Can You Hear Us Now? New Podcast Focuses on UConn

(left to right) Kenneth Best, and Julie (Stagis) Bartucca ’10 (BUS, CLAS), of University Communications at UConn located in the Lakeside Building are taping a podcast about life on campus on Feb. 15, 2018. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)
UConn is launching its first university-focused podcast, 'UConn 360,' hosted by Kenneth Best, Julie (Stagis) Bartucca ’10 (BUS, CLAS), and Tom Breen '00 (CLAS) of University Communications. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to manage UConn’s student-run radio station, direct a play for the Connecticut Repertory Theatre, or whether a faculty member has ever doubled as a crime-fighter, we have great news for you.

All those subjects and more are tackled in the first episode of the University’s new podcast, UConn 360, which debuts today. Available from iTunes and Google Play as well as its own web page, the podcast aims to bring its listeners the quirky, the informative, and the insightful from across the breadth of the University of Connecticut.

Subscribe and give us a try. We just might be the next ‘Serial.’ — Julie Bartucca

“UConn has stories around every corner,” says Julie Bartucca ’10 (BUS) CLAS), a senior marketing associate in University Communications and one of the show’s three hosts. “I’m a huge podcast fan, and in addition to being professional storytellers, the three of us are longtime fans of all things UConn. We want to share that love and those stories with UConn Nation at large.”

Bartucca first had the idea for a podcast last year when, unbeknownst to her, Ken Best, a colleague in University Communications, was thinking along similar lines. Eventually, the two coworkers came together with Tom Breen ’00, and set out in uncharted waters.

“I’ve tried to include some audio embedded as part of my UConn Today stories when it’s possible, so readers can hear directly from the people involved in the story,” says Best, who spends summers hosting a music show on WHUS. “Most often it’s been a brief excerpt from an interview, but sometimes it’s a sound clip related to a performance. UConn 360 gives us an opportunity to expand this type of storytelling, and provide other information to the University community.”

UConn 360 podcasts logo.
UConn 360 podcasts logo.

A podcast seemed like a natural outlet for a University Communications office that already works to tell UConn’s stories across print, web, video, and social media. But at the outset, the trio found there weren’t many examples of general interest, university-produced podcasts. Indeed, as Kevin Anselmo wrote in Inside Higher Ed, “Podcasting is the only form of content that can be consumed while an individual is doing other activities. Yet they remain underutilized in higher education.”

That, according to the UConn 360 trio, is a missed opportunity, as podcasts become increasingly popular. According to a 2017 report by Edison Research and Triton Digital, about 42 million Americans listen to at least one podcast per week. For context, that’s roughly five times greater than the number of people who go to the movies once a week.

“It seemed weird that there weren’t more podcasts for people who have a connection to a particular university,” Breen says. “There are a lot of sports podcasts, but not many for people interested in the totality of a college.”

From left, Tom Breen ’00 (CLAS), Kenneth Best, and Julie (Stagis) Bartucca ’10 (BUS, CLAS), all of University Communications, taping a podcast at the Lakeside Building. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)
From left, Tom Breen ’00 (CLAS), Kenneth Best, and Julie (Stagis) Bartucca ’10 (BUS, CLAS), all of University Communications, taping a podcast at the Lakeside Building. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

“Totality” is what Bartucca, Best, and Breen aim for in the half-hour, biweekly episodes they write, record, edit, and upload, while soliciting tips and feedback on their dedicated Twitter account, @UConnPodcast. The inaugural episode, for instance, contains interviews with Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s Matthew Pugliese and Kailey Townsend of WHUS, along with an odd episode of UConn history involving a gang of burglars and a faculty member determined to prevent them from looting the college treasury.

“UConn isn’t just about students, or research, or sports. As any UConn alum, student, or supporter knows, it’s about all that and more,” Bartucca says. “We want to reflect that and present something for everyone who has an affinity for this incredible place. Even the person who loves it just because they met their best friends here and made lasting memories.”

Initially recording in the Lakeside Building on North Eagleville Road, the crew plans to move recording sessions to the William Benton Museum of Art, and maybe even go on the road to other campuses and locations. Each episode is an opportunity to refine their process and learn new things, Best says.

“Each of us brings a different perspective to this project, and we’re looking forward to seeing how we can develop our ideas together into stories we think our audience will want to hear,” he adds.

For now, though, UConn 360’s three co-hosts are focused on connecting with an audience, showcasing some of the University’s most interesting people, and exploring a new way to tell the story of UConn.

“Subscribe and give us a try,” Bartucca says. “We just might be the next ‘Serial.’”