Ty Collins has put his experience working in radio to good use at Lawrence, recently launching a podcast that aims to connect alumni with students as they plan for life after college.
Collins, assistant director in the Career Center, interviews alumni who share career advice, discuss avenues into particular fields, and talk about successes and missteps along the way. The podcast is heard at lucareersandcommunity on Soundcloud.
The idea for the podcast came about in Spring Term of 2020 when students were sent home as the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Career Center, located on the second floor of Chapman Hall, was discussing ways to reach students who were no longer on campus. Collins floated the idea of hosting a podcast series.
“Pairing my background in broadcasting with my knowledge of Lawrence students and alumni and the Lawrence environment, I think combined to work out pretty well,” Collins said.
Collins, who came to Lawrence five years ago, has worked in radio for more than 20 years. He continues to work part-time for Woodward Radio Group in Appleton.
Mike O’Connor, the Riaz Waraich Dean for the Career Center & Center for Community Engagement and Social Change, said he hopes Collins’ podcast helps to humanize career trajectories and stories.
“Things rarely, if ever, go by plan,” O’Connor said. “Where you end up is way more a function of your life circumstances and network than your plan. Hearing about failures of alums I really admire is very uplifting.”
Collins also knows how demanding students’ schedules are, so a podcast seemed to be a good fit. Rather than having an event on campus at a certain time of day where maybe a student could not attend due to class or other scheduling conflicts, a podcast can be listened to wherever and whenever.
The podcast is updated every month when classes are in session. Each episode runs about 20 minutes. Collins said he wants Lawrence alumni to share their unique experiences and offer advice to students who are just beginning their career journey.
He aims for the podcast to feature alumni from each of the eight Career Communities so that students can listen to an episode catered to their own area of study.
There is a widespread network of Lawrence alumni who have a lot of wisdom and advice they can offer students but who aren’t always taken advantage of as resources, Collins said. His goal is for students to gain some insight from alumni who can influence or inspire their plans.
“I figure that if a former student did it and now they’re really successful, then a current student will at least consider doing it because clearly it worked for someone else,” Collins said.
Collins uploaded the first episode about seven months ago. It featured an interview with Josh Dukelow ’02, a history major who is currently the host of Fresh Take on WHBY radio in Appleton. Collins talked with Dukelow about his career trajectory and what led him to particular jobs.
So far, the podcast has five episodes. Several of the interviewees are recent alumni who Collins worked with when they were students – McKenzie Fetters ’19, an editing associate at Guidehouse; Nick Ashley ’18, a data science consultant with Grant Thornton LLP; and Sarah Woody ’19, a graduate student in biology at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
Collins uses LinkedIn and Viking Connect to reach out to potential podcast guests. Most, if not all, of the alumni are willing to be contacted by students as well, Collins said.
The interviews take place over Zoom. Collins uses a microphone to make his sound quality better and then spends about two hours editing the recording before it’s uploaded to Soundcloud.
“I try to ask questions that are going to generate answers that students might find interesting,” Collins said. “I’m always trying to approach it with a perspective of, ‘Would the student want to hear this answer or not?’”
O’Connor said Collins’ podcast is a tool that partners well with Career Communities, Viking Connect and other efforts to better utilize alumni as resources and mentors for Lawrence students.
“He’s an excellent interviewer and has the ability to communicate a lot of information very quickly and concisely,” O’Connor said of Collins. “The podcast wouldn’t have happened without Ty.”