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Big podcast-style audio microphone sits in front of a computer screen.

The Royster Global initiative at the UNC-Chapel Hill launched a new podcast series, PhD and Me: The Third Degree, in early September. The initiative was created by the Royster Society of Fellows, an interdisciplinary fellowship program within The Graduate School. Royster Global aims to increase awareness and understanding of graduate education across international borders and help prepare doctoral students for global opportunities for research, networking and employment. 

Joshua Jackson sits in front of a microphone.
Joshua Conrad Jackson, a Ph.D. student in psychology and neuroscience, records the episode on how to teach a class during graduate school. (Photo provided by Royster Global)

The podcast grew out of the third Royster Global Conference in May 2019, attended by students from UNC-Chapel Hill’s strategic partners: King’s College London, Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador, National University of Singapore and Universität Tübingen in Germany. Doctoral students from across the world sought to deepen connections, discussions and support after the conference. A podcast provided a way for students across multiple time zones to share stories and advice with one another.  

Fast forward to 2020, 17 UNC Royster Fellows and two global fellows from King’s College London spent the spring and summer producing PhD and Me: The Third Degree. The purpose of the podcast is to focus on topics that connect doctoral students, such as the challenges and celebrations of obtaining a doctorate, communicating across cultures and disciplines, ethical concerns and COVID-19 complexities in academia and personal lives. 

Banu Gökarıksel, a geographer and Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Distinguished Professor for Graduate Education, announced the launch of the podcast as a part of the Royster Fellowship virtual fall celebration held Sept. 2.  

“I’m very grateful to all the Royster fellows who came up with the podcast idea, generated content, used or learned new skills, composed the music, edited all episodes, planned the whole process of podcast production and launch event, and spent many hours on this project,” said Gökarıksel. 

The podcast includes seven episodes plus an introduction led by Kierra Peak, a doctoral student within the UNC School of Medicine’s Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, and Matt Clayton, a doctoral student within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences’ department of psychology and neuroscience. Episodes include a panel of fellows, international collaborators and guest contributors. In addition to editing the introduction and all seven episodes, Clayton composed and produced original music for the podcast.  

“I applaud the students’ creative reimagining of the Royster Global initiative and am very pleased to see the PhD and Me series build a new bridge of international connection to King’s College London,” said Jennifer Gerz-Escandón, associate dean for interdisciplinary education and fellowship programs within The Graduate School. Collectively, the podcasts provide unique insights into doctoral student journeys in the U.S. and the U.K. while revealing stories of persistence and discovery – the hallmarks of graduate education. 

“Projects like this podcast help us strengthen our institutional partnerships abroad and enhance the ways students can learn from one another and build community across geographies,” said Katie Bowler Young, director of global relations in the Office of the Vice Provost for Global Affairs. Bowler Young serves as Carolina’s liaison for the UNC-King’s College London Strategic Alliance, a partnership that has been active in the Royster Global initiative. 

Over 700 doctoral students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have been awarded the Royster Fellowship since it began in 1996. There are 142 currently enrolled Royster Fellows. The interdisciplinary fellowship program provides financial support throughout their five years of doctoral study, while also including an outstanding group of Dissertation Completion Fellows in their final year of doctoral study.   

Visit the Royster Global website to learn more about the initiative, projects and for a full list of podcast series participants.

By Samara Rahman ’22, UNC Global

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