UWL professor Song Chen creates “La Crosse Thinkers” podcast


La Crosse Thinkers podcast logo. Photo retrieved from Song Chen.

Liv Swanson, Sports Reporter

Associate Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, Song Chen, has been hosting a podcast the “La Crosse Thinkers” since the start of Fall semester.

 “I had the idea from this summer, but the first episode was shot the third week,” said Chen. “Since then it is regularly one or two episodes per week.” 

Chen’s idea for the podcast came from his students who listened to the different and interesting topics he discussed in class but found it hard to be able to talk about them during the short class periods.  

“I talk about random stuff in class, like artificial intelligence, and I found a lot of people are super interested,” said Chen. “I try my best to involve discussion in class that is not related to our topic, but I am really passionate about it. Then, some students suggested to me I should do a podcast.”  

While Chen really liked the idea, he was worried about what he would talk about.  “I knew after I did the first four or five podcasts, I’d be done,” said Chen. “That is only how much I know.” 

Chen’s original idea was to have students take over the podcast, continuing to interview different professionals on topics they were experts in. But after he struggled to find students willing to take the podcast, he decided to make it his own.  

“I wanted to talk about something, and then realized it was so time-consuming,” said Chen. “So why not let other people talk and I can listen?” 

Chen hosts his podcast on campus at UWL. “I talked with the RAQ, the radio station offered by the department of communications studies, and they have a studio I can use for free since I am not doing anything profitable,” said Chen.

Song Chen. Photo by Liv Swanson.

The podcasts have a variety of different topics, lasting around an hour and a half each. Although the podcasts have been focused on professors at UWL, Chen hopes to expand to different speakers.  

 “I originally wanted to do research and science. Then I thought, why not psychology and human sciences and after that, why not someone who is not a professor,” said Chen. “I am starting to put a few of my personal connections into this. The first is local companies, and the second is my connections across the country. I have to add long-distance interviewing and I am still testing the software.” 

Chen knew he wanted to eventually broaden his podcast to other professionals outside UWL, and considered that when creating the name. 

“I didn’t want to call it the La Crosse faculty podcast,” said Chen. “I feel like you actually want to know who these speakers are; their personal lives, personal opinions, personal experiences, in addition to their profession. So I figured “thinkers” is probably a more appropriate way, instead of saying ‘professors’.” 

Chen is struggling to find new and interesting topics for the podcasts. “I am running out of topics. If any student knows any professor you want to talk, send me an email so I don’t have to go look for people,” said Chen. 

As long as Chen can continue to find people to interview, he plans to keep the podcast going. “I plan on continuing it as long as possible, and as long as it isn’t too much trouble,” said Chen. “There are 300-400 faculty members on campus, so if I interview once a week I can do 52 a year more or less, which is still a lot more to go.” 

Past episodes have included a variety of topics such as disease transmission and parasites, addictive technology, and organisms living in extreme environments. 

 “I just finished interviewing a professor from the English department,” said Chen. “She was nominated by one of my students to talk about Game of Thrones. I didn’t even know her before that.” 

Chen is also looking forward to the next episodes coming up. “The new episodes will be the Game of Thrones one, and another professor who is talking about how to entertain yourself in a healthy way,” said Chen. “I am personally excited about next Friday, which is a professor talking about battling bias.” 

Ultimately, Chen is still looking for a student or a group of students to take over the podcast. “Once I have done everything in a continuous pattern, have all the materials and invitations written down, that will be the time I look for students to teach,” said Chen “Eventually I want to give it away.” 

“My long-term goal is to start a platform where people can talk about interesting stuff and to have an offline experience. People sitting in the same room, who care about the same topics, to come here and listen to two smart people talk about what they know and have the chance to interact with them,” said Chen. 

Anyone can listen to the podcast on several different platforms including: Spotify, Itunes, Youtube, and RSS. A large majority of the people who listen do so through Spotify and Itunes, according to Chen. 

“I have around 400 dedicated viewers,” said Chen. “We also have people from England, Canada, Kansas, and Virginia listening.” 

To learn more about the podcast visit http://websites.uwlax.edu/schen/The-La-Crosse-Thinkers-Podcast/. If anyone has any ideas, interests or questions, contact [email protected].    

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