With the increased opportunities for self-reflection and individual creativity provided by the somber pause of the pandemic, podcasting has emerged as an exciting avenue for communicating original ideas and thoughts to a broader audience.
A group of Harvard freshmen who all share a common passion for podcasting decided to come together last semester and plant the beginnings of the Harvard College Podcast Network (HCPN), a student organization that now produces seven student-led shows. The founders include: David D. Chen ’24, Brandon L. Kingdollar ’24, Fez S. Zafar ’24, Anna G. Farronay ’24, Melissa Meng ’24, and Simar S. Bajaj ’24.
David D. Chen ’24, President of the HCPN, described how the organization came to be and what sparked the team’s motivations and drive. As students who know the joy of podcasting, members of the board expressed that through HCPN, they wanted to create a non-competitive environment for student podcasters at Harvard.
“There wasn’t a need for any additional motivation. The only other thing that spurred us to create this organization was knowing that almost every Harvard student was the ideal podcaster,” Chen said. “They are always brimming with ideas, passionate, and sure with their perspectives.”
The Harvard College Podcast Network provides student podcasters with a broader support system for production and promotion. The organization offers guidance and assistance to any interested student, no matter what their previous podcasting experience is. “The only barrier between the idea and the podcast itself is production, editing — that kind of expertise — and we are aiming to offer students this support, to make their dreams a reality,” said Brandon L. Kingdollar, the Co-Director of Content.
Emily H. Song ’24 is a student podcaster who is currently sponsored by the Harvard College Podcast Network. She hosts “Unfiltered,” a podcast that she initially started as a way to record her college experiences. On “Unfiltered,” Song holds open and oftentimes very personal conversations with frequent guest appearances, using the platform to highlight issues that she feels should be brought to the surface and discussed more candidly.
Song expressed that the most rewarding aspect of hosting “Unfiltered” is when younger individuals reach out to her, telling her about how they’ve been inspired and motivated by her podcast. “I’ve always loved the idea of mentoring others and providing help to younger people,” Song said.
On a more personal level, Song finds joy in documenting her life through her podcast, and through other means. “Apart from podcasting I love to journal, for example, and I think that podcasting is a great way to remember all that was going on in my head, in my life at the time,” Song said.
Members on the board of the Network also expressed how meaningful it has been to build this support system for student podcasters. “I think the most rewarding experience so far is getting a taste of how many amazing minds there are at Harvard. There are so many fascinating, creative visions,” Kingdollar said.
For example, Kingdollar mentioned a current show in the making that is based on a post-apocalyptic world, juxtaposed with discussions of pop culture. “It really means a lot to me to help pave the way for this content to be heard, and elevating these voices that are so brilliant and creative,” Kingdollar said.
As a fairly new and quickly growing organization, the Harvard College Podcast Network has exciting plans and aspirations for the future. Many new podcasts are in the making, with the guidance and resources of the Network. In addition to new content, the Network is also hoping to soon reach out to a broader audience, beyond Harvard.
Chen has big ambitions for HCPN and wants to expand and promote their mission of “democratizing knowledge and experience through podcasting.” He wants to create an HCPN original podcast called the Epiphany Podcast, in an effort to involve the Harvard community in an SNL-style guest hosting format.
The Harvard College Podcast Network is an exciting, rapidly growing organization striving to build a community of passionate students with creative inspiration and drive. HCPN seeks to make podcasting accessible to all individuals, and Kingdollar emphasized that anyone can be a podcaster. “We want to get people with entry-level experience so that they can take it and run with it,” he said. Through podcasting, students can express their unique ideas and share the knowledge they have obtained to a wider audience — and the HCPN is ready to help them make it happen.