BRAVER: Literacy Commons launches podcast project


Andrew Reece has a new gig at UNC Pembroke. A junior mathematics education major, Reece launched a podcast project with The Literacy Commons on April 7.

Called Braver, the podcast project opened with 16 audio episodes on iTunes. The project is dedicated to building a bridge of reciprocity, where the ideas, voices and innovations are shared between the university and that of the Robeson County, North Carolina community. Led by English professor David Marquard, The Literacy Commons is a campus-based outreach to the community for a variety of service programs.

BRAVER editorial team – From left: Dr. David Marquard, English professor and director of the Literacy Commons, Megan Cook and Andrew Reece

BRAVER editorial team – From left: Dr. David Marquard, English professor and director of the Literacy Commons, Megan Cook and Andrew Reece

Before Braver, Reece burned brightly as a guitar player for Fireset, a popular Christian indie band comprised of UNCP students. A CD and many gigs later, the band members went separate ways.

After spreading the gospel at local churches and events like Peace in the Park and Pembroke Day, Reece developed a passion for the Pembroke community. So, he looked for another project and another vehicle for communicating.

With support and advice from Dr. Marquard and a little help from some new friends, Braver was born. On the eve of the launch, Braver members and Dr. Marquard sat on the couch of The Literacy Commons and ideas poured out.

“It started as an idea,” Reece said. “I asked ‘what would bring the town and university together? What would connect community to campus?’”

“I thought about video podcasts. We talked about a website or a blog before deciding on audio podcasts,” he said. “I want to make an impact.”

Several of the first Braver episodes introduce the project and its staff – Megan Cook, a freshman forensic chemistry major, and Raymond Hunt, a journalism major. Other interviews give a taste of what is to come, and it’s exciting.

There is an interview with Teresa Locklear, a UNCP graduate and the first woman elected to the Pembroke Town Council. There is a conversation with members of UNCP’s wrestling team and 2014 national champion Daniel Ownbey. And, student-artist Stephanie Sykes and writer Gordon Byrd talk with Reece about their creative work.

Raymond Hunt’s interest in journalism led him to the project. He also liked the idea of exploding an old student paradigm.

“I thought it was a cool idea; I listen to podcasts,” Hunt said. “I wanted to be part of a program to spread the word about our university. Students say there is nothing to do here, and we want to change that.”

Inspiration drew Megan Cook to the project and The Literacy Commons. “At first, I came here because it was an assignment in Dr. Marquard’s class,” she said. “They were talking about podcasts. I had worked on podcasts before, and it seemed like a lot of fun.”

It is a diverse group and talented. Cook and Reece are members of the Esther Maynor Honors College. With the energy level and enthusiasm they bring to the project, Braver will undoubtedly unearth some gems.

“One idea we had is food features,” Reece said. “For instance, students don’t know about Papa Bill’s BBQ. The food is amazing, and it’s right down the street.”

“The podcasts will be short discussions,” Dr. Marquard said. “We want to create a two-way dialogue to inform and educate. It should be wide open so that community members will contribute their own podcasts.

“This is a conversation amongst and within the community that will be hosted by committee,” he said. “We will not be divisive, but promote critical thinking and analysis and awareness of the university and community.”

Before starting the conversation, the Braver staff had to learn the technology to create, edit and upload the podcasts to their iTunes page. But, learning is what higher education is about and the obstacles were quickly surmounted.

As part of the university, Braver and The Literacy Commons are educational projects. It is an ever-changing cast powered by students from service-learning classes, the Honors College, athletic teams and other volunteers who are reaching out to local schools, veterans and the arts community in many ways.

A link to Braver podcasts may be found at or searching iTunes with the keywords, Literacy Commons. The LC is located in Wellons Hall Suites G and N.