Sara Schleede reflects on her time at The Drag

Sara Schleede poses in Main Mall in front of UT Tower

The first time I ever listened to a podcast, I was 12 years old. My parents, brother, and I were driving through towering pine trees on the way to my father’s hometown of Burlington, Vermont, for vacation. My brother had just graduated from Arizona State University, and to me he was completely cosmopolitan, always recommending cool, sophisticated shows, music and restaurants. That day, he turned on an episode of “This American Life,” and from there, I was hooked on podcasts. I never expected that 10 years later I would be the director of two of my own podcast series before even graduating college, but somehow, here I am. And it seems appropriate that the podcast I’ve been working on for the past two years at The Drag is about a road trip. 

Other college seniors have their theses to show for their years of hard work. I didn’t write a thesis, but I do have “35:” five episodes made up of 92 pages of scripts, nearly 30 interviews, and two and a half hours of audio. When I started this project as a junior, it didn’t quite feel possible. I had worked one semester at a local radio station where I made approximately three five-minute stories, but other than that, most of my journalism experience was writing for print. All I really had was an intense passion for podcasts. Luckily, Robert Quigley believed in that passion, and The Drag became the perfect environment for me to hone my reporting, storytelling and editing skills. I never thought I would get a journalism job where I could write about the history of drag performance or the silly statues off highway exits, but that’s audio journalism for you. Podcasts allow me to learn and teach others about whatever interests me about the world. It scratches my creative itch in a way covering student government for the college newspaper never did (sorry, DT.) 

Now that I’m graduating, I don’t quite know where I’m headed. The podcast industry is still developing — it’s a bit like the Wild West. My future may be unclear, but with The Drag in my past, I know I’ll get where I need to go. Thank you to every single one of my coworkers and all of the capstone students who I worked with. You’re all extremely talented and supportive. “35” and “Request Pending” couldn’t have happened without each and every one of you. When I look back on my time in college, I won’t remember my 8 a.m. lectures or late nights at the library. I’ll remember afternoons in the recording booth, Wednesday nights in the fish bowl, and the celebratory messages over Slack whenever a new episode gets released. I’ll remember The Drag. 

Sara Schleede was an audio director with The Drag and host of the "35" and "Request Pending" podcasts.

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