College Matters | Five lessons from Talk Humboldt radio show

This article was originally posted in the College Matters column of the Times-Standard.

Thursday, September 28, 2023 - 1:30pm

A few years ago, Dr. Keith Flamer, president of College of the Redwoods, and I first talked about projects we wanted to do together. We both share this column every other week, so that is one project. Our two campuses are doing dozens of things together as well — socials, the health care education hub, and academic programs to name just a few. However, there was more to do. One of the more interesting ideas was to do a talk radio show. That was the beginning of an internationally acclaimed, world-renowned show, “Talk Humboldt with Keith & Tom.”

As higher education leaders, we often get to have interesting conversations with all kinds of people, and we want others to enjoy hearing from these individuals. On Talk Humboldt, which airs on KHSU, leaders of various types share what they do every day, what they care about, and what important efforts they’re involved with. There’s no “gotcha!” and we pretty much let guests take the lead as far as specific topics. We basically go with the direction the person leads us in our effort to learn about what they are doing and how we can inform the community. It’s turned out to be just as much fun as we expected, and we’re getting started on a second season.

Making Talk Humboldt has taught me quite a bit about the North Coast and the people who live here. It has also reinforced some important themes and lessons.

Five takeaways

There is a strong commitment to place on the North Coast >> We literally had to take an emotional break partway through our talk with Wiyot Tribal Chair Ted Hernandez. He had been telling us about the Wiyot connection to the area’s natural environment and specifically about the importance of regaining Tuluwat Island. At a previous interview, former Eureka Mayor Susan Seaman shared her love of the natural surroundings and people. We heard similar sentiments from longtime local leader Alex Stillman and others.

The North Coast punches above its weight >> We have a small population spread across a lot of space in a relatively isolated area. Even so, we have people and businesses and initiatives with national presence. Adam Dick and Dustin Taylor told us about Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate growing into its national status. Blake Alexandre shared how Alexandre Farms became the First Certified Regenerative Dairy in the country. Rosa Dixon at Natural Decadence shared how the business went from start-up to selling gluten-free products in more than 3,000 stores nationwide.

Somebody has ideas and solutions >> Dr. Alberto Taylor told us quite a bit about being a dentist, and also shared thoughts on the big-picture challenges of insurance and the number of providers in our area. Natalynne Delapp of the Humboldt County Growers Alliance has big ideas on everything from policy choices to marketing strategy. Matthew Marshall of the Redwood Coast Energy Authority guides programs on the ground and also has a strong sense of global trends and technologies. Melanie McCavour, the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria, talked about cultural resources being not just “things in the ground” but many types of resources like language or particular natural settings. Cody Roggatz shared more than a few plans and ideas for the future of Humboldt County airports.

Our neighbors are surprisingly funny >> Sometimes a quip or a side comment makes it through the editing process and on to the radio. Sometimes we just have to edit it out. But I have to say, the bright and very busy people we have talked to also tend to be very funny. While the interviews are shortened, the longer full-length versions will one day be available online, and the humor of the interviews will really come out.

Living here means working together and being creative >> Jason Ramos and Blue Lake Rancheria are leaders in sustainability, with projects like their innovative micro-grid project (designed with the help of Cal Poly Humboldt’s Schatz Energy Research Center). Looking ahead, there are opportunities for the Rancheria and Humboldt to collaborate with Charles Darwin University in Australia, which has similar expertise. Amy Bohner talked to us about the local community, wild yeast, and more that has helped Alchemy Distillery succeed.

In talking about this show, it must also be mentioned the importance of integrity, editing, and team support. Mike Dronkers is the secret behind the show’s success. His ability to help us find guests, build honest and trusting relationships with those guests, and then edit a program that is respectful and informative is amazing. In addition, all the Talk Humboldt guests have been very kind, and their willingness to participate in the show is greatly appreciated. Doing the show has helped me learn more about the North Coast and how our Cal Poly Humboldt can continue to support and inspire this region. Season Two has just begun.

Be kind.

Talk Humboldt airs every other Thursday and Friday on KHSU 90.5. The longer 8-minute version runs four times during All Things Considered on Thursday — 2:50 p.m., 3:50 p.m., 4:50 p.m., and 5:50 p.m. The shorter version runs four times during Morning Edition on Friday, with the first one at 5:45 a.m. The episodes are all available online at There are also episodes along with some extended versions near the bottom of the President’s Office website at

Dr. Tom Jackson Jr. is the president of Cal Poly Humboldt.