Producer, Writer, Host of Sweet Stories in the Dell podcast
December, 2019 - September, 2021
After the near closure of my alma mater, Sweet Briar College, I became diligent about making monetary donations, but I wanted to do more. So, I pitched a podcast to the College, using my audio production and storytelling skills. I'd tell stories of the college's people and its history that explain how outstanding an educational institution for women it truly is. My proposal was accepted and I told these stories through a collaboration with the College. Now I've completed the Sweet Stories in the Dell podcast after an amazing year and a half of firsts for me, the College, and the world, in regard to making our way through a pandemic via Zoom calls.
The first story is the trailer for the podcast, The Value of a Woman. It's the story I produced as the sample piece for my proposal. I had "met" alumna Carol McMurtry Fowler, '57 via Facebook and knew she'd be on campus while my family and I visited our farm nearby the College. You can listen to the story to learn the full story. But, I will add that though I knew Carol was an interesting woman, I had no idea that she was a phenomenal human being until she became the subject of my pitch piece.
The podcast episodes would follow the vision mapped out by Sweet Briar College's thirteenth president, Meredith Woo. To get a better sense of the mind who did this mapping, President Woo would become the subject of Episode 1: Coming Home to Sweet Briar. Like always, until I talk with a person, I only have the sketchbook image of who I think each person is. Like Carol, Meredith Woo blew me away. Though I had done extensive research, President Woo shares things that can't be found anywhere else on the World Wide Web. She's unflappable when it comes to taking big leaps and now I understand how this can be - because she's been taking huge leaps her entire life.
I was as nervous as could be the day of our interview - the first interview I conducted for the podcast. I had not been sleeping well and I chose poorly while prepping my list of questions. I tried to emulate the fabulous Terry Gross, talk show host extraordinaire of Fresh Air. I set up my questions with unnecessary information driven monologues. But, I wasn't producing a talk show; I was producing a highly edited story where questions could set up through narration. I was actually thinking all this while reading my questions. I can only imagine what President Woo was thinking because she was perfectly kind and considerate during our first and follow up interviews. Finally, I stopped with the monologues and just asked the questions. I look back at this and both cringe and laugh.
Bonus Episode: Technology Infusion Opens New Pathways in Sweet Briar’s Music Program and Beyond
Thankfully, while on campus in January 2020, I had the opportunity to interview several College professors, pertaining to the schedule of episode topics. One professor who was not on this schedule was Joshua Harris, assistant professor of music. After reading the bios of almost every Sweet Briar faculty member, I wanted to talk with Dr. Joshua Harris. His bio included a link to his professional website where I found the audio files of his composition recordings. I listened to every one of his compositions that were movie-like soundscapes. Thankfully, arrangements were made so I could speak with Dr. Harris who has helped Sweet Briar enter the 21st Century in so many ways. He tells about how his courses are student driven - like learning how to write film scores, which he does. As it goes, I walked into Dr. Harris's office for the first time and serendipity joined me. I was fortunate to meet student Brianna "B" Wray, '22 on her way out after finishing up a discussion with Dr. Harris. She was taking the “Sound on Screen” course that Dr. Harris had just taken to the Sundance Film Festival. Eventually, I speak with B who shares how her Sundance experiences kept reverberating during that semester. (I entered this episode in the 2020 Third Coast International Audio Festival.)
Episode 2: At the Core
Ep2 explores Sweet Briar's Women's Leadership Core Curriculum. I talk with President Woo and Professors Carrie Brown and Dr. Jeffrey Key who share their experiences teaching Core courses. Students Cailey Cobb '20 and Lucy Wasserstein '22 also share how taking these many of the 10 Leadership Core courses have boosted their confidence.
Episode 3, Part 1: Centers without Walls
Ep3, P1 explores Sweet Briar's three Centers of Excellence. I speak with Carrie Brown, director of the Center for Creativity, Design and the Arts and professor of English and Creative Writing who talks about how the symbiotic collaboration with the Virginia Center of the Creative Arts benefits the students and how the fellows who instruct workshops also benefit from the experiences.
Episode 3, Part 2: Centers without Walls
Ep3, P2 explores the Center for Human and Environmental Sustainability. Dr. Lisa Powell, associate professor of environmental studies and director of the Center for Human and Environmental Sustainability shares how the College's new 17,000 sf greenhouse has become a new classroom to her students. The hands-on learning experiences transform how students learn, as student Abby Cahill '22 corroborates.
Episode 3, Part 3: Centers without Walls
Ep3, P3 explores the Margaret Jones Wyllie ’45 Engineering Program at the College. Dr. Bethany Brinkman, Associate Professor and Director of the Engineering Program, shares how her students thrive from using the campus as a laboratory. Students Angelica Lindburg, '20 and Rachel Logan '20 describe how the professors support their engineering efforts while having fun and how celebrating failure leads to success.
Episode 4, Parts 1 & 2: Sweet Briar’s 21st Century Equestrian Program and Its Historic Roots
E4 P1&2 explore Sweet Briar's historic riding program, which has hit its century milestone of educating equestrians. Equestrian program director Merrilee "Mimi" Wroten '93, is the multi-time recipient of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference Coach of the Year and is a joy to watch in action with her students. Mimi studied under retired Riding Director Paul Cronin who promoted the forward riding system. Mr. Cronin credits his career to Captain Vladimir Littauer, author of Common Sense Horsemanship and shares the history of Sweet Briar's Equestrian Program, which is a legacy that Mimi Wroten passes on to her students. Student Katie Balding '21, an equestrian who planned her professional career in the equestrian world while learning to work with horses through compassion, which she learned from Mimi.
Episode 5, Parts 1 & 2: Researching the Palimpsest of Sweet Briar's History
E5 P1&2 explore Sweet Briar's History Program with Professor Dwana Waugh. At the time of the interview, Dr. Waugh was the only black professor and she frankly shares how that affects her. She also speaks about the course History Detectives and how it profoundly affects one of her first year students, Ashanti Brown, '24. I speak with Ashanti too and hear how by reading her textbook she learned more about herself. The textbook was Invisible Founders written by Dr. Lynn Rainville about Sweetbrier Planation's enslaved community and how many of Sweet Briar College's employees can trace their ancestors back to this community. I speak with Dr. Rainville, the former Dean of the College and former professor of anthropology and archeology at the College, about how she came to research the invisible founders.
Episode 6: Architect Ralph Adams Cram at Sweet Briar
E6 explores architect Ralph Adams Cram's work at Sweet Briar College. Architectural historian, Travis McDonald, director of architectural restoration at Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest, explains the significance of Ralph Adams Cram and how the world's Beaux Arts movement influenced his designs for Sweet Briar's campus. Travis and I take a walk around the historic campus and he points out the architectural elements of Cram's designs and what makes them special. Professor emerita Aileen "Ninie" Laing '57, wrote an exhibition booklet Dreams and Reality for the Centennial celebration of Sweet Briar's founding. She shares stories about her favorite of the historic Cram buildings and how Sweet Briar strives to uphold the integrity of the historic campus. Eric Kuchar, the project manager at Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects, speaks about the process that performing assessments involves. Eric also shares the adventures involved in assessing Sweet Briar's historic campus and how this assessment will help create the path forward for preserving Sweet Briar's Cram treasures. I share background history to the building of the campus and how it lead to finding Sweet Briar's first president, Dr. Mary Kendrick Benedict.
Independent Audio/Slideshow Producer
May, 2017 - September, 2017
I had told a friend, Camille Berry about a job idea I had where I would create audio slideshows for individuals and/or businesses to add to their celebration festivities and I was looking for a test project. Later, this friend, Camille Berry of Community Home Trust in Chapel Hill, NC contacted me to ask if I would create an audio-slideshow for the 20th work anniversary of her boss, Robert Dowling. I said that I would and created a fabulous production that surprised Robert and the whole attendees of the annual fundraising banquet. I decided against creating this audio slideshow business, but that only piece I produced is really, really good. I've included the link to the Slideshow.
KCUR, Up to Date – Kansas City, Missouri
Intern, January, 2016 - May, 2016
While a student, I took a bit of a leap and sent an audio story, which I produced about a local coffee shop owner, to KCUR and ended up talking with the station director. She liked the story, but thought I would benefit from an internship with the station. (She was right! My technical skills needed a bit more polishing.) I applied and was accepted to work with Up to Date, a daily, talk program about global and local current matters affecting Kansas City, Missouri and the listening area.
Along with providing support to my supervising producer, I wrote daily program announcements; wrote and created program posts for website; pulled music and other audio for program support; wrote query letters to possible guests; scheduled guests; researched and pitched program topics; created and produced program; greeted and sat guests; gave on-air instructions before program; assisted with and ran the production booth during the program, answering calls.
I was also asked to find someone to interview connected to an outdoor food festival for KCUR sister program, Central Standard. I found Nella through the St. Dionysios Greek Festival. I arranged for Nella to teach me how to make a festival favorite - dolmades, or stuffed grape leaves. Not only did I get a fantastic interview, I truly learned how to make dolmades. (I've made them a couple times since.) I also heard Nella's amazing immigrant story from Greece - a leap she made with her sister, speaking no English, but learning and educating her self along the way. I produced and edited a five-minute special feature for a segment about eating al fresco.
My time at KCUR was priceless. Producing the "Nella's Story" helped me realize that storytelling was my path forward in the world of audio production. So, after my internship ended, I jumped back into the final leg of my studies at the Center for Documentary Studies and graduated in December of 2016. You can find the audio for Nella's Story at https://www.kcur.org/show/central-standard/2016-05-13/food-critics-the-best-alfresco-dining-spots-in-kansas-city. Just go to minute 22:50.
Aliénor, International Harpsichord Organization – Durham, NC
Part-time Adminstrative Assistant, September 2009 - June 2013
I had the great fortune of running into my old friend, world renown harpsichordist Elaine Funaro, at a art exhibit. I told her I was looking for a job and she told me she was the artistic director of Aliénor, an international harpsichord organization and that she was actually looking for an assistant. Years earlier, I had been her righthand VP during her presidency of the PTA at our children's school, so she knew I would help make life easier for her.
So, I provided administrative support to her as artistic director of Aliénor. I helped schedule concert events, worked concerts, deposited donations, managed Excel spreadsheets, generated mass mailings, performed clerical work, assisted in grant writing, wrote/edited press kits, and created photographic documentation.
While working in Elaine's home office, I loved soaking up all the music that wafted upstairs from the music room where she spent hours practicing. Other times I heard music from the living room where her husband, Randall Love pianist and associate professor of music at Duke University, practiced or taught piano lessons. Those were special years for me.
City of Lynchburg, Community Planning and Development – Lynchburg, VA Planning Technician, October 1991 - December 1993
I enjoyed applying my graphic design background to the world of city government. I created technical maps and presentation materials for City Council meetings, researched property boundaries, assisted with the transfer of tax assessor maps to GIS mapping system, and assisted in historical preservation planning projects.
I loved this job too. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the inner workings of city planning and development. I would often accompany the historic preservation planner on site visits and just loved how the homes and buildings in historic districts came back to life after years of disinterest. I loved creating the initial, hand-drawn/hand-colored study maps for the Downtown and Riverfront District. I will always remember how my new love of maps entered my dreams and how the incredible people I worked with entered my heart.
Fauquier Democrat/Piedmont Press, Arundel Communications, Inc. – Warrenton, VA
Layout/Design Artist, November 1987 - March 1989
I was fortunate to pair my limited graphic arts schooling and innate creativity with the on-the-job training for the physical laying-out of a weekly newspaper. I waxed and trimmed copy and advertisements, placing them on designated locations on layout sheets. I learned to count type so I could work part-time with the in-house printing company. After transitioning to full-time graphic artist with the printing company, I enjoyed working with customers to create camera-ready artwork and design a variety of printed materials. I was also trained on the new, Adobe computer graphic programs.
Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University – Durham, NC
Certificate of Documentary Arts
June, 2013 - December, 2016
When my son was a sophomore in college he said, "Mom, you've been a great mother, but now it's time for you to figure out what you want to do and then do it." To date, that's the best advice I've ever received. Within a few years, I had a related epiphany while attending the Paul Kwilecki photography exhibit at the Center for Documentary Studies. As I studied each photograph, I began thinking about my own photography projects and determined that they, too, were documenting photos. That day I decided that I would apply to the Continuing Ed Certificate Program to learn how to become a bona fide documentarian.
By the time I took the first class, Intro into Doc Studies, I had decided to pursue a documentary film path. I figured that taking audio production class would be wise, but because it didn't appeal at all to me, I decided to take it first to get it out of the way. Well, my first audio production class was co-taught by Phoebe Judge, co-creator of the podcasts Criminal and This Is Love. Within days, Phoebe's audio production passion had sparked and set fire to my own.
My graduation piece, An Artist's Journey: To Cameroon and Back is about Durham Artist Anne Heart Gregory. Anne travels to Cameroon, Africa to create collaborative art, working with a collection of archival photographs. She designs an audio-visual art project and brings it to life with a group of young women who have been orphaned due to AIDS. After returning home, Anne realizes she’s inspired to continue on the project, but in an unexpected way.
Lynchburg College – Lynchburg, VA
Art History and Graphic Design, August - December 1990
Central Virginia Community College – Lynchburg, VA
Graphic Design I & II and Into to Ceramics, September 1985 - May 1986
Sweet Briar College – Sweet Briar, VA
B.A. in English and Creative Writing with Education Certificate (Grades 4 - 7),
September 1981 - May 1985
I first attended Sweet Briar out of family devotion. My grandmother rode her horse from the family farm, just a couple miles away, from what was then called Sweet Briar Institute, founded in 1901 and opened in 1906. My grandmother's younger brother, my great uncle, would ride his horse to town and greet the young woman he met each day, who rode from town to Sweet Briar to attend classes. She would give him a simple nod with a sideway glance. She, with her parents, had immigrated from Switzerland. After about a year of these passings, my uncle visited her parents to ask if he could visit with them after church. Eventually they married and, eventually, she became the Sweet Briar College professor of sociology. It didn't take Great Aunt Bertha long after my birth to begin her Sweet
Briar indoctrination of me.
Though I attended Sweet Briar, I actually chose Sweet Briar for myself during my sophomore year. I had been contemplating transferring to another college and wanted to think more about all that that meant, so took a walk alone to Sweet Briar Lake. On the way down, I veered off my charted course, by the upper lake, after the rutted, red clay tractor path grasped my attention. I followed it, pausing when it entered a forest. While deciding whether to move forward or turn back, I felt a tug, pulling me forward by a curiosity to make some kind of discovery. As I entered the forest, I got that same dizzying feeling I'd always gotten while exploring places new to me. It wasn't along before I got to the trail's end - where a field of baby corn sprouted in front of a small mountain, Paul's Mountain. I stood there, soaking up the beauty of this small, rural college's land. I thought of all the connections my family has had with the college and decided how staying was the best choice for me. This choice laid the foundation of my life's meaningful twists and turns.
My liberal arts foundation formed at Sweet Briar College enabled me to become the engineer of my own career path fueled by my creative passions. To this day, I remain grateful for having chosen wisely that day. Along with the treasured academic moments with outstanding faculty, I made lifelong friendships during those four years.
Then, in 2015, the administration announced the closure of the College. Disbelief and sadness struck the alumnae, including me. We all awoke after having been lulled asleep by our trust in the powers that were. A group of concerned alumnae, friends of the College formed Saving Sweet Briar, Inc, which fought the closure in court and won, along with raising millions of dollars - enough to take back the keys to the College. From those grassroots efforts, which I helped support, I befriended many Sweet Briar Alumna from several webs of connections via Face Book. (I am working towards meeting as many of my SBC FB friends as possible, in person.) I also enjoyed helping keep the SBC Class of 1985 informed as Class Secretary for several years, along with aiding SBC Admissions by representing the College at local college fairs.
From this love for Sweet Briar, came my desire to give back, more than financially. I proposed a podcast that was accepted and the Sweet Stories in the Dell podcast was created, which I wrote, produced, and hosted.