NextGen Partners With Howard University Professor Nikole Hannah-Jones on Student Podcasting Course

At Spotify, we want to equip student creators with the tools and resources needed to harness their creativity and shape the future of audio. Our NextGen program, which is sponsored by the Creator Equity Fund (CEF), is designed to infuse, activate, and grow podcast culture on college campuses across the country. 

Spotify NextGen recently partnered with Howard University and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Nikole Hannah-Jones, Knight Chair in Race and Journalism, to create a special podcasting course. The result is 1619: The College Edition, a dynamic, three-episode series produced entirely by the class. In the podcast, the students apply their unique lens to what they learned from studying Professor Hannah-Jones’ book, The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, and make compelling connections to the ways that slavery still impacts lives today.

Kristin Jarrett, Lead, Equity Diversity & Impact at Spotify, said, “The NextGen program brings podcast culture directly to college campuses and encourages educators to take an audio-first approach to their curriculum. In partnering with HBCUs around the country, Spotify is addressing the access gap to the audio industry by providing the next generation of audio storytellers with resources and skills needed to kickstart a career in audio. We’re proud of the partnership with Howard University, and of the student-produced podcast that was made during the semester—it exemplifies the power of podcasts as a meaningful way to share stories and experiences that may otherwise go unheard.”

To celebrate the launch of the podcast, Spotify NextGen held a listening party on April 16 on Howard University’s campus. Howard’s 2024 NextGen Scholar, Karys Hylton—a sophomore journalism major—was also notified of her $10,000 Spotify NextGen scholarship live at the event.

The listening party was the second time bringing the 1619: The College Edition podcast creators to the main stage. Nikole Hannah-Jones and Kristin Jarrett joined Howard student scriptwriter Rachel McCain at the Podcast Movement Evolutions conference in Los Angeles last month for a panel moderated by Tristan O’Donnell, Senior Creative Strategist at Spotify. 

For the Record sat down with Professor Hannah-Jones to discuss the impact of the course, the importance of a younger generation’s perspective, and how storytelling drives policy.

What does it mean for the audio industry to invest in and support underrepresented voices through initiatives like NextGen?

Our communities are flush with talent but low on resources. It’s critical for the audio industry to invest in order to reach new and important voices whom we would otherwise not hear from.

The 1619 Project won you the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2020 and an Emmy for the docuseries just earlier this year. How does it feel to share—and expand on—this work with a younger generation of Black students?

As a professor, I always feel that I learn as much from my students as they do from me, so it has been such a joy and inspiration to create the next iteration of this work with the young people I teach. Their perspective on stories brings a vitality and insight that is unique to them but critical for the rest of us, and I love that this podcast echoes my own work—even as it pushes it forward.

How would you describe the relationship between storytelling and social justice? How do you use storytelling as a tool for advocacy?

Narrative drives policy. So, if we want to change our society, we have to create the narratives that reveal why social justice is necessary and the roadmaps for how it can be achieved. I use storytelling as a tool for advocacy—by using narrative to inform us on the histories that allow us to understand how inequality was created, by revealing the real people who bear the consequences of this inequality, and by creating the urgency for us to act.

What’s one piece of advice you would give your 18-year-old self?

Stop comparing yourself to others. You have your own path. And every struggle you have faced, and will face, is preparing you to one day step into your power.

Who are some creators that inspire you? If you could collaborate with any of them, who would you choose and why?

I’m inspired by so many creators across many realms. I’d love to collaborate with Pharrell Williams because of his artistry in fashion and music, as well as his activism, and Lanny Smith, who created the fabulous Black-owned athletic wear company Actively Black. I’m also inspired by artists such as Bisa Butler and by writers such as Ta-Nehisi Coates and Isabel Wilkerson, who are all Howard alumni… Just too many to name.

What podcasts are you listening to right now?

I love listening to Throughline, Higher Learning, and Small Doses. And one of my all-time favorites is investigative podcast In The Dark.

Check out 1619: The College Edition to hear Howard voices unpack a mix of history, culture, and contemporary issues.