Influential and impactful: Quinnipiac podcast spotlights America’s first ladies

March 25, 2024

Lisa Burns

From impactful national change to acts of dinner table diplomacy, the history of America’s enigmatic and influential first ladies resonates in Quinnipiac’s new podcast, “The First Ladies: Second to None.”

The show’s origins are connected to Quinnipiac Professor of Media Studies Lisa Burns, who has co-edited the forthcoming book, “Cambridge Companion to U.S. First Ladies,” with Teri Finneman, an associate professor of journalism and mass communications at the University of Kansas. Finneman, who studies media portrayals of first ladies, produces and hosts the podcast in conjunction with the Quinnipiac Podcast Studio. Burns is the podcast’s marketing director.

When Burns pitched the podcast idea to Quinnipiac’s director of community programming, David DesRoches, he knew it would be a great fit for the studio’s constantly expanding playlist.

“This podcast is an example of what you can do to leverage the expertise of faculty and other professionals to really give audiences something special that they may not have heard before,” said DesRoches.

Through Finneman’s discussions with leading scholars and public history professionals, The First Ladies podcast shines a spotlight on the political, social and cultural influence of first ladies, from Martha Washington — the media influencer of her day — to Jill Biden.

Burns is the featured guest for the podcast’s inaugural episode, “Why Studying First Ladies Matters.” She explains how, as a graduate student, a class on presidents’ and first ladies’ rhetoric, followed by further research and exploration, touched off her scholarly pursuit of this vastly understudied area in women’s history.

“I thought I would devote my academic career to telling these women’s stories and trying to claim their rightful place in the historical record, and in some ways making sure that future generations appreciate the contributions these women have made to our society,” said Burns.

In 2008, Burns authored “First Ladies and the Fourth Estate: Press Framing of Presidential Wives.” She has also published multiple journal articles and book chapters on presidential spouses. Her edited collection, “Media Relations and the Modern First Lady: From Jacqueline Kennedy to Melania Trump,” was released in 2020.

DesRoches said the entertaining, educational banter in The First Ladies podcast is a pivotal part of the appeal to podcast listening. It’s also an important ingredient to the success of the growing inventory of shows Quinnipiac University Podcast Studio has produced since launching in 2019.

The studio is operated in partnership with the School of Communications on the Mount Carmel Campus. DesRoches guides a variety of podcasts conceived and produced by faculty, community members and students. At any given time, Quinnipiac pitches, hosts and produces a suite of more than 30 podcasts.

In addition to The First Ladies, DesRoches is excited about several current podcast projects, including “Learning to Unlearn” with faculty JT Torres, Erin Corbett and Brian Koonz; “Fearless Female Athletes,” with student Lillian Schnieders; “Pilot Language” with Ra Hashim, a New Haven small business entrepreneur supported by the Quinnipiac and Connecticut Community Outreach Revitalization Program (ConnCORP) collaboration; “Thank You for Listening,” an inclusive listening podcast with faculty member Katie Place; and “The Ability Avengers,” hosted by student Fiona Stevens.

The Ability Avengers is an especially novel podcast, he noted.

“It’s a podcast where we have children interview people with disabilities about their disability. The hope is that these candid conversations can reduce the stigma often associated with being disabled, as well as open up new doors to understanding,” DesRoches said.

The volume and variety of shows coming out of the studio also provides exceptional opportunities for hands-on student experiences. For The First Ladies podcast, in addition to Burns, the marketing team includes public relations student Emily McManaman, ’24, as social media and promotions manager.

“We’re putting students within different positions in podcasts to ensure they’re having real-life experiences,” DesRoches said. “In this case, Emily McManaman is working with them to support the podcast with marketing. She’s seeing which content would live best on social media, which content would serve to promote listening growth and really doing the work to help develop their audience.”

Follow The First Ladies podcast on Instagram, Tik Tok and Twitter/X. The first two episodes of The First Ladies dropped in March and can be downloaded at and at Spotify.

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