Exploring an Industry - Interview With Grant Wagner
Grant Wagner is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside majoring in computer science and minoring in digital media and production. In the spring semester of 2020, Grant took COMM 255:Podcasting, a community-based learning (CBL) course where he learned not only the technical aspects of digital media production, but also what it was like to work with a nonprofit in Milwaukee that gives back to the community.
“I was able to get a feel for what a future in media would look like.”
In this class, Grant learned what it takes to make a podcast from a technical standpoint while also putting these new skills to the test to create a product for a nonprofit. He communicated in person and through email with members of Prevent Blindness Wisconsin, an organization that promotes life-long eye health through early detection of eye conditions. He interviewed staff and volunteers involved with the agency, and created a podcast to tell their story. Instead of learning in a classroom just about what goes into the creation of a podcast, he was able to get hands-on learning to both introduce him to the field and help him determine if he wants to pursue it for a career.
It was also engaging for Grant to work outside of the classroom where he was able to feel like an active part of the community. He was able to help make a difference while learning, which was both gratifying and enjoyable. Grant believes that CBL courses “help to build strong character in their students...community engagement that isn't always possible in regular courses”.
“A CBL class has you build something real that you can be truly proud of.”
Grant also obtained strong interpersonal skills through this course. He was regularly communicating over email, phone, text and many other means to make sure everyone on the project was on the same page. He gained necessary skills and experience to put on a resume and guide him towards a future career. He said, “With my podcasting class, I actually built a product for an organization. It's now attached to my professional identity. In my eyes, that is so much more fulfilling than working towards a passing grade.”
The most rewarding part of the course for Grant was the ability to create something bigger than himself. Regular classes have students create a presentation or take a test, but this course had Grant prove that he can take the knowledge he learned and apply it to real-world situations. He was able to provide a concrete example that he is capable of learning new concepts and transforming them into something he can be proud of.
And the advice Grant has for students considering a CBL course? “You should feel excited. The more you invest in it, the more you will take away. Don't treat it like a class you have to take; treat it like a gateway to a potential career.”