Kehinde sits in a podcast studio, surrounded by microphones and computer monitors
Features & Articles

This Pitt junior’s podcast is transforming communities through conversation

  • Innovation and Research
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • David C. Frederick Honors College
  • Swanson School of Engineering

After an injury dashed his plans to play college basketball, Ian Kehinde found comfort in his passion for studying engineering at Pitt. 

Wanting to also pursue a creative outlet outside of academics, he sought a project that would connect him with community members across the University and city. 

That took form with the August launch of “Let’s Talk Social Innovation,” a podcast aiming to “transform communities through conversation,” according to Kehinde.

So far, he’s made 17 episodes across two seasons, which have welcomed notable individuals — including National Medal laureate Rory A. Cooper — to discuss topics such as a better future for the disabled, emotional intelligence, religion, self-love, trans visibility and more.

Now, he's being recognized as a "Campus Leader" at Pitt's annual K. Leroy Irvis Black History Month celebration on Feb. 26. His nominators say he exemplifies the best of the University.

“I have such a wide range of guests because everybody deserves to have a seat at the table; that’s the only way we can make real social change equitably,” said Kehinde, a junior civil engineering major and former undergraduate researcher of Swanson School of Engineering Associate Professor John Brigham.

Kehinde hopes when guests discuss their work, audiences are inspired and social innovation — defined as transformative societal impact through the design and implementation of solutions that empower communities — and change can happen.

A sound ‘staple’

Neither activism nor podcasting was new to Kehinde.

As a high schooler, he founded the Black Student Union at Methacton High School in Eagleville, Pennsylvania. He supported efforts to ban the local police department’s use of chokeholds, volunteered for Pennsylvania State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta’s house campaign and spoke at a CROWN Act event to address eliminating hair discrimination.

Around that time, he also co-founded a basketball and business podcast: “We hit around 500 monthly listeners within two months, which is sort of crazy,” he said. “We had different NBA players on, a bunch of college players, some business analysts, so it was very cool.”

But the idea for “Let’s Talk Social Innovation” came from a chance encounter during a National Society of Black Engineers event last year.

“African American changemakers in the Pittsburgh area were being honored,” he said. “One of them was Ron Idoko, whose work with RECI and CRSP brought something up from my past: activism.”

At the University of Pittsburgh, Idoko, a research assistant professor, is the founding director of the Racial Equity Consciousness Institute (RECI), director of Social Innovation in the David C. Frederick Honors College and associate director of Center on Race and Social Problems (CRSP).

I have such a wide range of guests because everybody deserves to have a seat at the table.

Ian Kehinde

Speaking with Idoko at the 2023 Black History Month event, Kehinde asked if they could work together. Idoko shared a goal of the Frederick Honors College: Office of Social Innovation in Honors Education program to increase outreach and engagement and invited Kehinde to submit ideas.

“Let’s Talk Social Innovation” was born.

“The podcast has become a Social Innovation staple,” Idoko said. “We’re excited to see how Ian continues to grow the platform. He is incredibly cerebral, personable and thoughtfully curious. He has an infectious desire to learn how folks engage in efforts to improve their communities and share their stories broadly.”

The podcast is sponsored by CRSP and the Frederick Honors College’s Office of Social Innovation, where it’s part of the ChangeMakers Media Lab.

“The Frederick Honors College’s Office of Social Innovation is advancing critically important work in advance of inclusivity in Honors education and serves as a national model in this field,” Dean Nicola Foote said. “The ‘Let's Talk Social Innovation’ podcast is a powerful example of the impactful work the office is doing and showcases how FHC students have been empowered to serve as agents of social change. I am so proud of Ian and his work in creating this engaging and important podcast.”

Behind the scenes

On average, Kehinde spends 15 hours producing an episode, which he records and edits in University Center for Teaching and Learning’s Media Creation Lab.

Guests have included Ron Idoko, CRSP Director Kyaien Conner, and senior biology and chemistry major  Emaad Khan, who founded the Spread the Love Projects, which supports families struggling with pediatric health expenses.

The medium, he said, is great because it incorporates audio and visual storytelling elements.

“Podcasting is very progressive,” he said. “It’s a good way of blending the different worlds of people in academia and people who are into social media. Video is important. When you see somebody who looks like you, discussing what they do, it can inspire you to say, ‘That could be me.’”

Kehinde has already secured a summer internship with a full-service engineering firm as a design intern working on structure and roadway designs and knows his long-term goal is to use his talents in urban planning and transportation design to help reimagine the infrastructure of his family’s home country, Nigeria.

But for now, he’s focused on one thing: “Hopefully, everybody watching can find themselves in someone I'm interviewing.”

— Kara Henderson, photography by Tom Altany

Listen and get involved

Stream the podcast on Spotify, Amazon Music, YouTube and Google.

If you or someone you know is a changemaker with a story to tell, submit a nomination to be featured on the podcast.

If you’re interested in working on the podcast, contact Kehinde directly, IOK7 [at]