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Creating Connection, One Story at a Time

In a time of upheaval, the young and the young-at-heart can be sure that a calming voice will greet them each Saturday with a new episode of the Tiny Torero Story Time podcast.

In March 2020, as the University of San Diego moved to a remote format, the USD Alumni Relations team took on the unique challenge of connecting with the worldwide Torero community in creative, virtual ways. As a result of that, this bilingual children’s book podcast was born.

Created by Claudia Gonzales ’99, ’03 (MA), director of international engagement and alumni outreach, Tiny Torero Story Time launched on March 22, only a few days after the campus transitioned to remote operations.

For Gonzales, the motivation was simple. “A lot of little ones needed content,” she says. Adding, “this past year has been really hard for everyone on multiple levels. But I really do feel like it has been hardest for the children in our lives. I’ve had the opportunity to literally talk in their ears with warm, good, positive stories. I just try to keep it upbeat and positive.”

Since its creation, the podcast has had almost 8,000 downloads, with hundreds of new listeners each week. For Gonzales, who travelled internationally for work in pre-pandemic times, a source of pride is the size of her audience, which extends to 30 countries, places she can’t visit in-person now, but communities she can still impact with her voice.

“I love the fact that it is reaching international audiences,” she says. “At least I can connect with them and their little ones this way.”

Recently named one of the best podcasts by Discover Pods due to its bilingual content, Tiny Toreros Story Time has been a constant for USD families in a very difficult and uncertain year. For Gonzales, this project has been a unique opportunity to advance USD’s community-focused mission in a time of disconnect.

“All of these stories speak to the core of USD values of being a community of care for ourselves and each other,” says Gonzales, who points out that this project is just one of the many ways the USD Alumni Relations team has worked to stay connected this past year.

“I am so proud of my fellow team members, for being creative individuals who genuinely care about making alumni connections. Coming from a high-touch, in-person work environment, we all learned to pivot, and pivot quickly, to a completely virtual world. It really is amazing to look back at this past year and acknowledge that we have hosted [and] co-hosted over 260 events, with over 16,000 participants,” she says. “Although we can’t meet in person just yet, we have created multiple opportunities to remain connected with USD. With all of our online programming available, we connect with Tiny Toreros, Young Alumni, Mid-Career Alumni, Parents and Retired Toreros – there is something for everyone!”

And, as the podcast nears its first birthday, there are no plans to stop anytime soon. To mark the occasion, the month of March has exclusively featured USD alumni authors. Titles offered included Mindful Millie, by Amanda B. Morris ’02 (MA); Bisous for Leo, by Whitney (Stanton) Patapoff ’07 (BBA), I am Light, I am Bright, by Melanie Lococo ’78 (BA) and Ruby Foo and the Traveling Kitchen, by Tiffany Foo ’93 (BA).

With a special episode planned for this weekend’s anniversary and giveaways in store, Gonzales is determined to see this project continue.

“I will continue to do the podcast so long as my voice holds out,” she says. “I’ve done a lot of things for the campus over 22 years, but this is in my top five favorite things I’ve done for the USD community.”

— Allyson Meyer ’16 (BA), ’21 (MBA)