Abbey Penton and Seth Jordan interview Texas A&M Professor Gary Wingenbach for the latest episode of “Many Aggies, One World.” The show hosts have recorded all interviews so far via Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Texas A&M University students behind the “Many Aggies, One World” podcast say their goal is to bring international awareness to campus, create new perspectives and inspire people to think globally.
“As Aggies, we grow each other through conversation and that’s exactly why we created the podcast,” said Seth Jordan, a senior agricultural economics major from Gatesville, Texas, and one of the project’s founders.
The podcast is a product of the MSC L.T. Jordan Institute for International Awareness student committee and has four episodes so far. Due to COVID-19, the interviews have all been conducted on Zoom, Jordan said, adding that roughly 30 students and staff members are involved in producing and marketing the show.
“Many Aggies, One World” features Texas A&M students, staff, faculty and alumni reflecting on their own international experiences. “The international stories, experiences and perspectives that Aggies have are worth a platform to share them,” Jordan said.
The first episode, which debuted on Oct. 1, features Texas A&M engineering professor and former student Shayla Rivera, who is also a stand-up comedian with a half-hour special currently streaming on HBO Max called “It’s Not Rocket Science.”
Jordan said they discovered Rivera when several members of his executive team heard her speak on campus. “I also think her being famous played a part, especially to the engineering students on our team,” he said.
Rivera earned her bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Texas A&M in 1983. She was born in Puerto Rico and now lives College Station. She joined the podcast to discuss her unique journey from being a NASA rocket scientist for five years to becoming a stand-up comedian, as well as her own international experiences.
She has performed live stand-up comedy worldwide and has gone on comedy and speaking tours to perform for servicemen and women stationed around the world, including to Greenland and many parts of Asia, Europe, Central America and the Middle East.
“There are few things more powerful than a good story — in fact, nothing is more persuasive, motivating and inspiring than a human story,” Rivera said. “Adventure is a central part of a full life. Sharing the moments when we took risks, reflected and grew, can motivate and encourage others to follow our example and experience life in a more open way.”
Rivera is currently teaching two engineering classes and is the director of the ENGR[X] program, which helps find avenues for students to enhance their professional and interpersonal skills.
She said it is critical for Aggies, and all people, to open themselves up to cultural diversity.
“We cannot achieve the ideals we claim are important regarding diversity unless we improve our cultural fluency and this can only be achieved by being surrounded by people and cultures which are different than ours,” she said.
Since the pandemic has limited travel, Jordan said he hopes the podcast can open new global perspectives to listeners and encourage future travel when feasible.
“Our guests not only speak about their lives and experiences internationally, but they give real life advice and perspective,” he said. “International experiences parallel life experiences and we hope our listeners can be inspired and push themselves to grow.”
Jordan said he plans on continuing his education and is currently applying to the Bush School of Government and Public Service for a master’s in public service and administration. “With that I hope to be a 4-H extension agent and inspire others to think globally,” he said.
Jordan serves as co-executive of on-campus programming for the podcast, along with Heath Buttery ’23, a mechanical engineering major from Llano, Texas. Jordan and Buttery co-host some episodes, and the other co-hosts are Sarah Neidhardt, a senior chemical engineering major from Houston; Laura Roots, a junior computer science major from Fort Worth; Zainab Sunny, a junior international studies major from North Zulch, Texas; and Abbey Penton, a senior international studies major from Lincoln, Neb.
Besides Rivera, other guests featured on the podcast include Faris Zaibaq ’21, a biomedical sciences major from Sugar Land, Texas who discusses his Palestinian background; Dakota Plesa ’18, from Arlington, Texas, who earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and has traveled to more than 40 countries; and Gary Wingenbach, a senior scientist at the Norman Borlaug Institute of International Agriculture and Peace Corps volunteer.
Many Aggies, One World is available on Spotify, Overcast and Apple Podcasts.