New skills in a digital age

Since arriving at UND as a transfer student for basketball, Jafar Kinsey has adopted the “North Dakota mentality.”

“It’s a lifestyle,” Kinsey said. “For a student-athlete, being able to do our schoolwork, our on-court work and combining that, it’s a grind and mentality – whenever you have time, you have to get things done.”

“The lifestyle is crazy,” agreed Mason Bennett, a defensive end for UND football. “We’re up at 6 a.m. and going until 6 p.m. every day.”

That on-the-go lifestyle inspired them to reflect on their student-athlete roles for a new assignment in their Communication 405 class. Professor Timothy Pasch’s course “Social Implications of the Information Society” examines the implications of today’s modes of communication. In the Department of Communication, Pasch wants students to learn a variety of skills that are useful in the digital age.

So, he had his students create a podcast.

“I didn’t even know what a podcast was before I was in professor Pasch’s class,” Kinsey said.

Their camaraderie as student-athletes brought them together. Pasch assigned them to create 10 episodes, as well as track and analyze the dissemination of their work online.

podcast plan on a white board

As part of a class assignment, Jafar Kinsey and Mason Bennett would plan each podcast episode.

Jafar Kinsey reseaching topics on laptop

Students needed to record, edit and upload podcasts as they learned digital storytelling techniques.

The podcast brought in a variety of guests, including hockey player Christian Wolanin, who recently joined the Ottawa Senators after three seasons at UND.

“It’s pretty cool having somebody on our show who’s played at the collegiate level and now plays professionally,” Bennett said.

“The quality of the guest speakers that Mason and Jafar have invited to their shows, the thoughtfulness of their arguments, the significant personal experience that they both bring to the discussions, and the sophistication of the digital broadcast have resulted in work of exceedingly high quality,” Pasch said.

By creating a podcast, students gain insight into what it takes to reach a global audience. They syndicated their podcasts through iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and SoundCloud and learned how to use both hardware and software to enhance their work.

“Now that students have been successful in seeing their own work appear in Apple’s podcast searches on their iPhones, they know that this skill set can also be of significant value to an employer or other organization of their choice,” Pasch said.

When asked what he enjoys most about the process, Bennett says it’s having both a voice and a mode of expression.

“It’s different than going out in the field and talking about it or texting someone,” he said. “Everybody can listen to it, and it’s an easy way to get our ideas out.”

Both Kinsey, who graduated this year, and Bennett have their minds set on sports after college, but now they have some extra tools for future endeavors – no matter where they end up.

“Obviously, every football player’s dream is to play in the NFL,” Bennett said. “But football will come to an end at some point and, hopefully then, I can pursue a career in marketing. I want to see how sports and social media marketing can come together and develop my own ideas. The communication courses I’m in right now are helping me reach those goals.”

Kinsey's Hometown:
Syracuse, N.Y.
Bennett's Hometown:
Winnipeg, Manitoba