Andrew McCabe said he has learned from his own experience that communication is one of the biggest challenges for leaders of large organizations.
That is why the former deputy and acting director of the FBI, and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at George Mason University, said he so respects George Mason University President Gregory Washington’s “Access to Excellence” podcast, which published its 50th episode on July 11.
“You’ve got to reach people where they are,” said McCabe, who happens to be the guest for the milestone conversation. “The podcast is a great way to connect with a sophisticated, diverse community looking for alternative access to information. Dr. Washington does a great job bringing stories of interesting aspects of the Mason experience.”
“I wanted to be able to give students some feedback about the grand challenges that are out there that they can attack and solve with a Mason education,” Washington said. “That was the real motivator for me for starting this podcast. I’m hoping to give them some clarity.”
The monthly podcast has been a showcase for the high-level talent Mason has within its faculty, and was the inspiration for the YouTube video series “Our Future, Transformed,” in which Washington interviews faculty in front of a student audience, which also gets to ask questions.
Both shows draw a straight line to the university’s commitment to diversity of thought, which helps students think more creatively and learn more effectively.
“It illustrates that Mason is always on the frontier of expanding our knowledge, and that you have opportunities here,” said Abigail Walsh, a rising senior forensic science major said after an “Our Future, Transformed” recording.
Added Philip Wilkerson, an employer engagement consultant for University Career Services, an “Access to Excellence” subscriber, and a podcaster himself: “It does make me realize how innovative our university really is. It’s just a great way to feel like I’m part of the community. I feel connected to Mason by listening to the podcast. I just really enjoy it and listen as much as I can.”
Timely issues examined on the podcast include Donald Trump’s indictment under the Espionage Act, the COVID pandemic from an infectious disease standpoint and as a spark for a mental health crisis, climate change, police reform, the evolution of the internet, artificial intelligence, and the war in Ukraine and its ties to Russian organized crime.
The podcast also examined the real story of the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving, Black dance, the reimagining of Santa Claus, and how the United States and former Soviet Union were once 60 seconds from nuclear war.
A conversation with Mason economist Tyler Cowen about his groundbreaking Emergent Ventures program is the podcast’s most listened-to episode. And episodes with Missouri Congresswoman Cori Bush about her activism, and Gail Christopher, an advocate for social change who is lending her voice to Mason’s Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Task Force, underscored Mason’s core values of grit and audacity.
“I think the fields of higher education and the creative work of scholars, particularly scholars of color don’t get enough pubic attention,” Christopher said. “Dr. Washington’s podcast is a powerful tool for addressing this need. What I enjoyed most about the experience was the conversational nature of our interaction. I felt free to engage with Dr. Washington in provocative yet meaningful discussion.”
McCabe, who teaches a graduate-level class at Mason on the legal framework of national security, also praised Washington’s interview style as one that “gives his interviewee the space to answer questions fully with context. That’s what makes the podcast compelling listening.”
Washington said it been compelling listening for him as well.
“There’s no better education than hearing directly from the people who are experts in their fields,” he said. “Students get that here at Mason, and there’s no better education than that. We call it experiential learning, and it’s a fantastic thing.”