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Haslam Alumni Inspire on New Student-Led Podcast

While listening to podcasts as a college freshman, Devin Wilkinson found some motivation of his own. Shows produced by other business schools were popular ways to introduce the student body to successful and interesting alumni. He got to work on a similar podcast for the Haslam College of Business.

Wilkinson and a few fellow students developed a business plan and pitched it to the college’s Office of Student Engagement, where director Mark Willoughby was impressed. “They’d compiled a list of speakers and a mocked up script for the first interview,” he says. “It was pretty remarkable.”

With backing from college leaders, Wilkinson and a small team of students assembled the project. “There are a lot of moving parts, with a team of students behind the question creation, planning, and editing, and two university offices involved in production,” he says. “The first episode included some trial and error because we had to get all our branding right, but that was really educational for me.”

The initial episode of Project Inspire, featuring UT alumnus Clay Jones, released in February 2021 after a few months of planning and production. Since then a new episode has released every month, featuring interviews with Haslam alumni James A. Haslam II, Wilma Jordan, and Don Frieson. “The goal is to encourage our listeners with stories and life lessons,” Wilkinson says. “The speakers usually talk about their own experiences, giving students the opportunity to get a head start in their careers.”

Besides Wilkinson, the podcast’s student team includes Nicholas Brodeur, David Carlton, Brayden White, Morgan Lewis, and John Turner. They meet weekly to work on current episodes and review ideas for future speakers.

A finance major set to graduate in spring 2022, Wilkinson already has a plan for making sure Project Inspire continues after he’s gone. “Our idea is to switch the host every semester, to divide the responsibilities and keep the project going as a team effort,” he says. “Eventually, we’d also like to expand it to include in-person events with audience questions and create some bonus episodes.”

While Wilkinson plans to pursue a career in investment banking after graduation, he thinks his love for podcasting will stick around. “I’ll still do something with it as a hobby, if not my full-time job,” he says.

Meredith Hulette, senior director of advancement operations at the college, has worked closely with Wilkinson and the other students to launch Project Inspire. “They have taken time to research their subjects and prepare intelligent, articulate questions,” she says. “We’re proud to connect successful alumni with the students for this project.”

The Project Inspire podcast can be found on any podcast streaming platform.

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Haslam Magazine is the premier publication of the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

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