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The NPR Student Podcast Challenge: College Edition : NPR

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We’re inviting college students around the country to create a podcast — about anything you want! — and compete for a chance to have your work appear on NPR.

Be a part of the NPR Student Podcast Challenge: College Edition

"how it works" LA Johnson/NPR

Here’s how it works: Put together a podcast with your friends, your club, or by yourself and submit it to us.

This contest is for students pursuing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. There is no age restriction! Each podcast should be between three and eight minutes long.

The winning podcast submissions will be featured in segments on NPR’s Morning Edition or All Things Considered.

"where to begin" LA Johnson/NPR

We don’t expect you to be experts. In fact, we assume that most of you are putting a podcast together for the very first time. Don’t panic!

Visit our submission guide to find suggested prompts, guidelines for submissions, and a list of questions you might have.

But before you do anything, it’s important to read the official rules here.

Sure, this is a competition, but it’s also about telling stories in a fun way. We want to make that process easier — so we’ve put together materials to help you along the way.

We’ll have more content coming out soon for college students! But for now you can find our materials for the main Student Podcast Challenge (for students in grades 5-12) and our podcast about how to make a podcast.

"the judges" LA Johnson/NPR

Questions? Read through our frequently asked questions here. If you’re still looking for an answer, send us an email at studentpodcastchallenge@npr.org.

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University of Chicago grad student has made a specialty of morbid curiosity

On a recent autumn afternoon I met Coltan Scrivner in an Andersonville shop cluttered with the gruesome, the disgusting, the terrifying and, his specialty, the morbid. That tiny shop, Woolly Mammoth, tucked into Foster Avenue, is a curiosity cabinet of the uneasy and disturbing, though for Coltan Scrivner, who studies morbid curiosity, it was more like taking a trip to Target.

But no plastic Halloween ghosts here.

Think giant clown heads, and devil heads, and witch’s brooms, and Ouija boards, and two-faced taxidermied goats, and (supposedly authentic) shrunken heads, and an antique portrait of Lizzie Borden, and Victorian funeral wreaths, and death masks, and lots and lots of real skeletons.

“Here’s a good example of what I do,” he said, stopping at an old photo of a child in a bed. “This is a Victorian postmortem image of a dead baby. But if I showed you this and said it was a sleeping child, that would change how you respond to it. What we don’t entirely understand yet though is why, if I tell you that it’s picture of a dead baby, you would still be tempted to look.”

This is morbid curiosity.

“Morbid curiosity means there are two emotion systems going within you,” he continued, stopping before another image. “One is information gathering, one is revulsion, but which one will win out?”

He nodded at a small doodle hanging on the wall.

A small doodle of Hitler, drawn by the Chicago serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

It felt wrong, it felt gross. And so I leaned in for a closer look.

“Beyond it being just bad art, there are so many levels of wrong going on here,” Scrivner said.

And yet he wonders: Why, biologically, evolutionarily, is it so difficult to look away?

Scrivner, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago, is not cadaverous, though he is long and thin, with a playful passing resemblance to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki from the Marvel superhero movies. His field of study is not unheard of — science has long tried to understand why many of us have an appetite for the horrifying — yet as a line of inquiry, this remains mostly outside of mainstream psychology. It’s also not often greeted with the sort of attention that Scrivner is getting He’s been published in serious scientific journals, he’s received more than $50,000 in grants (including from the esteemed Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society in Hyde Park), he’s drawing media attention to pretty wonky studies — such as a recent one on why horror fans are weathering the pandemic better than the rest of us. Scarily enough, he’s even been hired by Facebook to continue research at their headquarters.

His work, eerily, feels right for 2020.

“When I started (at University of Chicago) I wasn’t even sure of what I wanted to study,” he said. “But I knew that I was interested in how people experience things, so I started thinking of

Journalism student sues ASU, citing free speech rights

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ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in downtown Phoenix. (Photo: The Republic)

An Arizona State University journalism student is suing the school after she says she was removed from leading the student-run radio station over a controversial tweet.

The lawsuit claims that the university violated Rae’Lee Klein’s First Amendment rights to free expression by refusing to allow her to continue as station manager of Blaze Radio because of her tweet.

The university, in a statement to The Arizona Republic on Tuesday, refuted that claim, saying, “Klein’s conduct in the aftermath of the tweet — rather than the tweet itself — meant that she was no longer able to perform the job for which she was hired.”

But Klein said she was first scolded about her tweet and later scolded for her media appearances and conversations with elected officials as her situation gained attention. 

“They were first upset by my free speech and now they’re upset that I’ve become this cause célèbre for free speech, so it’s just disappointing to see them keep taking the same stance and not want to work or correct the situation,” Klein told The Republic. 

Jack Wilenchik, Klein’s attorney, filed the complaint in U.S. District Court on Monday against ASU, the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Kristin Gilger, Cronkite interim dean.

Klein faced swift backlash from within and outside her radio station after a tweet she posted in the aftermath of police shooting Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Aug. 23. Klein shared a New York Post article with graphic details from a police report accusing Blake of sexual assault.

The Aug. 29 tweet, deleted later, was captioned, “Always more to the story, folks. Please read this article to get the background of Jacob Blake’s warrant. You’ll be quite disgusted.”

Many interpreted her tweet as justifying or excusing police brutality against Black people. Klein defended it as sharing truthful information and an additional perspective, as journalists are taught.

The radio station board quickly voted to remove Klein, but Klein refused to step down. In the weeks of turmoil following, Klein said she was told that she could not stay on as station manager and was offered several other job alternatives.

The school has said Klein was not removed because of the views she expressed.

Klein: First Amendment violated

Klein’s lawsuit states that ASU is unlawfully preventing Klein from being station manager based on the content of her free speech. It asks the court to rule for her to remain in that position. 

Because ASU is an entity of state government, it cannot legally deny benefits — like a job at the radio station — on the basis of speech, according to the lawsuit. The university also cannot restrict a student’s right to speech or require a student to endorse a certain public policy view, the lawsuit says.

Rae’Lee Klein in the Blaze Radio studio at Arizona State University. Klein has sued the school in the aftermath of her

21-year-old college student elected mayor of Alabama town

CAMP HILL, Ala. — The new mayor of an Alabama town faces a couple of unusual challenges: Namely, going to class and doing his homework.

Auburn University student Messiah Williams-Cole defeated an incumbent to be elected mayor of Camp Hill, Alabama, last week. Besides operating the town of about 950 people, he’s getting ready to graduate next May with a degree in interdisciplinary studies.

The 21-year-old led Mayor Ezell Woodyard-Smith by a margin of 259-156 in last Tuesday’s runoff election. The mayor-elect tells news outlets he’s excited more than anything and also a little overwhelmed to win the position.

Williams-Cole sought the mayorship after losing a bid for the Camp Hill City Council last year. Williams-Cole is a Camp Hill native, and he says he’ll work out a detailed scheduled to allow him to both complete his classwork and serve as mayor.

Williams-Cole assumes office for a four-year term Nov. 2. The town of Camp Hill is about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of Auburn.

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Authorities investigating after Willamette University student, 19, found dead in Salem park

Authorities are investigating the death of a 19-year-old Willamette University student who was found dead early this month in a Salem park.

Salem police said hikers found Abigail Agustin-Paz dead in Minto-Brown Island Park on Oct. 2. No information about the circumstances or cause of her death has been released.

The independent, student-run Collegian newspaper reported last week that Salem police investigators had visited the private university campus.

The university’s president said there were “no elevated safety concerns” for the campus, city or Minto-Brown Island Park in an email to students last week, according to the newspaper.

Agustin-Paz was from Wood Village, police said. She held multiple leadership positions and worked at the Bistro Willamette coffee shop, the Collegian reported.

She also called this past summer for Salem-Keizer Public Schools to divest money used to police students and invest those funds into Black and indigenous student education, according to the Statesman Journal. She was among hundreds who called on a pair of school board members to resign, as well, the newspaper reported.

An online crowdfunding campaign in her name has raised $15,716 of its $20,000 goal, as of Tuesday morning.

Salem police have asked anyone who has information about Agustin-Paz’s death to call 503-588-8477.

— Jim Ryan

jryan@oregonian.com; 503-221-8005; @Jimryan015

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College student from N.J. killed in Ohio shooting remembered as ‘light in everyone’s life’

A former New Jersey high school football player shot to death early Sunday near Ohio State University is being remembered as a “light” in the lives of those who knew him.

Chase Meola, 23, a Mahwah native and fifth-year marketing major at Ohio State, was gunned down as he was leaving a party, officials said.

“He was always very outgoing. He’s from New Jersey, so he definitely had that loud, outgoing personality,” friend Ashley McCartney told Ohio television station 10 WBNS.

A GoFundMe set up to pay for funeral costs had already exceeded its $50,000 goal by Monday afternoon.

“He was light in everyone’s life and will be dearly missed by those he touched,” organizers wrote. The organizers, identified as friends of Meola’s, did not respond to a request for comment.

Meola, once a star football player for the Mahwah High School Thunderbirds, was earning an MBA, his LinkedIn said, with a goal of working on Wall Street.

“The Ohio State University community is in mourning, and our deepest condolences and support go to the family and friends of Chase,” the university said in a statement.

Meola was leaving a party around 2 a.m. on Sunday when an “altercation occurred outside,” university officials said. Meola was shot in an alley near the party and pronounced dead at the scene.

Kintie Mitchell Jr., 18, of Columbus, has been charged with murder. His first court date is on Tuesday, WCMH 4 reported.

Thank you for relying on us to provide the journalism you can trust. Please consider supporting NJ.com with a subscription.

Katie Kausch may be reached at kkausch@njadvancemedia.com. Tell us your coronavirus story or send a tip here.

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NJ student killed in shooting near Ohio university campus

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio State University student from New Jersey was killed in an early morning shooting near campus over the weekend, authorities said.

Columbus police were dispatched shortly after 2 a.m. Sunday to a reported shooting in an alley and found a man with a gunshot wound who was pronounced dead at the scene, the university’s public safety department said.

Authorities identified the victim as 23-year-old Ohio State student Chase Meola, a fifth-year marketing major from Mahwah, New Jersey.

“The Ohio State University community is in mourning, and our deepest condolences and support go to the family and friends of Chase,” the university public safety department said, adding that counseling services were available for students and staff.

Officials said reports indicated that some people were asked to leave a house party in the area and an altercation occurred outside.


Columbus police said Kintie Lanod Mitchell Jr., 18, of Columbus was charged with murder; it’s unclear whether he has an attorney and a listed number in his name couldn’t be found Sunday.

Columbus police are investigating. Anyone with information was asked to call investigators.

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College sports cut, seasons canceled: Student athletes feel abandoned

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Early mornings, late nights, countless hours of training. And now, perhaps nothing to show for it.

That’s a glimpse at the uncertainty for college athletes across the country who have had seasons derailed. In some cases, their programs have even been cut altogether as schools react to the health risks and financial ripples of COVID-19.

The pandemic has shaken the college sports scene to its core, dealing an emotional blow to athletes as they’re forced to stay on their toes about the status of their careers.

Some college football conferences have made a loud return to action, but many athletes in lower revenue sports – the runners, swimmers, golfers, and soccer players – are still waiting to take the field or hear if they’ll be able to compete again.

Many athletic conferences have pushed non-football fall sports to the spring. But with CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield saying a vaccine won’t be widely available until mid-2021, even that timeframe could make it difficult to restart sports en masse while keeping everyone safe.

College football and COVID-19: A big, disjointed experiment exposes scientific, political gaps

Between the decisions made by schools, conferences, local and state officials or the CDC itself, the fates of so many athletic careers rest in the hands of higher powers.

Some students have already been dealt disappointing results.

‘A total slap in the face’

Wrestlers at Old Dominion, swimmers at UConn and baseball players at Boise State are all in the same boat. So are athletes from 11 different athletic programs at Stanford and seven different teams at George Washington.

They’re among the dozens of programs that have been cut by colleges this year, leaving athletes with a nerve-wracking decision: To stay at their school or transfer to continue playing the sport they love.

Connor LaMastra is one of those athletes.

He spent his junior swimming season littering his name across the Dartmouth record books. He broke school records in three individual events. He was on the fastest 800-yard freestyle relay in program history. And after delivering what he called his most successful conference championships as an individual, he was named captain for the 2020-2021 season.

The stage had been set for LaMastra – a swimmer since he was 5 years old – to have a senior season he could cherish when his swimming days were over.

Connor LaMastra was named captain for the Dartmouth swim team before the program was abruptly cut. (Photo: Provided by Connor LaMastra)

When administrators scheduled a mid-summer Zoom call with athletes from five athletic programs, swimming included, LaMastra thought they might learn their season was canceled. But the news was heavier than that.

Dartmouth cut the swimming and diving programs completely. Men’s and women’s golf and men’s lightweight rowing were done too, effective immediately.

“I closed my laptop, and I just walked outside and sat down. I was totally incapable of processing what had just happened,” he said. “It was a total slap in the face.”

In the days and

Student debt woes shock some borrowers who banked on COVID-19 relief

When you know a tiny bit about something, you can walk around in a fog that throws your finances for a total loop.

And so begins the story on coronavirus relief efforts and student loan debt.

Increasingly, consumer advocates report hearing from student loan borrowers who haven’t paid a dime on their college loans since March and believe that they’re in perfectly fine shape. They’ve heard about all the student loan breaks that now run through the end of December.

And the big money trip wire? 

Tucked in their basket of debt, they’re dealing with a hot mess of student loans that aren’t covered by coronavirus-related debt relief.

A metro Detroit consumer was shocked after late payments relating to unpaid student debt suddenly popped up in 2020 on her credit report, according to Sue Stoddard, housing counselor and family self-sufficiency resource coordinator for the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency. 

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Stoddard, a financial coach for the borrower, had to explain that more than $13,000 of student loan debt was now being reported as past due — indicating that those specific loans weren’t covered by special forbearance programs.

The borrower had needed to make monthly payments on those loans but had stopped because of some misconceptions about what was and what wasn’t covered under COVID-19 debt relief. 

The borrower didn’t realize that the temporary 0% rates and automatic pause in payments applied only to specific federal student loan debt, not all student loans.

About 9 million borrowers — those with private student loans and those with most Perkins loans and Federal Family Education Loans that are not owned by the federal government — are not receiving automatic relief, according to the Student Borrower Protection Center, a nonprofit advocacy group.

“With private student loans, a borrower has to request forbearance. It is not automatic. Even the special 90-day COVID-19 forbearance has to be requested,” said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and vice president of research for Savingforcollege.com. 

And many experts recommend that you contact your loan servicer, if you’re having trouble making your payments or if you’re unclear about whether your loans are covered under the federal CARES Act or other programs. 

Mishaps can trigger trouble down the road — and servicers will try to get their money. For example, a private student loan creditor is entitled to 100% of your state tax refund, with court approval. 

For private student loans, tax refund garnishment is only available at the state level and does not apply to federal tax refunds. 

“While they can’t seize your federal refund, they can take action to collect quicker than federal student loan servicers,” Stoddard said.

“Federal servicers are unable to take collection action until a loan is 270 days past due, private servicers can take action as soon as you’re late once.”  

The private servicer can go to court and sue to garnish wages,

Man pleads guilty to murdering University of Utah student MacKenzie Lueck

Oct. 8 (UPI) — A Salt Lake City man has pleaded guilty to murdering a 23-year-old student last year after they met on a dating website.

Ayoola Ajayi, 32, pleaded guilty Wednesday to aggravated murder and desecration of a human body for the death of MacKenzie Lueck.

Under the terms of the deal, a judge is expected to sentence Ajayi on Oct. 23 to life in prison with no possibility of parole. He avoided the death penalty as part of the agreement.

Defense attorney Neal Hamilton said Ajayi killed Lueck, a University of Utah student, after they met June 17, 2019. Lueck had just returned from her grandmother’s funeral and took a Lyft ride from the Salt Lake City airport to Hatch Park to meet with Ajayi.

Hamilton said Ajayi planned to kill Lueck before they met.

The two traveled to Ajayi’s home, where he tied up Lueck and strangled her until she stopped moving. Officials said she died of blunt force trauma to the head.

Hamilton said his client then burned Lueck and her belongings in his backyard and buried the remains. After police visited Ajayi at his home to question him about Lueck’s disappearance, he then dug up her remains and reburied her in a shallow grave at Logan Canton.

After his arrest a week later, Ajayi told police where her body was buried.

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