In Episode 18, President Bob Iuliano is joined by Joe Lynch ’85, executive director of alumni relations at the College, who takes on the role of the interviewer and accompanies Iuliano on a 2020 year in review. Iuliano discusses some of the most pivotal moments of 2020, including the spread of COVID-19, the killing of George Floyd, a polarizing election year, and how these moments affected the world and the College. Pivoting from reflection to foresight, Iuliano shares his goals for the world and the College in 2021.
Explore episodes from the Poplore Podcast Project, which Iuliano lauds in his concluding “Slice of Life.”
In Episode 18, the tables are turned on podcast host and Gettysburg College President, Bob Iuliano. Iuliano is joined by Joe Lynch ’85, executive director of alumni relations at the College, who takes on the role of the interviewer and accompanies Iuliano on a 2020 year in review.
The episode begins with Iuliano sharing his takeaways from the year, which are rooted in some of the most pivotal moments of 2020, including: the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic and what the world and College have learned from it; the rise in the Black Lives Matter movement and the work that remains in becoming a more just and equitable society; and the value of civil discourse amid a polarizing election season, among others.
As the conversation continues, Iuliano dives more deeply into the highs and lows of 2020 and the important learning opportunities that the year has brought to the forefront. He speaks to what drove his decisions for the campus surrounding COVID-19 and lauds the goodwill and generosity of the Gettysburg Network. From the students and faculty who have supported one another during this challenging year, to our alumni who have been working steadfast on frontlines, to others who have donated gifts to further the mission of the College, Iuliano expresses a heartfelt “thank you” to all.
Referencing his newly launched strategic plan—Living Our Promise—as a jumping-off point, Iuliano says more about the urgency of work before us around racism and polarization. Through ongoing conversations, programming, and thoughtful action and implementation across campus and in the community, Iuliano expresses his commitment to preparing our students to be effective advocates for change.
Later on in the episode, Lynch entreats Iuliano to expound upon the possibilities that lie ahead. Iuliano discusses his hopes and aspirations for 2021, which include: a vaccine that brings forth a return to normalcy worldwide, a campus that is reunited and vibrant once again, and the integration of his strategic plan to deepen the value of a Gettysburg College experience.
The episode concludes with an anecdotal “Slice of Life” told from the president’s perspective. Iuliano uses this moment to call attention to an example of how our students and faculty take a creative and innovative approach to learning. In English Prof. Chris Fee’s English 318 class, students explore myth, legend, and folklore, and at the end of each semester record an original podcast on a lore-related topic. Iuliano shares an excerpt from Alejandro Kaempfer’s ’22 episode about how social media and electronic communication have transformed storytelling in the 21st century. Explore episodes from the Poplore Podcast Project.
Guests featured in this episode
- Joe Lynch ’85, executive director of alumni relations at Gettysburg College. In addition to his administrative role, Joe has been a facilitator of many great conversations with members of the Gettysburg College community, in a past Facebook Live series coined “Learn at Lunch.”
President Bob Iuliano: I want to have what I had in my first semester, which was this really remarkable, vibrant, together campus, where there were a thousand things going on at every given moment and have the chance for me in my role to celebrate what our students are doing. That’s what I most want so if you want to put that under the Christmas tree, I’d be grateful. Hi, and welcome to Conversations Beneath the Cupola, a Gettysburg College podcast. I’m Bob Iuliano, president of the College and your host. In a little more than a week, a new year will be upon us. After a year like 2020, I think it’s fair to say that many are eagerly awaiting 2021 and the chance to start a new, that each new year symbolically brings. I know that I too am excited for the possibilities that await the college and the world in 2021. But we’d also be remiss if we did not take this opportunity to pause and to reflect that all that we’ve accomplished and overcome in a year, unlike any other.
This episode will deviate from our typical podcast format and that our guest, Joe Lynch will be interviewing me rather than the inverse. Joe was a 1985 graduate of the college and our Executive Director of Alumni Relations. In addition to his administrative role over the years, Joe has been a facilitator of many great conversations with members of the Gettysburg College community in a Facebook live series, coined "Learn at Lunch." In our conversation today, Joe will guide me through a year and review. The episode will provide us with a forum to reflect on the twists and the turns, the highs and the lows of this unique year in our college’s history. And to turn our focus on the remarkable opportunities before us in the year ahead. Joe, thank you for serving as the guiding voice in this conversation.
Joe Lynch ’85: Bob, on behalf of everyone at campus and our alumni around the country and the world, thank you. I mean, the honeymoon did end pretty quickly for you and your presidency, I’m afraid. As you said, 2020 was quite a year. I’m curious as to your takeaways from it both globally and here at the college.
President Bob Iuliano: Great question. And again, Joe, thank you for interviewing me. It’s a little odd to have the microphones turned. I’m not sure I like it as much as I like being on the other side of the table. But let me start with an optimistic note because I think it’s important to recognize just the remarkable way in which not just this community, but I think in many respects globally, we’ve responded to a really challenging time and I’ll start with the most obvious example, Joe. And that is the vaccine. The fact that in less than a year a vaccine is now being administered is a testament to human ingenuity, the willingness of people to work together, the willingness of people to really sacrifice in service of a broader goal. And I take a lot of, again, optimism from that and a sense of the possibilities that remain ahead of us, not just as a college, but more broadly, given that. On a less optimistic note, Joe, you will remember at my installation, which was a little bit more than a year ago now.
I spoke to concerns about polarization and the divisive forces in American society. And I think it’s fair to say that those concerns which were acute a year and some change ago have only heightened. And it also underscores my determination to use this college and the distinctive history of this place and the responsibilities we have because of that history to really see if we can help be part of the solution. And we did a lot this year, as you know, in that dimension. We had the Eisenhower Institute have programming, the political science department have programming. This work matters. It matters not just to us, I think more broadly. For the college, let me say a couple of things. I think the year has underscored the importance of being together. We started the semester under the rubric of better together and that wasn’t just a bunch of words.
It really was a statement of philosophy about who we are as a college. The importance of the residential model and how difficult it was then when we couldn’t stay together throughout the whole semester. But I think we have again, learned if we needed that learning Joe, that we are in fact, better together. The people want to be here. They learn better. They create those relationships that last a lifetime and across American higher education, there are questions raised about the ongoing viability of a residential education. I think the last 12 months have underscored with emphasis that this model is essential. It’s essential to learning and we’ve really learned that. I’d say two other things, I think we’ve again been reminded about the importance of what we do. Facts, reason, evidence, study, logic, that is as important as it has ever been. And we have a responsibility to help our students be able to differentiate facts from opinion, facts from speculation and that’s part of the work.
Last thing I’ll say is, I think we’ve also learned something as a community. In a rapid time, Joe, as you know, we re-imagined our academic programming. We re-imagined the way in which we provide a residential education. We did things we didn’t know we could do. The pandemic will pass and like you, I’m really looking forward to that. But I think we have learned something about us that will be enduring and will have long-term benefits to the way we organize ourselves.
Joe Lynch ’85: COVID certainly impacted everyone’s lives everywhere around the world as you’ve referenced, take us back to February and March of this year, you’re eight months into your presidency. How did you view the impending threat as a leader of the college and how did you go about approaching this unpredictable and rapidly evolving situation with the college’s best interest in mind in an … really an unknown situation?
President Bob Iuliano: It’s the last point I want to start with. It was an unknown situation. It’s not like you could pull the playbook down from the bookshelf and say, here’s what we do when we have a global pandemic that disrupts residential education. Joe, when you’re confronted with a situation like that, I think it’s important to step back and articulate the key principles, who you are as an institution, what matters to you and then use those principles as the guide to the judgments that you’re going to make. And for us, the principles were pretty clear and you’ve heard me say them in a variety of settings since February. First is the wellbeing of our community, students, faculty, staff but also by the way, the surrounding community, the borough. So, public health, public safety mattered enormously. The second is a commitment to the quality of the overall student educational experience.
That was a second variable that mattered to us. The third was making sure that we were giving students the opportunity to continue to make effective academic progress. And then finally, and you will particularly appreciate this as an alumnus, keeping an eye on our responsibilities, not just to today’s students, Joe, but to tomorrow’s students as well. And ensuring that the college is positioned to effectively educate the students today, but ready the students of tomorrow for the world they’re going to see, as well. Those four guiding principles, very much animated the decisions that we made. The second thing we realized pretty quickly is, I don’t have a background in public health. No one on the president’s council has a background in public health. We turned to expertise. We thought it was important to have people who were well grounded in the understanding of the pandemic, advising us at every step along the way to make sure we were making the very best decisions that we could.
Finally, and this is something we say to our students, time and time again, Joe, you know this. We talk to them about the importance of learning, re-learning, adapting, resiliency, and flexibility. We had to do the same thing. We began with a set of plans. You had to evaluate them. You had to change as the facts change, you then had to re-learn. You had to evaluate, you had to re-learn. You had to adapt. And I think that has been one of the mantras throughout the semester. Last thing I’ll say is, you phrase this as what I have done and what I have learned. I want to broaden it. Nothing happens here that is in part of a collective effort. And so to the hundreds of people, Joe, who have worked from the summer into the fall all last spring, as well, trying to do the best they can to orient the College through this pandemic, we own enormous debt of gratitude to the faculty who have had their plans appended time and again but they have shown a determination and a commitment to our students that I just find inspiring.
We owe a debt of gratitude to our students. They’re here for four years. Some of them have now had two consecutive semesters disrupted but they have shown a support of this institution that again, I’m grateful for. Has it been hard on them? Yes. And in part, that is a by-product of how much they want to be here. And then to every other employee of the college who have had their own personal challenges but have nonetheless really kept their eye on the importance of this institution and what we do. It’s a team effort, Joe, it’s not what I’ve done. It’s what we’ve done. And we’ve done enormously good work even if it hasn’t been perfect in every step.
Joe Lynch ’85: I have had the pleasure of hearing you speak a lot about the close-knit college community. Can you talk in a little more detail about the Gettysburg Network from students and the changes they navigated as you just referenced to alums who are using their GBurg liberal arts education to fight COVID and make positive change in the world?
President Bob Iuliano: If you are a regular listener of this podcast, you’ll know the thousands of different ways in which our graduates have gone out and tried to improve the world through this, whether it was Melissa Zook, who is on the frontlines, in healthcare or people working on the vaccine itself. We have members of our community, both students, faculty, alumni, who are out there on the frontlines, trying to make the world a better place, both in response to the pandemic and in the consequences of the pandemic. I think the network shows itself in other ways as well. This is a challenging time for our students. And so we are reinstating a form of January term this year. And one of the programs is the opportunity for our students to connect with alumni in business and in health sciences. It wasn’t hard to find the people willing to engage.
They were there. They were excited to do it. Two days ago, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Garthwait Leadership Center. An alumnus has dedicated an enormous amount of time to bring that program to light for Garthwait himself and alumnus has been an inspiring visionary. And putting that together, there are more than a hundred people who got brought together that day. Many of whom were alums, giving back and creating networks to support today’s students. This is a place about life-long connections. This is what you do every day. Joe, you help build those connections. It’s one of the things that I have found. I knew it was there, Joe, when I began interviewing, I really underestimated the depth and intensity of what it means to be part of this community. And it is such a strong strength of the place. And it’s one of the things that through all of this really makes me look forward to when things return to a sense of normalcy and those bonds are re-established because people are back together.
Joe Lynch ’85: Well, Bob, I’m glad you have gotten to see the power of that network. I agree, that is one of the joys of my job is saying that so many great small world stories about Gettysburg, helping one another and making a difference. You will continue to see more of that, I’m sure. Changing topics a little bit, it’s the holiday season. Everybody’s got gift-giving in their minds. I just wanted to call attention to a few gifts that they made to the college this year, a $3.5 million gift from David Brennan, class of '75 and a parent of an ’00 grad, who’s also the Chair of the Board of Trustees whose gift went in support of our new business organizations and management major. Our Hillel Chapter received a sacred Torah from his synagogue in Johnstown, PA and Daria Lo Presti Wallach, class of '76 and a member of your President’s Advisory Circle, established a $1.5 million peace and justice studies professorship. Can you talk a little bit about how those gifts are going to help the student experience at Gettysburg?
President Bob Iuliano: Absolutely. But let me first express my deepest gratitude to David, to Daria, to the synagogue, like just about every institution that matters, we are what we are by virtue of the efforts and the support of the people who have come before us. It’s an inherent part of every institution. The support that you’ve identified from the synagogue, from David and from Daria. And that’s true of every person who gives of their time or give philanthropically to the college. They’re creating the college that will benefit today’s and tomorrow’s students, ones in which those students will learn and will grow. I start with just an enormous debt of gratitude to them for their support of this college, their commitment to our mission. All three of these gifts are really supporting new horizons for the college.
In the case of the business major gift, as you noted, it’s a new major that we have created, and this gift, which has a matching component to it, will permit us to recruit faculty members in to undertake programming that will really bring this important major to life. In the case of peace and justice, you’ve heard me talk about my hope that we graduate students who are ready, willing, and able to make a difference in the world. Peace and justice is very much about orienting our students to an understanding of the world and also giving them the tools to bring about that change. And so that gift is very much in the heartland of what we’re trying to do. The fact that our inaugural professor is Hakim Williams. I think one of the most dynamic faculty members on this campus also warms my heart.
Our students, our Jewish students find community here and the Torah is such an important part of that. It helps them find themselves here. It helps them celebrate their faith. It helps them orient other students to a religious tradition that matters. All of these things help build community, all of these things sustain mission, all of these things get our students ready for the world of both today and tomorrow. If you do what I do, and Joe, if you do what you do, we do it with just an enormous sense of appreciation for how much people support this place. And an understanding on our part of how essential that is for what we’re trying to do. Maybe in the spirit of the season, the best thing to do is to simply say, thank you.
Joe Lynch ’85: Ditto to that. Thank you to our generous supporters. Going back to the spring, in addition to dealing with COVID. We also had the killing of George Floyd, which really brought to the surface issues of racism, police brutality, the fight for justice, and equality. How did those issues play out right here on campus? I know they certainly came to the forefront very much for us. And how has that impacted what we’re doing on campus now?
President Bob Iuliano: What an important question, Joe, and an important set of issues. I think it matters across all of American society. I think it has a particular balance here at this college, given the land that we occupy and the cause that was fought here for. It’s a set of issues that I think we have a particular obligation to pay attention to. And here, as has been true across higher education and across American society, it reinvigorated a conversation that we desperately need to have. I sent a note to the community in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing and it spawned a reaction from students but even more importantly, Joe, as you know, from alumni and began a really important conversation with alumni. We now have a group of alumni that have come together from diverse backgrounds who want to engage with the college and help us see the college through their eyes, through their experience and what I’m really … We’ve had a first meeting with them.
What I’m really inspired by is their orientation to help us help today’s students and help tomorrow’s students. That’s a theme you’ve heard me sound throughout this podcast. Those conversations also caused me to ask the Bias Awareness Resource Committee to do some work, to really think about how we can be better as a community. This has been a commitment that proceeded me. My predecessor was very focused on enhancing the diversity of this college but also making sure that we created an authentic home for students of all backgrounds. And I give Janet an enormous amount of credit for the work that she brought here but it’s work that is ongoing. Right? There’s not a destination, it’s a process of continuing to be better. And so the Bias Awareness Resource Committee came forward with a set of recommendations and I have responded to them. And what I’m really pleased about in these recommendations and the response to the community is that it isn’t just a matter of expressing our commitment.
It’s a matter of taking concrete action to be better as a community. Last thing I’ll say about this, Joe is, this is one of those examples though, that I regret that we weren’t together. And it’s not that we didn’t do important work during the course of the last year, but the sort of conversations that we would have had, the richness of those conversations, the ability for them to continue outside the formal settings into the informal settings, that’s been harder to bring about by virtue of the fact that we’ve been more dispersed. One of the things that is also underway is a comprehensive review of our curriculum for the first time in 16 years. And that’s happening formally across the College. It’s also happening in different departments. The political science department is rethinking its curriculum to make sure that it is a more inclusive curriculum. The Conservatory is reflecting on how do they make sure that conservatory students are exposed to the widest range of musical traditions and not just the western-canon.
When we get done with the curriculum review, I am confident the questions of racial justice, of inclusivity will be yet more deeply marbled into what we do and that’s what it needs to be. I think there’s a lot of really important work going on. It is the sort of work going back to what I said about the response to the coronavirus. It was a whole campus effort. This too is work that requires everybody’s participation. I have a role in it. It’s an important role, but it’s not sufficient. Every single person on campus needs to be committed to making this a home for every one of our students, to making sure that we are preparing our students for a world that is as heterogeneous as a society that they’ve walked into. That’s our responsibility, and it’s one that I take seriously. And I know it’s one that we’re going to continue to focus on in the years ahead.
Joe Lynch ’85: You referenced the political science department, which makes me think, another thing we’ll all look back on is the incredibly polarized election that we just had in the United States. Two podcasts ago, you brought together alums Johanna Persing, class of 2011, who works for the Republican National Committee and Kat Atwater, class ’07, who works with the Democratic National Committee, which I think was a great demonstration that we can talk civilly and be open-minded about things. How does the course prepare our students to be thoughtfully engaged citizens once they graduate?
President Bob Iuliano: Joe, if there is any college in the country that ought to take this charge responsibility, seriously, it is us. Because one merely needs to walk around the battlefield to see what happens when this course fails, when disagreements sharpen to the point that they did here nearly two centuries ago. This is really important work and we do it in a variety of ways. Of course, we do it through the core work of our curriculum, making sure that we are broadening our students' comprehension of the world, helping equip them with the tools to make sense of the world, not just today, but when they graduate. But we also do it through some of our co-curricular programs. The Eisenhower Institute, which is really formed in the image of Dwight Eisenhower, its namesake. And as you know, a former Trustee of this College who believed in the importance of bipartisanship. And so the Eisenhower Institute seeks to expose our students to the issues of the day, very much through a non-partisan lens, that’s part of the work.
The Center for Public Service that gives our students the opportunity to see in real life, the consequences of the way we structure our society. As our students get out into Adams County and beyond and try to help people who are in need and help because systems have failed. Society has created these sorts of challenges for them as they’re trying to lead their lives. We talked about peace and justice a moment ago. Peace and justice is very much part of this tradition here, where again, Hakim Williams has done a wonderful job of helping our students see the world in its complexity. And he has as a purposeful goal, equipping them with the tools then to try to address problems, big and small. This is centrally involved in the strategic plan as well. The real sense on my part that we have this responsibility that we need to meet and we’re going to meet at least in part, through some real purposeful work in the strategic plan.
Joe Lynch ’85: Back in October, you did launch a strategic planning process, Living Our Promise. Why don’t you just expound upon that a little bit more because that’s obviously going to be a big effort for many people in the coming months and year?
President Bob Iuliano: I’m really excited about this because I have been blessed with a remarkable opportunity, Joe. You’ve noted that it’s in my second year of presidency with COVID-19 as I’m fond of saying, it feels like I’m at my 10th year, but that’s okay. But I’m in the early stages of my presidency and I’ve had the opportunity to spend the last year really coming to know the College through conversations with alumni, with faculty, with students, with employees. That’s been part of it. Our strategic plan is expiring, it needs to be replaced. I mentioned that we’re doing our first curriculum review in 16 years. We’re about to begin an accreditation process and we’re not all that far away from our next comprehensive financial campaign. You think about that, Joe, you think about the opportunity to have those events come together. And really speak to the College’s future, I consider that a remarkable gift that I’ve been afforded.
And so my goal is to really bring those together and make sure that those processes are building on one another, amplifying one another. Now I won’t go through the full measure of what I’ve called the four pillars of a Gettysburg education. Why? Because there were four pillars on the front of Pennsylvania Hall but it’s fundamentally about this, Joe. We have a certain type of student who comes to Gettysburg College, to be sure. They think the big thoughts, but you know this as well as I do, they want to figure out I see a problem. Let me figure out how to solve it. What I want to do through this strategic plan is to start by giving the students the best liberal arts and sciences education we can, that’s why the review of the curriculum is so essential. Right?
We need to make sure it’s a contemporary dynamic, challenging education, just as it always has been, so that’s really important work. And I want to commend the Provost and Professor Mukherjee who are going back to first principles. They’re not asking how the curriculum should be tweaked, they’re asking what should the curriculum seek to do today? And that first set of principles really matters. But beyond that, what the strategic plan is about, the way I’ve said it is, how do we help students convert their aspirations into action? How do we teach them? Right? Bringing about change is not intuitive. You need to understand how change is brought about, we have to give you the opportunity to practice it and then to reflect on that practice. And that’s really what the strategic plan is about. How do we educate students not only in the classroom but more broadly in what it means to bring about change?
How does government work? What does it mean to be an effective citizen? What does it mean to be a good leader? The role of the Garthwait Leadership Center. Why is diversity so important to the commitment to excellence and in building coalitions? We want to give students the framework to understand how change is brought about. Then we want to give them the concrete opportunities to go out there and try it through the Eisenhower Institute, through the Center for Public Service, through the GLC, through a variety of other programs. Think about where we’re located, Joe. Very few liberal arts colleges have the benefit of being 45 minutes away from the state capital that defined this last American election, 80 miles outside of Washington, close to Philly, close to Baltimore, close to New York. We have the opportunity to give our students real chances to get their hands on real-life problems.
Then the last thing I want to do, having given them the political framework to bring about change, having given the chance to try that, then I want to have them reflect on it. I want them to come back to campus and try to integrate what they thought they were going to do, what they thought the world looked like and what they actually found the world to look like. And what lessons can they take from that? How do they use that, much like we have used the learning and relearning in response to COVID-19? How do we get them in the business of thinking, reflecting, understanding, changing so that the experiences they have, those hands-on experiences, aren’t just the experiences in isolation but a part of the broader four-year educational experience. They’re going to have everything building on the other, so that when the students graduate, they have the intellectual, the social, the cultural framework to go out there and know, regardless of discipline job. They could want to be a doctor.
They could want to be a lawyer. They could want to stay in academics. It doesn’t matter but we have equipped them with the capacity to have a vision and then to figure out how they’re actually going to bring that vision to life. I think this is remarkably important work. I’m so excited. We invited more than 50 people across the campus to participate in the strategic planning process. Every single one of them said yes. Every single one of them said yes because they understood the importance of this work to the College, to our students, to our future. Again, in the midst of a pandemic where people have worked as hard as they have worked, the fact that everybody said yes, Joe, it tells you all you need to know about this place.
Joe Lynch ’85: Bob, you’re getting me excited. I want to come back as a student now.
President Bob Iuliano: Please do.
Joe Lynch ’85: But it is great to work here as well, particularly under your leadership. We looked back on 2020 a lot in this conversation. For our final question, can you look forward to 2021? What do you see as your goals in addition to the strategic plan?
President Bob Iuliano: I’ll start with the optimism, but the continued hope that the virus will recede. That is that the vaccine will not just affect the way we can return to a sense of normalcy, but society as a whole. This has been so disruptive to so many people. It has been so consequential in the cost of human lives. That as a society, the vaccine gives such promise of a sense of return to normalcy that I think we all desperately want to need. And that’s true for us as well as a college community. The ability to, again, celebrate being back together in the way in which we want to be back together. I’m hopeful that that will come true in 2021 to give our students the opportunity to get the full measure of a Gettysburg College education. That’s why we’re here to give our faculty the ability to learn from what they’ve experienced and to figure out what tools that they’ve applied will continue to be applied, to help create the most dynamic educational experience for our students.
More broadly for the College, do the same thing. As we talked about at the outset, Joe, there are lessons here that are positive lessons that can be learned as well. Let’s not lose sight of them. Let’s continue to apply them. You took the strategic plan off the table, you said other than the strategic plan, but I’m not going to accept that. I want to focus on the strategic plan. I hope by the end of 2021, we are just about done with our strategic planning process. And we have put in place the sense of integration of the whole student experience that really gives the promise of transforming our students experience here in the college, transforming the perception of the college. I mean, we have a wonderful national reputation. I want to deepen that. I want students from across the country to say, I want to come to Gettysburg College because I know this is a place that makes leaders, that creates opportunity for its students.
We do that now. I want to do more of that and I want the strategic plan to be an essential part of that. But most of all, Joe, in the simplest form, I want to walk across campus and seeing it alive. I want to see the students crossing across Stine Lake. I want to see them interacting with one another. I want to see them in the classroom, and on the stages, and in the playing fields. I want to have what I had in my first semester, which was this really remarkable, vibrant together campus, where there were a thousand things going on at every given moment. And have the chance for me in my role to celebrate what our students are doing. That’s what I most want. So, if you want to put that under the Christmas tree, I’d be grateful.
Joe Lynch ’85: Well, Bob, that is, I think, a fantastic image and thought to finish our conversation with. I certainly join you, and I know the entire College community and Gettysburg community hopes for the same. You did an outstanding job having the table flipped on you for this podcast and answering the questions instead of asking them. Thank you so much for your time. I hope you and Susan and your family have a wonderful, wonderful holiday. Enjoy some time to recharge, refresh, and come back ready for 2021 like we all will.
President Bob Iuliano: Absolutely Joe, and thank you, not only for this podcast, but the College is what it is because people like you do what you do. Thank you for your commitment to your alma mater, for the way in which you build connections, and help the generations of Gettysburg stay together as a place--helping us advance what we seek to do. So, thank you. Very best for the holidays for you and your family as well.
Let me conclude with a slice of life from Gettysburg College. At Gettysburg College, our students and faculty take a creative and innovative approach to learning. They chart their own paths and all the while they explore these new avenues with enthusiasm. This is especially true for English Professor Chris Fee’s, English 318 class, in which students study myth, legend, and folklore, and at the end of the semester record a podcast episode. As part of the Poplore Podcast Project, each student records an original exploration of the lore that is of interest to them that is then published in an online archive. The episodes engage listeners by taking them from the woods of Vermont, to the shores of the Monongahela, to the Pine Barrens in New Jersey and the depths of Lake Champlain, exploring the various features and creatures from the landscape of the American imagination.
One student Alejandro Kaempfer, a member of the class of 2022, who took Professor Fee’s class this year, used his podcast episode to examine how social media and electronic communication have transformed storytelling in the 21st century. Take a listen to a brief excerpt from Alejandro’s episode.
Alejandro Kaempfer ’22: Oral traditions, storytelling, and countless other traditional methods of constructing and sharing folktales and urban legends have begun to fade in the past few decades as technology developed a stricter grasp on society, but more specifically, the ways in which people talk to one another. Much of the way scary stories or urban legends used to hold us through the impact that hearing a story told as if it were true from someone who likely believed it or wish to share it. To hear a story from someone who grew up with it or lived where it was born carried with it a sense of credibility through familiarity, urban legends felt raw and based in reality.
Despite the internet becoming the means through which more and more people communicated, the appeal of urban legends and obscure horror stories never truly died out. Rather they grew capable of being spread to international levels and accompanied the very birth of the internet as we understand it today. Leaping back to the transition into the 2000s, we find the birth of what became identified in the coming years as creepy pastas, which were often unsettling or disturbing horror stories, similar to horror stories of urban legends that we’re familiar with.
President Bob Iuliano: To listen to the rest of Alejandro’s episode or to explore other Poplore podcasts, you can find a link in the description of this episode, episode 18 at gettysburg.edu/offices/president/podcast.
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