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The Ivory Tower Boiler Room

Ivory Tower Boiler Room The Ivory Tower Boiler Room is co-hosted by Andrew Rimby, PhD candidate in the Department of English, and Adam Katz PhD ‘19, also from the Department of English. The general theme of the podcast is how graduate students, in academia, and artists navigate their profession during the pandemic. In each episode, co-hosts Andrew and Adam interview a guest who is unwilling or unable to take the traditional path from college to graduate school to tenure-track.

What inspired you to start your own podcast?  Andrew Rimby
Andrew: In July 2020, Adam and I had reconnected on social media and were concerned that graduate students and recent graduates had lost a sense of academic community. We wanted to create a podcast that addressed navigating multiple crises during the pandemic. We both lamented that we had lost our motivation to continue our writing projects, and our first episode delved right into how the podcast could serve as an academic support group for us, and for our listeners. 

Who is your target audience?
Our target audience is academics who are navigating the job market, which includes PhD candidates, recent PhDs, and non-tenured faculty. We also gear our podcast to faculty and administrators to learn about the support they can provide to their graduate student community. Another important target audience includes those who enjoy academic content, specifically Humanities topics, but are not in academia (the general public). 

While our content is geared mostly to graduate students (due to our positionality), we give many shout-outs in the course of the show to professors, administrators, and family members about how to navigate their relationships vis a vis grad students.

What is involved in creating each episode?  
The amount of time varies week to week. For each episode we tend to have a preliminary interview lasting anywhere from one to two hours, followed by an interview of one and a half to two and a half hours, followed by an editing session in which we listen to the interview in its entirety, followed by editing and crafting notes/bibliography for the episode. The total amount of time per interview is about six to six and a half hours, but sometimes one interview will be turned into two episodes.

Adam KatzWhy did you choose a podcast to connect with your audience?
We wanted to capture our conversations. Before we started the podcast we would talk a few times a week by phone. We recognized that we had a good conversational dynamic and that our back-and-forth often resulted in interesting takes on important issues. So the decision was not so much to choose one medium or another as it was to take the medium that we were already practicing -- the personal conversation -- and put it on the record. 

How has your podcast been received
We have a two-pronged answer to this question. We have seen our viewership go up rather slowly but steadily since we started. But no discussion of our reception would be complete without a discussion of our writer’s group. Since a few weeks after the start of the podcast, we have had a writer’s group that meets nearly every day (on Zoom). The podcast and writer’s group increasingly support each other, with people starting as listeners -- or even interviewees -- and finding their way to our writing group; as well as the concerns and ideas and conversations of people from the writing group turning into podcast episodes, up to and including guest spots from a few of our members.

What has been the greatest challenge in hosting your own podcast? 
The most rewarding challenge, certainly, has been negotiating the partner-dynamic. Perhaps we are blessed in a way. We have built ourselves a little village of listeners, and a smaller circle of writers within that. We have found interviewees with relative ease. So the main challenge of our budding career has been discussing what we want our podcasts to cover, and how, as well as dividing up responsibility.

In turn, we have found that the dynamic between our members has increasingly become a focus of the podcast. People are interested in our guests, and rightly so, because we are able to interview people with fascinating stories, but they are also interested in the story of our academic and non-academic struggles, and how we have used the solidarity of our writing group to prevail over them.

What has been the greatest reward?
The greatest reward of producing The Ivory Tower Boiler Room is the friends we’ve met along the way and how our Twitter and Facebook communities allow us all to offer support and encouragement for one another.

Podcast Resources:

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Twitter: @IvoryBoilerRoom

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