“What does our call to Beneficence mean to you?”
Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns ends each episode of his podcast by asking this question, whether he is speaking with a New York Times bestselling author, a Grammy and Academy award winner or the CEO of Project Lead the Way.
In March, Ball State released the podcast, “Our Call to Beneficence,” which features Mearns interviewing university alumni who “embody the spirit of Beneficence through their professional success and their personal service,” according to the podcast description.
Mearns said the “character and culture” of the Ball State faculty, staff and students is recognized through Beneficence.
“That was how we came up with the name, to try to communicate again to the audience and reinforce to the audience what I believe makes Ball State such a distinctive and compelling place to study and work,” Mearns said.
Where to listen to "Our Call to Beneficence":
There are four episodes of “Our Call to Beneficence” available for anyone to listen to. Listeners can find episodes on the Ball State website or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts. The guests on the first episodes include Renae Conley, Ashley C. Ford, Don Yaeger and Vince Bertram.
Source: Ball State University website
Mearns also said his favorite part of his job is talking with students, staff and members of the community and getting to know them, which is what the podcast has allowed him to do with alumni.
“That’s so exciting to me because I get to hear what impact Ball State had on their lives and how that has helped them do other things in their lives,” he said.
The idea for the podcast came in late 2020, Mearns said, when he received help from members of the Ball State University Foundation and his office. He said they all started to design the format for the podcast and its guests, and then they began recording interviews last spring and over the summer.
Mark Helmus, Ball State Foundation chief advancement officer, said the foundation is in the leadership phase on a capital campaign named “Our Call to Beneficence,” which goes hand-in-hand with the new podcast. During the leadership phase, the foundation does not post anything about it online or create a website for the campaign.
“I think we saw the podcast as a way to socialize the concept of our call to Beneficence with a larger audience and to get people comfortable with thinking about Beneficence as something other than a statue,” Helmus said.
Although the two are related, Helmus said listeners won’t hear anything about the campaign as they listen to the podcast. However, Mearns does ask his guests about the idea of philanthropy, which is what the foundation’s focus is.
“Some people will look back and say, ‘Listening to Ashley Ford talk about her experience really caused me to think about who else has helped me succeed or help me get through college,’” Helmus said. “Those are the kinds of things that people don’t always recognize and can’t always put their finger on when they make a decision to make a gift or get involved.”
The podcast is designed to have an episode released once a month, and each one will feature a different Ball State alumnus. Each episode is released near the end of the month and ranges from about 30-45 minutes.
“It wasn’t difficult coming up with the ideas because there’s so many interesting and engaging people that are associated with the university in various ways,” Mearns said. “The harder thing was scheduling them because those people often have pretty busy schedules, but everyone we’ve asked has said ‘yes.’”
Mearns said the podcast’s first few episodes were filmed via Zoom due to COVID-19 concerns and because of the participant’s “busy schedules.” However, the more recent ones, such as the episodes with Ashley C. Ford and Tiara Thomas, were filmed in-person on campus.
Before filming, Mearns did not have experience with recording a podcast or even listening to one, but he said he has enjoyed getting the opportunity to listen to some and record his own.
“What I learned was that the idea is not to think of it as recording something for the world, but to just engage in the kind of natural conversation that you might with another person when you are trying to get to know them,” Mearns said.
Gail Werner, executive writer for the president and 2004 journalism graduate, said working on the podcast has been “a very rewarding experience.”
“I love being a storyteller,” Werner said. “And so, with speech writing, you do some of that, but then this is another opportunity to help tell other people’s stories, so I love being able to support them in any way I can.”
Werner said she was in charge of getting “everything off the ground” and looking into what the group would have to do for the podcast to be successful. She did this with some help from Sara McInerney, who is also a Ball State graduate and one of Werner’s former students. McInerney has her own podcast called “Facing Fear with Sara,” and helped start “Our Call to Beneficence.”
“She helped us with everything from selecting the company we were going to use to giving us some background on [podcasts],” Werner said. “Then, she also gave us some ideas for social media push and really helped us understand the platform we were using.”
Mearns, Helmus and Werner said they have all received positive feedback from alumni since the podcast’s launch.
“We’ve had probably four or five people who’ve actually emailed the president directly to say they’ve enjoyed the episodes,” Werner said.
Mearns said he is hoping more students will begin listening to the podcast, especially the episodes that feature young alumni because the main audience right now is alumni and members of the Ball State community.
“We just launched it, so it’s still early,” Mearns said. “I’ve heard so far that it’s been consistent with our expectations, which is [that] people really have enjoyed hearing from these [alumni]. I’m just the vehicle or the medium through which we’re introducing those people, so it’s, as I say, not really about me, but it’s about introducing these people to a wider audience.”
Contact Maya Wilkins with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @mayawilkinss.