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Online Show Offers a New Way for Students to Engage in 'Crucial Conversations'

September 25, 2018
Kamyar Nekoui (middle left) and panel on the set of "Crucial Conversations"

UC Merced is venturing into the bright lights of YouTube shows and junior Kamyar Nekoui is leading the charge.

Tuesday marks the release of the first online episode of Nekoui’s project, a recorded talk show titled “Crucial Conversations.” The show, formatted to mirror popular talk shows like “The View,” is the first of its kind at the university.

“Crucial Conversations” features San Jose native Nekoui serving as a moderator while a panel of three students, a staff member and a faculty member engage in an hour-long, in-depth discussion about a particular topic. The five-person panel will change each webisode.

The pilot was filmed last week and featured the panel dissecting the question of “Can What is Hurt be Healed?”

“We talked about the different experiences of students, staff and faculty on campus and the different ways people have been hurt through miscommunication, assumptions, violations — even unknowingly,” Nekoui said. “Then we transitioned to healing and what that means to not only individuals but also groups as a whole.”

Subtopics included Professor Robin DeLugan’s research on social memory and collective identity, and current students serving as the pioneers of education coursework online. Students expressed concern that constant use of a computer can exacerbate the pain students may feel online or through social media.

“We had a really enlightening moment of ‘this is something we are going through for the first time together,’” Nekoui said.

Nekoui, a management and business economics major, has interned for Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students Jonathan Grady since November. He said that after hearing student concerns throughout the 2017-2018 school year as a member of the Dean of Students Advisory Board, he spent the summer brainstorming ways to provide students a platform to delve deep into topics that matter to them.

That is when he arrived at the idea of a talk show.

We had a really enlightening moment of ‘this is something we are going through for the first time together'

Kamyar Nekoui
Creator of "Crucial Conversations"

“Crucial Conversations” is set to be released once a month through the end of the year. Upcoming topics include “The Power of Activism and Civic Engagement in a Tumultuous Landscape,” “The Cycle of Love, Loss, Hope and Empowerment” and “Redefining the Narrative of Home and Family.”

Grady believes “Crucial Conversations” enables people at UC Merced to take an uncensored approach to facing traumatizing challenges that can fracture the community.

“Providing our community with a platform to openly discuss concerns, recommendations and solutions in a way that is mutually respectful, honest, direct, transparent and rooted in care is paramount,” Grady said. “’Crucial Conversations’ is a way to ensure our community is able to stand in its truth, hold others and itself accountable, and prompt true positive and sustainable change.”

Nekoui hopes the change resonates outside the campus and into the Merced community, where many students, faculty and staff serve as vital members.

“What we’re talking about is important, it’s relatable,” Nekoui said, “and I hope it’s something the community can use to come together.”

Though he chose a panel over a one-on-one format for the show, Nekoui knows there are many students who will not get a chance to voice their opinions on “Crucial Conversations.” To accommodate others, Nekoui plans to hold town-hall-style discussions in the weeks following each episode. A hashtag, #UCMCrucialConversations, has also been created to engage the community on social media.

After a quick turnaround from brainstorm to production, Nekoui is hopeful the show will provide an outlet for the UC Merced community to address concerns together.

“I was very excited that it came to fruition, that this work was able to happen for the sake of the campus community,” Nekoui said. “I know that this show has the potential to leave an impact.”