When pandemic lockdowns found us meeting friends over Wi-Fi instead of dinner, Nina Badzin, AB ’99, started exchanging video messages with friends. But it didn’t take long for the Minneapolis-based writer and podcaster to realize that the missives she sent were typically longer and more frequent than the ones she received.
“I clearly needed more connection,” she says. And she knew she wasn’t alone; Badzin says she wasn’t surprised when the surgeon general cited loneliness as the latest public health crisis.
So in July 2021, she launched “Dear Nina: Conversations about Friendship,” a podcast that helps listeners navigate friendship challenges — because, as she says in every episode, “When our friendships are going well, we’re happier all around.”
The podcast helps Badzin, too. “When I was craving connection, this was an opportunity to speak to people who are writing and talking about the things I’m interested in,” she says. While Badzin’s guest list includes names like happiness expert Gretchen Rubin and Scary Mommy founder Jill Smokler, BFA ’99, she’s also shared the mic with “regular people” such as her close college friend Rebecca Kotok, AB ’99, and husband Bryan Badzin, MBA ’00.
As a writer, Badzin has been answering anonymous questions with nuance and compassion for nearly a decade. The move from the page to podcasting felt like a natural shift, but she experienced growing pains when she first left her niche as a parenting writer to pen stories about friendship. When the HerStories Project, an online community for women writers, offered her a role as a friendship advice columnist in 2014, Badzin worried she was underqualified.
“But my editors said my perspective, not as a professional, but as someone who is unusually obsessed with friendship, was perfect,” she recalls. Badzin chalks up her interest in the topic to growing up with parents who frequently socialized with other couples and to getting married in her early 20s; while her friends were concerned about their dating lives, “my friendships were the interesting and ever-changing relationships in my life.”
Badzin, who double-majored in political science and Spanish in Arts & Sciences, has worn many hats, including English teacher, short-story author and essayist, writing teacher, wife, mom of four and, of course, loyal friend — all of which help her explore friendship questions with nuance and compassion. “With my eclectic background, I relate to all kinds of people,” she says.
And, as Badzin knows, friendship problems don’t disappear with the awkwardness of adolescence. While specifics vary, most friendship issues share basic themes. “Questions fall into three buckets — making, maintaining and ending friendships,” Badzin says. Within those topics, “there’s no shortage of episode ideas.”
Between listener and newsletter reader questions and ideas from friends and fans, Badzin’s inbox overflows with inspiration. “Every day, someone is telling me, whether on the phone, over email or in person, about something to include on the show.”