in my own just daily analysis of discourse, but also just showing other people what aspects to look at in a claim.

[Jessica:] I have always prided myself on being a fairly in the middle type of person like I pride myself on, for the most part, being able to have conversations with people on either end of the spectrum. And Environmental Geopolitics has definitely increased that tenfold because I’m- I’m able to really pick apart a claim, and the majority of the time, people will formulate their opinions based on one very specific part of a claim. And it’s now it’s just kinda like,

“Okay, well hey, let’s discuss this as a hole through the lens of Environmental Geopolitics.”

So it’s gonna be much more interesting and productive to have a conversation with someone when you’re able to analyze a claim fully. So yeah, it’s gonna be it’s gonna be a lot easier to have conversations with people. And I think it’s going to help me a lot more in my professional life too. Not only doing a project like this, but now having the skills that I have to think more critically to put together something so techie like this. I’m not a techie person. Yeah.

[Karis:] I think that me personally, it’s the critical, I guess, aspect of it. I’m encouraging a lot of people in my life, just even as I’ve been doing this project to just be more critical. Like I don’t know, I was definitely the the “Why?’ kid growing up-

[Jessica:] Maybe not critical, maybe skeptical.

[Karis:] I suppose. Yeah, I guess I might be conflating the two. I mean, not-

[Jessica:] Same same. I mean, skeptical— I mean, critical in the way that like as I was going on to say, kind of like, I was always the “Why?” kid growing up, but I know that’s annoying. Like,

“Why, why, why?”

[Jessica:] But that’s the best way to be.

[Karis:] But we should all be doing that instead of like because the inevitable conversation that a parent would have with their child is like,

“I don’t know because I say so. Because it is the way it is.”

[Jessica:] It is the way that it is. But how and why?

[Karis:] Yeah. Like it isn’t just the way that it- yeah. Just keep asking why. Be more critical of what’s going on around you and just being more critical of all the information we receive. We need to be a little more critical, I suppose, of what we call the big capital T truth. In reality, it’s like there’s a lot of working aspects and a lot of different perspectives that form multiple truths, I guess along the way.

[Jessica:] You know, what else, I guess I’ve kind of realized, like, Is there really a capital T truth? And no, there’s not like there’s so many different truths. And it’s all situational and it’s all objective. And I think that’s one of the most important things that I’ve taken away from this is there is no right answer to anything ever. I mean, sometimes probably shouldn’t murder people. But [chuckles] Dr. O’Lear’s over here like,

“Yeah I did my job!”

[Jack:] Professor O’Lear, if I could actually ask you that same question. How do you, how do you see taking this experience with podcasts as an assignment and working through the OER in the future, your future, your future path as an educator? You know, are durable assignments durable for you?

[Dr. O’Lear:] You mean how how will I utilize this going forward?

[Jack:] I mean, do you see it being something that can only be applied to Environmental Geopolitics?

[Dr. O’Lear:] No!

[Jack:] Or do you think you have other courses?

[Dr. O’Lear:] No, I think I think the whole point is that we can open the gates up wider to do different kinds of assignments and different kinds of inquiry, different kinds of research, and have lots of voices and lots of perspectives. I think that just makes it richer. And I think there are, there’s probably- would probably spend the rest of my career looking for ways to keep opening that gate up and inviting students, maybe colleagues to think differently about things. To think more inclusively, to think more analytically. I mean, I think that that’s why I’m here at a university.

[Jessica:] Well and that’s the only way that we’re ever going to have productive change when and if we need it because we have to have conversations like this. We can’t just be like,

“Oh, this is my experience. Oh, this is your experience. Okay. Let’s do this.” End of the day. There’s so much that goes into every decision and every claim that is made. We have to have these conversations.

[Dr. O’Lear:] I don t think I don’t think I can go backwards from here.

[Jessica:] Yeah. Yeah. Agreed.

[Karis:] The music featured in this episode is MB_weatherwav by Connum from

“MB_weatherwav.wav” by Connum is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0


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Paying it Forward Copyright © 2022 by Karis Brown; Jack Harte; Jessica Saunders; Tami Albin; and Shannon O'Lear is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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