LELACS Conference: Travel and Language - Narrating the Immigrant Experience

755 Library Road, Rochester, NY 14626

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Podcasts, as a mode of storytelling, are exploding in popularity whereby listeners enjoy an intimate connection with the storyteller. To this point, Lexi Mainland of The Los Angeles Times suggests that podcasts provide an “intimate audio experience in a moment of solitude. Your headphones — a buffer from the world injecting dialogue into your ear — become a conduit to your soul.” For the teller, stories can be cathartic; for the listener, stories have the power to both develop empathy and to inspire. The medium of the podcast can also create a sense of community in listening, as it has done at the University at Albany (SUNY), where students are reaching the souls of others through our UAlbany Student Stories, a podcast series.  

 Each episode chronicles student lives and underscores the many societal and institutional barriers they endure and overcome. Through their heartfelt and engaging stories, grounded in the humanities, university students implicitly teach listeners about the power of empathy and its role in strengthening democratic practices in the United States. The student stories, told by student leaders of a new generation, address issues of civil rights, social justice, inequality, mental health, sexism, and racism. Their recorded conversations suggest through dialogue how we can build a more inclusive society and how a humanities education supports civic participation, which is so important in maintaining our fragile democracy.  

  This project is student-driven, wherein they become the teachers to many. Our approach recalls Paulo Freire’s words in Pedagogy of the Oppressed in which he states: “Through dialogue, the teacher-of-the-students and the students-of-the-teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges: teacher-student with students-teachers. The teacher is no longer merely the-one-who-teaches, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach” (80). In our view, our students are the most important collaborators and content creators. They are the ones who teach general audiences through their engaging stories inspired by the humanities. In our podcasts students respond to questions that underscore how empathy and fairness contributes to a democratic society. Some of the questions addressed by students in past episodes include the following: How does the learning of languages, histories, and cultures help us understand those who are different from us? How do humanities courses teach us empathy? How do you succeed in college when you are a first-generation student? Our podcasts, a “conduit to the soul,” promote an emotional response thus encouraging participants to understand others’ perspectives. 

Carmen A. Serrano is an Associate Professor of Spanish in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at the University at Albany, SUNY. She teaches Latin American and US Latine literature and culture and is author of The Gothic Imagination in Latin American Literature and Film (2019). How artists imagine monsters, the dead and the undead, and other transgressive bodies are themes threaded throughout Serrano’s research and her publications, which include: “Mapping the Zombie: Diego Velázquez Betancourt’s Newfangled Zombie in La noche que asolaron Tokio” (Romance Notes 2018); “Duplicitous Vampires Annihilating Tradition in Froylán Turcios’s El vampiro” (Routledge 2018); “Gallo-Gallina: Gender Performance and the Androgynous Imagination in Elena Poniatowska’s Hasta no verte Jesús mío” (Routledge 2017); and “Revamping Dracula on the Mexican Silver Screen in Fernando Méndez’s El vampiro” (University Press of Mississippi 2016). Specters are the focus of her next book project. Drawing from her published article, “Ghosting Indigenous Cultures: Yaquis’ Near Absence in Literature of the Mexican Revolution” (2019), her next book analyzes how the Yaqui people—a native community residing principally near the Yaqui River in northern Mexico—have been converted into spectral entities in novels dealing with the Mexican Revolution produced in the first half of the twentieth century. She is the winner of several teaching awards including the Chancellor’s Excellence in Teaching Award (2022); The Presidential Teaching Award (2021); The College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Teaching (2020-2021); and Outstanding Nominee, Faculty and Student Engagement Torch Award (2020). She is also the executive producer of the podcast series UAlbany Student Stories

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