National Security Professors’ New Podcast Fosters Interest in Political Affairs
Jeffrey Treistman, Ph.D., and Matthew Schmidt, Ph.D., are bringing their passion for learning and teaching to “Impolitic,” their new podcast that endeavors to educate their audience on important political issues, such as the war in Ukraine.
April 27, 2022
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
For Jeffrey Treistman, Ph.D., and Matthew Schmidt, Ph.D., it is their passion for learning about the world and exploring political affairs that drives them. Their idea was to create a podcast in which they’d speak with experts on a variety of topics and share their conversations, ideas, expertise, and enthusiasm for learning.
While they were interested in launching a podcast that would enable them to share their passion, there was one issue in particular that inspired them to begin recording: the conflict in Ukraine.
“Our goal is to explore divisive and contentious issues and to speak with experts who can help simplify hotly debated topics for a broad audience,” said Dr. Treistman, an assistant professor of national security. “We want our podcast to allow a broad general audience to learn more about complex issues and theories.”
‘Podcasting has become personal radio’
“Impolitic” includes political analysis and discussions concerning threats to global security and stability. The first episode was released the day Russia invaded Ukraine. Drs. Treistman and Schmidt, an associate professor of international affairs, national security, and political science, had interviewed a friend of Dr. Schmidt’s, a journalist in Ukraine, just before the invasion.
Drs. Treistman and Schmidt begin the podcast by explaining the conflict, sharing information they received from their contacts here and abroad. Subsequent episodes included discussions on Ukrainian refugees in Poland and oil prices – a conversation that includes Dr. Schmidt’s former professor at Georgetown University.
“Podcasting has become personal radio,” said Dr. Schmidt. “It is important for getting messages and information out. When the war broke out, it was important to us to discuss it.”
‘This is what drives me to do this work’
Drs. Treistman and Schmidt have had the guidance and support of several alumni who are helping them with the podcast, including with graphic design, marketing, and sound engineering.
“Without their support and encouragement, the podcast would never have started,” said Dr. Treistman. “It would still be a mere concept.”
Getting students involved with the podcast, which is available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts, as well as in discussions about current political issues including the war in Ukraine, is paramount for Drs. Treistman and Schmidt. It has already covered many of the same topics they cover in the classroom.
They have also delved into issues such as conspiracy theories as part of an episode that featured a discussion on the role of social media in promoting them.
So far, though, the hosts have been particularly focused on covering the war, and they hope “Impolitic” will further listeners’ understanding of the situation, as well as how it impacts the world.
“There are lots of misconceptions of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motivations in Ukraine and what can be done to stop him,” said Dr. Schmidt. “It’s important to get this information out and to educate. This is what drives me to do this work.”
‘My students have taken an interest’
Dr. Schmidt’s commitment to educating others and making a difference has inspired him behind the microphone and in the classroom, where he has created hands-on experiences for his students. In one class, for example, he was on the phone with a friend who was in Mariupol, a port city in southeast Ukraine that has been devastated by Russia. Dr. Schmidt’s friend, who works for an international NGO, was in the city with his elderly parents as Russia was closing in.
Dr. Schmidt and his students worked in real time to help him find a way out of the city, using maps and social media. They learned who controlled which locations in Mariupol and put together a route out of the city using Google Maps. Although he wasn’t able to take that particular route out, he was able to escape to Kyiv.
“My students have taken an interest in this and they’ve gained important skills,” said Dr. Schmidt. “The situation in Ukraine is horrible, but this is one positive outcome – it has inspired a lifelong interest in students to make a meaningful difference.”
‘We really wanted to simply learn more’
Drs. Schmidt and Treistman hope their podcast will become an important platform to discuss a variety of topics at the domestic and international levels. They believe topics that can be challenging or difficult to discuss are particularly important to cover.
“Our goal is to cover all sorts of potentially divisive topics, including critical race theory, the genocide in Myanmar, and gerrymandering and its impact on upcoming elections,” said Dr. Treistman. “Nothing is too controversial, and we really want to explore provocative and sensitive subjects. There are a great deal of contentious issues in the world and we really wanted to simply learn more about these subjects.”