Anya Steinberg ’21 Grand-Prize Winner in NPR Podcast Competition

Anya Steinberg ’21 has been named one of two grand-prize winners in NPR’s Student Podcast Competition: College Edition. Her podcast, “He's Just 23 Chromosomes,” which includes original music by Danny Archibald ’21, takes listeners through her journey of self-discovery when she learns that her biological father — a sperm donor she had always been told was a doctor — was in fact a jazz musician.

This is the first year NPR offered a competition for college students, and “after a judging process like no other,” they ended up with two grand-prize winners, culled from 10 finalists.

“It was scary to put that much of myself out there in a podcast,”  Steinberg says. “To know that people heard my story and resonated with the things that I shared means everything to me.” 

Her podcast tells the story of growing up as the child of an anonymous Korean sperm donor and a white mother. “The details I have about my dad are miniscule, but when I think about my Koreanness, these tiny snippets are all I’ve got. Through the mystery of my donor dad, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to call someone your father and how much your family really makes you who you are,” she says.

“You know what I liked about ‘23 Chromosomes’? The emotions are complicated,” says competition judge Felix Contreras and host of NPR’s Alt.Latino podcast. “Very, very complicated. And [Anya] navigated it so well.”

“It was emotionally sophisticated, it was fair minded and it exemplified some good journalistic values,” says Michel Martin, another judge and weekend host of NPR’s “All Things Considered.” “She showed her openness and a willingness to be interested in other people's point of view.”

NPR’s Elissa Nadworny and Sequoia Carrillo interviewed Steinberg on April 6 shortly after announcing her as a grand-prize winner. A date for the interview to be aired has not yet been set.

Steinberg is an environmental science and race, ethnicity, and migration studies double major from Minneapolis, Minnesota, serves as co-chair of Colorado College’s Multiracial Affinity Group, and hopes to someday have a career in radio journalism.

She spent about two months working on the podcast, and says the hardest part of producing it was interviewing her little brother, Ari. “We almost never talk about serious things together, much less our donor dad, and going into the conversation I was super nervous because I had no idea how he felt about it all.”

Also named a grand-prize winner was Miriam Colvin of Penn State University, for her podcast “Competition With The Best,” a story about a long-ago run-in between some Indiana farm boys and a 14-year-old Cassius Clay, who would later be known to history as Muhammad Ali.

This is the third year NPR has held the Student Podcast Challenge, which has drawn more than 35,000 students around the country into the world of audio storytelling; however, it is the first year a collegiate category has been offered.



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