Sarah Buford ’20, Josie Lenora ’19, and
Maggie Ryan ’23 handle production, reporting, and hosting for local NPR
From left to right: Maggie Ryan, Sarah Buford, and Josie Lenora at the Little Rock Public Radio station offices. / Photo by Amy Forbus, Hendrix College
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (December 18,
2023)—Whether it’s a weather report, a feature, or the technology that enables a
broadcast to reach homes, cars, computers, and smartphones, listeners to KUAR
89.1, recently rebranded as Little Rock Public Radio, often hear the work of
three Hendrix College alumni.
Sarah Buford ’20, who majored in
sociology/anthropology, Josie Lenora ’19, an English-creative writing major,
and Maggie Ryan ’23, who double majored in English-literary studies and classics,
currently represent half the technology team and two-thirds of the news team at
Little Rock Public Radio, which is licensed through the University of Arkansas
at Little Rock.
“Everybody’s definitely necessary at
the station,” says Buford, who has served as the station’s operations
coordinator since September. “It’s a small team, but a really fantastic one.”
While Buford’s classroom experiences
prepared her to take on most any type of work, including the time she spent as
a museum educator in Little Rock followed by a two-year teaching stint in
Spain, it was key experiences beyond the classroom that seem to resonate the
most with her work in public radio. For example, her undergraduate experience
as chief engineer at KHDX campus radio paid off instantly.
“I learned how to run the board, how
to podcast, how to edit audio, a lot of technical things at KHDX,” Buford said.
She also spent two years hosting a show and served on the concert committee, both
of which have helped her understand various aspects of her colleagues’ work.
Little Rock Public Radio has offered opportunities to learn additional requirements,
too, such as making broadcast logs, among the many tasks that ensure the
station remains on the air.
“It’s a job where you’re constantly
improving your skills,” Buford says.
When Buford arrived at Little Rock
Public Radio, she and Ryan didn’t really know each other, but they soon
discovered Hendrix connections. Among the most significant: Both had worked as
Peregrin Fellows under the direction of Dr. Dorian Stuber, conducting Holocaust
research funded by his Odyssey Professorship. Buford first realized the value
of public broadcasting during that fellowship, particularly National Public
“A lot of times in my research I was
trying to find the most credible sources, and NPR and Associated Press were the
main ones that I could go to,” she said. “I very much gained respect for NPR,
so I am incredibly excited to be here.”
Lenora first arrived at the station in
2020 for an internship and stayed, ultimately becoming the full-time politics
and government reporter in early 2023. A few months later, the station had an
opening for a host. Lenora turned to recent issues of the news magazine she
wrote for in college—the Hendrix Profile—to see whether anyone on staff stood
out as a potential candidate. Ryan, the publication’s copy editor, got her
Fresh out of undergrad, Ryan had some news
chops and a good research background thanks to the Peregrin Fellowship. She agreed
to interview for the position, came on board in August, and began by shadowing
the Morning Edition local host, “making some mistakes, but learning that it’s
OK to make mistakes—and learning, more importantly, how to correct them in the
future,” she said.
Before the end of September, she became
a regular on-air voice, and now hosts the local segments of the popular
afternoon program All Things Considered.
A south Texas native, Ryan has loved getting
to know Little Rock better and learning the intricacies of how state government
works—crediting her colleague Lenora for providing information she needed.
“From Day One, Josie was just so
helpful, sitting me down and training me on how a legislative hearing works,”
Ryan said, adding that she was able to shadow Lenora during a special session
dealing with Freedom of Information Act changes in the state. “Josie is just an
incredible teacher. I feel like yes, I have learned a lot in a little while,
but I couldn’t have done it without Josie and without Daniel [Breen, the
station’s news director]. They have been so incredible.”
Lenora started her internship as the
worst of the pandemic was winding down and has seen a lot of change since that
time. As the politics and government reporter, she has witnessed how new
gubernatorial leadership, even from the same political party, can influence the
ways decisions are made.
“Arkansas has been changing a lot, and
the conservative supermajority is passing a ton of legislation,” Lenora said. “I’ve
been tackling book bannings and education laws—I’ve done so much education
Lenora has done two national features
for NPR, one covering the state Department of Education’s decision to delete
the course code for the Advanced Placement African American Studies pilot
course and another examining some state legislatures’ attempts to restrict drag
performances in front of minors.
They have had direct experience with a
national show on the ground in Little Rock, too. As part of the station’s
recent 50th anniversary celebration, the national NPR show Code
Switch came to town to record an episode.
“They talked about education in
Arkansas, how it’s changing and how it’s staying the same,” Lenora said. The
Code Switch team worked collaboratively with local station staff, including Lenora,
who was excited to hear pieces of her research and writing make it into the
final script for the episode, which will air in January.
Ryan has long been interested in
education, especially less traditional forms like museum curation. She didn’t
expect to be educating people through the medium of broadcasting, so for the
first few months it felt like a fantasy to be working in the space.
“I was like, ‘I’m so happy, I’m so
proud to be part of this organization, and also, How did I get here?’
because even though I had done work with the Profile, even though I’d had the
Holocaust internship and was interested in education that happens outside the
traditional classroom, I really didn’t see myself in that role until Josie
reached out to me,” Ryan said. “It was weird to suddenly make that connection
after four years of seeing myself in a more limited scope. It was a delightful
surprise to find myself in public radio, and I’m really glad to be here.”
All three young alumnae say they’re
fortunate to have found a supportive yet challenging environment where their
work has meaning.
“They said, ‘Be an engaged citizen,’
and now we work for our local NPR station,” Buford said. “So it’s a pretty
blatant tie-in to our time at Hendrix.”
Founded in 1876, Hendrix College is featured in Colleges That
Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges and
celebrated among the country’s leading liberal arts colleges for academic
quality, engaged learning opportunities and career preparation, vibrant campus
life, and value. The Hendrix College Warriors compete in 21 NCAA Division III
sports. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since
1884. Learn more at www.hendrix.edu.
“… Through engagement that links the classroom with the world, and
a commitment to diversity, inclusion, justice, and sustainable living, the
Hendrix community inspires students to lead lives of accomplishment, integrity,
service, and joy.” —Hendrix
College Statement of Purpose