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The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

CSSJ launches student-created religion podcast

The logo of the “CSSJ Podcast.” It is a microphone based on the color scheme of the logo for the Center for Spirituality and Social Justice, which is a blue candle with an orange flame. (Photo Courtesy of the CSSJ)
The logo of the “CSSJ Podcast.” It is a microphone based on the color scheme of the logo for the Center for Spirituality and Social Justice, which is a blue candle with an orange flame. (Photo Courtesy of the CSSJ)

With nearly half of Gen Z listening to a podcast every month, the audio format has in recent years become an effective way to promote discussion and distribute content. The Center for Spirituality and Social Justice (CSSJ) recently took a step into the world of podcasting with the “CSSJ Podcast,” which launched last November. 

The podcast is hosted by Leslie Mazzeno ’24 and Jonah Lenahan ’26, two student workers with CSSJ. In each episode, they discuss various subjects relating to religion and spirituality. Some episodes also feature correspondents like other CSSJ workers Molly Gun ’24 and Katarina Swendrowski ’24.

All episodes follow a similar structure, with scripted portions in the beginning and endings that involve banter between the hosts and correspondents. Updates on events being hosted by CSSJ, Landis House, and other organizations on campus are also included. Additionally, in the middle of the episode, the hosts conduct an unscripted interview with their guests.

Lenahan does most of the writing for the scripted portions of the podcast. He said, “the most fun part of writing is the interaction between our personalities, because I’ve gotten to know my co-workers so much better through working on the podcast that I now know exactly what needs to be said when.” Mazzeno said that this allowed Lenahan to “[make] characters out of our real personalities” that come off the same as they do in the unscripted interview portions.

The first episode CSSJ released last fall looks at anti-theism—the idea that people should oppose religion and spirituality—and how to address possible extremism that can arise from this belief. The episode also highlights Ezra Soncrant’s ’26 efforts to organize a student-run Daoist organization.

The discussion of who participates in conversations about spirituality and religion led the hosts to talk about anti-theism in the initial episode. 

Mazzeno said “if we start off with interviewing a priest, that is obviously part of the podcast, that’s part of what we want to do, but we don’t want people to see that and think ‘oh, it’s that kind of a podcast,’ because unfortunately, people have an idea of what religious life will look like in their minds.” Anti-theism served as a unique starting point of what the podcast can discuss.

Episode 2 featured an interview with Father Ted Pulcini, an Orthodox Christian priest and Professor Emeritus of Religion at Dickinson. The final episode of the fall semester, “A Nonspecific Winter Time Episode,” spotlighted DEI administrative assistant Anne Maitland.

Lenahan paraphrased J. Cody Nielsen, Director of the CSSJ, saying, “there’s nobody who’s actually outside of the box” in regards to discussions of spirituality and religion, even if someone is not actively religious or spiritual. This idea led to the two hosts coming up with a long list of ideas and potential guests to talk with, which they have  chosen more specifically as the series continues.

The main interview of the spring semester’s first episode will center around the recently-established Pagan Curious club. Lenahan said being able to showcase that these different topics and conversations are happening on campus is an “unexpected, but happy accident that has come out of the podcast.”

The “CSSJ Podcast” is available to stream on Spotify, YouTube and Soundcloud, where episodes are uploaded biweekly.

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About the Contributor
Walker is a junior political science major from Shavertown, Pa. and is one of the 2023-24 Co-Editors-in-Chief. They previously served as Life & Style Editor in 2022-23, and have been writing with The Dickinsonian since freshman year. Some of their favorite stories they've written include a profile on John E. Jones when he became Dickinson's president, attempts to bring back a special interest house for the African diaspora, and when John Fetterman spoke in Carlisle. Outside of The Dickinsonian, they are also involved with WDCV, Random Acts of Kindness and Dickinson Votes. In their free time, they love reading, finding new music, photography, and playing video games.

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