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The Voc/zes of Minneapolis

December 21, 2016

A group photo of Stephanie Hernandez, Ellie Sjordal, and Liz Lake

A group photo of Stephanie Hernandez, Ellie Sjordal, and Liz Lake
L to R: Stephanie Hernandez, Ellie Sjordal, and Liz Lake

Over burgers one day, Spanish instructors Stephanie Hernandez and Liz Lake were casually discussing an email that they had received about the LATIS (Liberal Arts Technologies and Innovation Service) Academic Innovation Grants Program. They were talking about how exciting it would be to earn such a grant in a language department and were throwing around ideas of what they could do with such funding. Both instructors are avid podcast listeners, and it didn't take long for them to propose creating a podcast of their own. They realized that it would be the perfect medium to engage with Spanish and Portuguese speakers both at the University and in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Thus, Voc/zes was born. They chose this name by combining the Spanish word voces and Portuguese word vozes, both meaning voices. They wanted the name to represent both Spanish and Portuguese audiences.

The podcast was recently reviewed in Borderlands,
a blog that reviews Spanish books, podcasts, videos,
and more.

Voc/zes is a weekly podcast in which Stephanie and Liz interview one or more people from the Spanish or Portuguese communities in the Twin Cities to capture and share their stories. They have found that the podcast format is a very persuasive way to tell these stories, noting that "this medium of storytelling is just so captivating, so real." Voc/zes has aired 13 unique episodes so far, featuring guests ranging from Eduardo Escobar, Venezuelan shortstop for the Minnesota Twins, to members of Grupo Corpo, a dance group based in Brazil, to Manny Laureano, the principal trumpeter for the Minnesota Orchestra. It seems to the podcast's creators that after each interview they air, more people reach out to them with new stories to share with Voc/zes' listeners. These interviews have engaged with both the University and local community, bringing the two together through the common bond of language, culture, and experiences.

Stephanie and Liz designed Voc/zes so that it could be used and enjoyed by many different audiences. One such audience is their own students, who now have a new opportunity to develop their listening comprehension skills beyond of the classroom. Stephanie and Liz are hoping to provide opportunities for students and interested others alike to gain a "richer listening experience" to and to learn more about the communities around them.

Through their work with Voc/zes, Stephanie and Liz have seen its impact on an individual level and its growing impact on the community. They note that capturing these interviews about an individual's life and experiences has a profound impact on both the speaker and the listeners. They seek to document these moments in people's lives and to express something meaningful about the guests and the communities in which they live. They have also seen the real impact that these podcasts are having on the students who listen to them both at the U and in surrounding Minneapolis and St. Paul high schools. Stephanie and Liz agree that this podcast is a powerful tool and "really puts your life in perspective" when you hear some of the stories being shared. These stories highlight people who are out there making a difference everyday, being successful and helping others, and puts their life stories in the context of the Latino community. Listeners of this podcast are exposed to the ways that Spanish and/or Portuguese is used all around them, offering truly an eye-opening experience.

Thanks to the LATIS grant, Stephanie and Liz plan to continue Voc/zes for the foreseeable future. They say that this podcast really is a labor of love for them. They produce it with just the support of student worker Ellie Sjordal and have little other outside help. Despite the extra burden on their already-full schedules, they firmly believe that this is too important to not do. The stories are too important to not be told and the podcast has become too important to its student and community audiences to not continue. In the near future, they hope to get a website up and running and begin creating classroom modules to make it easier for teachers to use the podcast content. Their passion and drive will ensure that this podcast is around for as long as possible, because there will always be more stories to tell.

Podcast Logo: Voc/zes
The podcast is hosted on Soundcloud. Download directly to your favorite podcast app (RSS feed). You can also find us on Facebook at Voc/zes, and on Twitter @umnvoces.





This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.