Nick Zevely is the marketing and communications manager at the Gephardt Institute. Prior to joining the Gephardt Institute in November 2020, he served as the Senior Director of External Affairs at The Mission Continues, a national nonprofit organization serving military veterans.
In this short interview, he shares his motivation to join the Gephardt Institute, podcast recommendations, and more.
What inspired you to join Washington University and the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement in particular?
Like many, the draw to higher education is partly inspired by my own experiences on campus as a student. At Arizona State University and the George Washington University, I was able to see a view the university at different scales and with different points of view about how to best prepare students for success and how higher education institutions should exist within a city and region.
I am a St. Louis native, so Washington University has been a constant in my life as a top-tier academic and, now, professional setting. Any opportunity to join the WashU community is worth considering, but the chance to join the Gephardt Institute was a real can’t miss. WashU is a product of St. Louis, and the Gephardt Institute is in a unique position in that it lives within a university ecosystem, and has the access, reach, and influence that comes with this position, but has a shared mission that extends beyond the university’s geographic footprint.
Now, I get to help tell this story.
What gives you hope about our city, region, or nation’s civic future? What gives you pause about city, region, or nation’s future?
Any pause I feel about our civic future stems from the seeming lack of empathy in our politics, public discourse, and justice systems. The most meaningful experiences I’ve had are a result of being in places and with communities that challenge my preconceived notions and assumptions. My first job out of college was going door-to-door in South St. Louis and Jefferson County, MO, neighborhoods to poll residents ahead of a Congressional election. Not all of the interactions were positive, but I learned a lot about myself and our political process through this experience.
The Gephardt Institute embraces empathy as one of its core values, and I am emboldened when I see this value lived and operationalized into meaningful and intentional action.
What are you reading or listening to right now that keeps you engaged in civic and community engagement?
Online, I checkout The New York Times, The Washington Post, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch for major headlines, and I’ll compare their framing on certain stories with other outlets, small and large, that lean left or right.
With two young boys, I don’t have tons of time to read a newspaper in full, so I end up trying to consume media while on the go. Three podcasts that I rely on in particular include: Pod Save the People, We Live Here, and How to Citizen with Baratunde.
Lastly, check out the Nieman Lab newsletter if you’re interested in the role of journalism and the industry’s future in the digital age, the battle against misinformation, and the responsibility of media to be an arbiter of truth.
What St. Louis locations or institutions do you recommend to your WashU peers?
My family spends a lot of time at Tower Grove Park. The farmers market on Saturday mornings is one of the best in the area, there’s vast spaces to roam and explore, and they have horses. It’s also near one of the best stretches for food in the city on South Grand. Closer to home, the main stretch in Maplewood has some incredible restaurants, a brewery, a record store, a used book store, and more. It’s also an EPA-designated Green Power Community.
St. Louis is full of gems, it just takes some effort to find them all. That’s what makes it so interesting.