Here at HerStory, we are BIG BIG fans of podcasts. So much so, one of us is getting her doctorate in them (that’s a gross oversimplification on my part but you should expect that from me). One of our favorites is the “Waffles Friends Work: A Parks & Recreation Podcast“, hosted by Kathryn Baxter and Emma McAuley. Following the episodes of a HerStory favorite show Parks & Recreation, each podcast also features at least one real life badass lady public servant, cut straight from the Leslie Knope mold. Kathryn and Emma do a spectacular job of finding women in all forms of public service and provides the opportunity for them to speak about their experiences and positions. Of course, it made perfect sense for us to highlight these two women, their work with the podcast, and their own careers.
Q: Why are you interested in public service?
A: Kathryn – We both have a Masters in Public Service degree — in fact, our graduate program is how we met. Emma’s background is in informal education. Mine is in advocacy and policy. But we both believe strongly in the idea that service is the rent we pay for room on this earth. As Leslie Knope demonstrates, public service positions are sometimes underpaid, underestimated, and undervalued, but I know neither of us would trade believing in the work we do and feeling that our work has purpose for anything.
Q: Why did you start your podcast? How do you find the amazing ladies you interview?
A: Emma – Kathryn had the idea to start the podcast and asked me to join because we are both huge fans of Parks & Recreation. We have been so lucky with the amazing women that we have been able to interview. Logistically, it can sometimes be difficult to find people at the local level because so many women (and gender nonconforming people) do work that doesn’t get headlines or awards — they just (to quote Tina Fey and Amy Poehler) “get stuff done”. So we began looking for potential guests by asking the women we knew in public service to recommend any “real-life Leslie Knopes” in their circles. We also research the staff of organizations we admire to find potential guests. We are so fortunate that many of the women we reach out to not only have Leslie Knope’s dedication to their jobs but also have her enthusiasm for their work and agree to speak with us! And, of course, we are always open to guest recommendations from listeners
A: Kathryn – I also have to add that ever since I was young, I was raised with that “anything boys can do, I can do too” attitude. So I admit that some of my motivation to actually create our own podcast was to take up some space in a field that can can feel very male-dominated and to use that space to talk with and about amazing women/gender nonconforming people. All that said, I love podcasting because it’s a fairly democratic medium in that the barriers to entry are low. While a lot of the big-name podcasts (is that an oxymoron?) are still very male-dominated, there are so many diverse voices out there if you’re willing to look for them. I also have to add that ever since I was young, I was raised with that “anything boys can do, I can do too” attitude. So I admit that some of my motivation to actually create our own podcast was to take up some space in a field that can can feel very male-dominated and to use that space to talk with and about amazing women/gender nonconforming people. All that said, I love podcasting because it’s a fairly democratic medium in that the barriers to entry are low. While a lot of the big-name podcasts (is that an oxymoron?) are still very male-dominated, there are so many diverse voices out there if you’re willing to look for them.Credit to Ryan Tran
Q: What’s your favorite P&R episode?
A: Emma – Flu Season (season 3, episode 2). “Stop pooping” is an iconicParks & Recline and I just love how we get to see Leslie excel at her job while also seeing Amy Poehler have a chance to be incredibly funny in the process.
A: Kathryn – I’m not sure I actually can say! Most of the episodes that stand out to me are memorable because of iconic moments for Pawnee or our favorite characters (which I won’t detail so as not to spoil anything for our first-time viewers!). But as I think our experience with the podcast is proving, there is just SO MUCH quality in even the everyday, non-Very Special Episode episodes. Check in with me in 20 months once we’ve wrapped up the podcast and maybe I’ll be able to say for sure then.
Q: What do you do now in IRL?
A: Kathryn – I work for the national Center for School Mental Health at the University of Maryland Baltimore. We support research, policy, training, and practice that advances school-based mental health care. I strongly believe in investing in young people’s health, education, and success, and this position is a great opportunity to support all three of those things.
A: Emma – I am a research assistant with Education Development Center, a nonprofit that creates, delivers, and evaluates health and education programs. I work on a project that provides technical assistance to the federal home visiting program, which provides families with skills and resources necessary for healthy children.
This photo is from a trip we and another Clinton School alumna took together to Brainerd, Minnesota to visit one of our guests at her soon-to-be-open reproductive health clinic.
Q: What advice have you gotten about being a woman in public service that most rings true for you?
A: Kathryn – “Take serious criticism from serious people seriously. And… take unserious criticism from unserious people unseriously.” This quote is from Chelsea Clinton, but I found it when researching one of our guests, Minnesota State Representative Erin Maye Quade, because shecited it in an interview as advice that resonated with her. And it clearly is great advice because it strikes a chord with me as well.
A. Emma – The advice that most rings true with me actually came from Erin Maye Quade as well! She was definitely a fabulous guest. As a woman who currently holds an elected office, she spoke with us about the importance of utilizing your skill set to contribute in your own most effective way. As someone who fervently believes in equity in our representation but also does not feel that campaigning and holding elected office is for me, that advice really stuck with me and helps me better value the contributions that people can make without feeling compelled to run for office. (P.S. Erin Maye Quade joined us for episode 3.05if you want to hear more of her insights!)
Q: If you had to choose 2 Leslie Knope memes or gifs to demonstrate your daily work life, which one would you choose?
Q: Are there books or articles that have influenced you that you’d like to share?
A: Check out Kathryn & Emma’s 4 choices on GoodReads and why they chose these books over all the other thousands she’s read.
Q: What instagram account do you like to check when you need a distraction?
A: Emma – @bymariandrew – she’s a fantastic artist who has great insight and I find her drawings really relatable (This is the second time this Instagram has been chosen so if you don’t follow her yet, you really should)
A. Kathryn – I’m a bad Millennial who doesn’t have an Instagram, but I am part of the Silent Book Club group on Facebook. When my newsfeed is otherwise filled with (very real and understandable) anger, fear, and sadness, it’s nice to take a break with people just sharing book recommendations and their love of reading.
P.S. We love what these two are doing and love listening in to their conversations. If you haven’t signed up for notifications, you are missing out.
Also, they gave us a third gif and we love it for ourselves! This is essentially how BrownEyedJude and I also exist as well.