About Me: I grew up in a Bruce Springsteen song of a town, the youngest child of a barber and hairdresser. I graduated from a tiny hippie college in southwestern Ohio, and moved to Chicago over 20 years ago, where I earned a master’s degree in education and teaching license from DePaul University. I live on the north side of the city with my wife, two teenagers, and a toddler. In my spare time, I love detective dramas on TV, audiobooks, quilting/textile art, and anything related to geography (I used to paint maps on the walls of my apartment). At a snail’s pace, I am writing a collection of creative nonfiction essays. I currently listen much more than I write (listening informs my curiosity and creativity). I’m extremely interested in random facts about people and enjoy the details of a story much more than the plot. Random fact about me: I’m very fond of alligators.
What is your role and how long have you been at StoryCorps?
I started at StoryCorps in 2016 as a per diem Facilitator at the Chicago StoryBooth, and joined full-time in 2018, as a Facilitator and Community Engagement Associate. In 2021, after the Chicago office closed, I joined the One Small Step (OSS) team as a Field Manager and this January, I’ll start a new role as Associate Director of Community Engagement for OSS.
What will your new job entail?
In my new job, I’ll be supporting our field team, as well as helping to build out our OSS DIY tools, which allow communities and organizations to plan and organize their own OSS projects. I’ll also be working closely with the OSS Associate Director of Operations and the new National Managing Director to coordinate both onsite and virtual recordings. Finally, I’ll continue cultivating relationships with our OSS champions and volunteers in our Model Communities, with the eventual goal of community adoption.
What are the rewards of your job?
Working with OSS participants has been one of the biggest rewards of my job. I love collaborating with the OSS team to create a great participant experience and then seeing the results after the conversation. Often, participants want to go for coffee afterward or have their spouse meet their conversation partner—that always made me especially happy. People are usually surprised by what they have in common and I love seeing that spark of recognition happen.
What are the challenges of your job?
Because this initiative is new, we are learning as we go, which has been a challenge at times.
Why record a StoryCorps conversation?
Honoring stories of loved ones and capturing their voices for posterity is so precious—there’s nothing like hearing your loved one’s voice, tone, or their laughter after they’ve passed on. My advice is to take the time while you still have it.
What’s your favorite StoryCorps story?
My favorite OSS conversation is between two women who had the exact opposite upbringings in terms of religion. One grew up with agnostic hippie parents, if I remember correctly, and yet she became a Christian in her 20s. The other woman grew up in a Christian cult and is now atheist, raising her child without any religion. Their conversation was heartfelt and seemed genuinely surprising to both participants, in a meaningful way. They discussed how religion and spirituality can be positive and negative, and how one woman learned to embrace the positive aspects while leaving behind the negative, including having an experience with a religious cult. It showed how nuanced these conversations between strangers can be. People are not just walking stereotypes; there are so many directions these conversations can go.