7 top podcasts to listen to in the new year, according to professors who host their own podcasts
If you’re looking to expand your knowledge of the world in 2023, look no further than these podcasts recommended by faculty at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, who themselves host podcasts on topics ranging from pop culture to California history to rocket science.
Evelyn Alsultany, associate professor of American studies and ethnicity. Alsultany is a leading expert on the history of representations of Arabs and Muslims in American media. She co-authored the Obeidi-Alsultany Test to help Hollywood improve representations of Muslims and hosts the podcast “Muslims As Seen on TV.”
“Recently, I was interviewed on the ‘Muslims Doing Things’ podcast and have listened to several since then. The host, Layla Shaikley, interviews Muslims about their career paths — journalists, actors, mayors, novelists, comedians, Olympians, activists, TV writers, etc. Through exploring their life and professional journeys, she reveals how Muslims are doing both ordinary and extraordinary things, often as the first in their families or in their professions.”
Evgeny Dengub, professor (teaching) of Russian. Dengub has published three Russian language textbooks and is the co-founder of the online resource center TeachRussian.org, where he hosts the “Foreign Language Teaching Podcast.” Dengub also hosts “Raketa,” a podcast for Russian language enthusiasts.
“It is always amazing when scholars can find ways to deliver proven facts and knowledge to a large audience in a way that is comprehensible, practical and engaging to non-specialists. Professor Huberman of Stanford University does just that in his podcast ‘Huberman Lab,’ which discusses science and science-based tools for everyday life. As a language professor, I certainly recommend checking out Episode 95: The Science of Learning and Speaking Languages.”
Bill Deverell, professor of history, spatial sciences and environmental studies. Deverell is an expert on the history of the American West and hosts Western Edition, a podcast devoted to exploring the stories and communities of California.
“Listening to Krista Tippett’s ‘On Being’ podcast makes me feel like I am in a Socratic seminar offering ways to think about, and maybe even achieve, a life well-lived and a life fulfilled. It is a show that makes me think, makes me slow down and makes me feel more connected to myself and everyone else, all at the same time.”
Jonas Kaplan, associate professor (research) of psychology. Kaplan’s research in cognitive neuroscience focuses on issues of social relationships, empathy, self, action perception and creativity. He co-hosts FLOAT, a series of conversations with artist, musicians and neuroscientists that investigates the common inspirations, motivations and processes among creative minds from diverse fields.
“In ‘Song Exploder,’ Hrishikesh Hirway gives us unprecedented, intimate access to the creative processes of our favorite musical artists. Each episode focuses on one famous song — we hear the artist dissect the elements of their composition, explaining how and why each piece of the puzzle was selected and crafted. Hirway manages to keep the magic of the final work alive throughout this methodical autopsy, while also making the thought process of the artist tangible and seemingly within reach of each of us. I view it an experiential version of cognitive neuroscience: a way to peek inside the working creative mind.”
MG Lord, associate professor of the practice of English. Lord is a cultural critic, investigative journalist and host of the new podcast ‘Blood, Sweat and Rockets,’ which tells the hidden story of the crew who ushered in the early days of space exploration at Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at CalTech.
“Anderson Cooper’s ‘All There Is’ speaks directly to me — the me I was at age 13, when my mother was dying of cancer and my engineer father disappeared into his work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Cooper’s own father died when he was 10. With grace, wit and zero self-pity, Cooper ponders the idea of grief, inviting listeners to reflect on ‘the people we lose, the things they leave behind, and how we can live on with loss.’”
Mike Murphy, co-director of the USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future. Murphy has handled strategy and advertising for more than 26 successful gubernatorial and senatorial campaigns. He co-hosts ‘The Bully Pulpit’ with center director Bob Shrum, providing the inside scoop on why political decisions are made.
“Michael Morrell and his guests always provide informed commentary that gives you a better understanding of how we are kept safe behind the scenes. I recommend it if want to know how organizations like the CIA actually work, as it strips away the glamour of its depictions in Hollywood.”
Karen Tongson, professor of gender and sexuality studies, English, and American Studies and Ethnicity. Tongson hosts two podcasts, Waiting to X-hale, which explores the pop culture that defined Generation X, and The Gaymazing Race, which covers the reality television show Amazing Race from an LGTBQ perspective.
“Don’t let the sensational title and topic fool you. This podcast presents early-’90s ‘Hollywood Madam’ Heidi Fleiss’ story as an occasion to explore a rich, complicated history of Los Angeles from the 1970s onward, with a focus on gender, power, nightlife and corruption in some of the city’s most trusted institutions.
It also offers a glimpse into how emerging media, like Court TV, and reality shows (like The Bachelor franchise created by Heidi’s cousin, Mike Fleiss) were in part spurred on by the reporting about her case and the gendered fantasies it activated. ‘HeidiWorld’ presents a large cast of voices playing various roles in this saga, including yours truly as a Filipino American madam, cat lover, and Heidi’s aggrieved mentor, Alex Fleming.”