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On the Air and At the Controls: Recent Hendrix Grads Keep Little Rock Public Radio Listeners Informed

Sarah Buford ’20, Josie Lenora ’19, and Maggie Ryan ’23 handle production, reporting, and hosting for local NPR affiliate

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 Radio.

“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 attention.

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 reporting.” 

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.”

About Hendrix College

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   

“… 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