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Drexel University Alumni Spotlight

Armon  Owlia

Armon Owlia
BA Communications '20

In the fall of 2021, Armon Owlia ’20, experienced a life changing moment. A journalist, Owlia interviewed Temple Grandin, renowned animal behavioralist and autism activist, for The Aut Cast, his podcast dedicated to building awareness and acceptance of autism and providing a platform for the voices working toward a neuroinclusive future.

“It was the biggest moment of my career,” says Owlia, who was diagnosed with autism at age three. “The movie ‘Temple Grandin’ meant so much to me. I idolized her, and like Temple, I wanted to advocate for people like us. When she wanted to be on the show, I almost fainted.”

Owlia wasn’t always so eager to talk about autism. As a student, he focused solely on gaining the skills to be a journalist. Says Owlia, “I didn’t want to be known as the autism guy. I wanted to be seen as a serious journalist. But looking back, it didn’t make sense. They’re not mutually exclusive; you can be both.”

“At Drexel I was lucky to have been taught by amazing journalists who had spent a lot of time in the field,” says Owlia. “I learned some of the most important tools of the profession, like the discipline it takes to deliver a high-quality, accurate story by deadline.”

Continues Owlia, “At The Triangle, I learned how to put the paper together and set deadlines and about the the editing process. In film and television courses like DNews, I learned the lessons of the newsroom, and the trial-and-error experience of hosting Tri-pod’s podcast Last Call taught me a lot about how to interview people.”

It was also conversations with Amy Edwards, director of the Drexel Autism Support Program (DASP), a program in which Owlia participated, that influenced his journalistic skills. “I would drop by DASP to talk with Amy, about politics, religion, everything,” says Owlia. “These discussions made me a better writer, podcaster and journalist. She pushed me further than I would ordinarily push myself.”

By early 2021, shortly before his acceptance to UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, Owlia finally felt ready to talk about autism. He launched the YouTube series “For the Community,” a platform to share his own experiences as a person with autism and to advocate for inclusion and change. Then in summer 2021, he launched The Aut Cast podcast, an extension of the YouTube series. “The podcast needed to be more interview-based,” says Owlia, “a place for bringing on experts, where the audience and I could learn all things neurodiverse and neurotypical.”

The Temple Grandin interview was certainly a highpoint for Owlia. He says, “I knew Temple’s story so well beforehand, but it was amazing to know that she was the one telling it. It took a lot of self-control to focus and remain professional because I knew I was talking with a legend and a personal hero.” The interview also led to other opportunities. Says Owlia, “The podcast has become my calling card. A lot of people know the Temple Grandin episode and want to be involved in the same show.”

Owlia continues, “It’s an honor to do The Aut Cast. As someone who understands the power of journalism and the power of fact, and with the neurodiverse community being as marginalized as it is, it’s great to be a voice of change out there.”

Looking ahead, Owlia sees nothing but opportunity. Says Owlia, “I’m always pushing myself forward. The world is so open; anything can happen.”