For Your Ears: Podcasts to Engage, Inspire, and Entertain

Written by Chris Pasion, graduate assistant to The Graduate School.

Black headphones on a yellow backdrop.

Podcasting is a key media outlet for the spread of ideas. The power is in the hands of the content creators; anyone with a microphone, a passion, and a knack for conversation can start a podcast. Podcasters cover any topic imaginable, whether it be to educate and inform or simply to provide entertainment and escape. Simply put, it’s fun to listen as people do a deep dive conversation on topics that they are passionate and knowledgeable about, and you may just learn something in the process. Here are some worth tuning in to!

Higher Ed

Higher Ed podcast

In NPR’s Higher Ed, Jennifer Stayton and Dr. Ed Burger, former president of Southwestern University, discuss topics that are relevant to students, faculty, and staff in higher education. They pull from their own experiences with engaging students in class, navigating the job search, and learning from failure in order to give listeners insight into their perspective on all things higher ed. The episodes are fairly easy to digest, with each episode clocking in at around 15 minutes. One particularly great episode sees the hosts interpret answers that Dr. Burger’s students gave when posed the question What would surprise you about yourself 25 years after graduation? This podcast is great for anyone passionate about lifelong learning, and each episode ends with a “puzzler” that challenges listeners to find the answer to a complex question. 

The Ground Up Show

The Ground Up Show podcast

In his podcast The Ground Up Show, Matt D’Avella, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, discusses lifestyle design, minimalism, creativity, and business with his guests. In each episode, they pick apart what it means to live a good life, oftentimes with the approach of a minimalist. Matt often uses himself as an experiment to test popular ideas that are alleged to improve quality of life, and then uses the podcast to discuss his experiences with his guests. For example, in the episode “The Morning Routine,” Matt reflects on a month spent waking up at 5am to determine whether or not it was beneficial to his productivity and overall lifestyle. Other episodes focus on overcoming anxiety, the business of coffee, minimalist van lifestyles, and many wide-ranging topics. This podcast is recommended for people who are interested in learning more about how making small, incremental changes to their lifestyle can impact their overall living experience. 

Office Hours with Dr. Lacy

Office Hours podcast

PhD students, rejoice! There is a podcast to help talk you through all your dissertation woes: Office Hours with Dr. Lacy. In this dissertation-focused podcast, Dr. Marvette Lacy contends with diverse topics such as time management, procrastination, literature reviews, finding community, job-seeking, and more to give insight to doctoral students completing their dissertation and degree. Dr. Lacy pulls from her own experiences completing her dissertation and working in higher education to inform the conversation she has about these topics. She also brings in students to offer their perspective and insight.


ProdPod podcast icon, a white clock with a green checkmark for hands.

For your daily dose of productivity inspiration, ProdPod has you covered. Host Ray Sidney-Smith unpacks productivity through topics and subject areas that range from psychology and sociology to sports and medicine. These podcasts are designed to give you quick burst of information without taking up much of your time; each episode is done in under two minutes. The brevity of these episodes is refreshing in the world of podcasting, which, for better or worse, encourages long tangents and drawn-out conversations. While they may be short, ProdPod episodes are packed with good insight that will leave you with a lot to think about long past the short runtime. Ray signs off each episode with “here’s to your productivity success in two minutes or less.”


Pindrop podcast

Powered by TED, Saleem Reshamwala’s Pindrop podcast is for travel lovers. In his podcast, Saleem travels to destinations around the globe to talk to interesting people from the areas he visits. In his deep-dive conversations, Saleem hopes to gain a better appreciation for the culture of the areas, from Mexico City and New Jersey to Bangkok, Nairobi, and beyond. Saleem’s love of people and their ideas, as well his “cultural-mashup” upbringing, is what inspired him to start this podcast. The pilot episode arrives Wednesday, May 27th

The Happiness Lab

The Happiness Lab podcast icon, which is the title of the podcast arranged to look like a smile

In her podcast The Happiness Lab, Yale’s Dr. Laurie Santos encourages listeners to reevaluate their definition of happiness and how to best achieve it. While our brains often tell us that having more money, getting in shape, and travelling more are some of the best ways to live a life of happiness, Dr. Santos breaks it down even more to show that our internal psychology and thought patterns are the real drivers of happiness, rather than our external circumstances. She talks with authors, scientists, artists, professors, and people from all walks of life to see how different types of people define their happiness. Dr. Santos’ “Psychology and the Good Life” course at Yale is what inspired her to start this podcast and explore the topics from her class in a more conversational manner.

Art Palace

Art Palace podcast

While coronavirus is keeping us from visiting the Cincinnati Art Museum physically, their Art Palace podcast is a great way to still engage with the institution and check out some of the art they have on display. Each episode sees host Russell Ihrig speaking with experts on a selection of pieces in the museum’s collection. Most times the museum has a special exhibit on display, there is an episode of the podcast to supplement the exhibit and educate listeners on its background and cultural significance. The Cincinnati Art Museum also has photos of each piece discussed on the podcast to help give the conversation context.