KINGSTON, R.I. – April 23, 2015 — When Sara Holland’s best friend decided not to attend the University of Rhode Island, the Mahwah, N.J., native wasn’t sure if Kingston was the best place for her. It was far from home and she hadn’t yet decided where she wanted her career to take her.
Four years later, as she prepares to walk at commencement May 17, Holland wouldn’t change a thing.
“I’m excited to graduate, but it’s bittersweet. I found a home here at URI,” she said. “I can’t imagine what would have happened if I went elsewhere. I may not have found music and all the friends I met along the way.”
Indeed, it was a friend who sparked Holland’s interest in radio, as Jenna Scardino encouraged her to attend a WRIU meeting in the Memorial Union her freshman year. At the organizational meeting, Holland and Scardino were offered a three-hour afternoon slot on WRIU2, the station’s online streaming channel.
“I knew I wanted to do something with music,” said Holland, who had previously aspired to be a music journalist so she could write about the music scene. “Jenna invited me to the meeting and I thought maybe I’d help a DJ create some playlists. Then they asked me, ‘Do you want to do a show?’ It was intimidating.”
Though it wasn’t exactly a glamorous gig — the WRIU2 studio was located in a cramped closet in the Memorial Union at the time — it wasn’t long before Holland knew she’d found her calling. She quickly realized that instead of writing about music, she wanted to broadcast it. She threw herself into the afternoon show with Scardino.
“It was hot and stuffy with all of the equipment and computers crammed in there, too, but we still loved it,” Holland said. “Once I got involved in the station, by the end of the year, I knew I would not want to go anywhere else. Joining WRIU and getting involved helped shape who I am and what I want to do.”
Holland continued to move up the ranks in the station, securing a two-hour afternoon slot on the FM station with Scardino as sophomores, and taking over as the station’s librarian, where she organized and catalogued the station’s music.
Holland was elected program director of WRIU2 during her junior year and took on the challenge of broadcasting her own three-hour overnight show after Scardino decided to transfer. Holland played indie and electronic music for the enjoyment of mostly insomniacs and procrastinators who needed some background music to keep their eyes open while they crammed for classes. It was the kind of assignment that weeds out those who aren’t dedicated to the station.
“Jenna and I had a good dynamic, but I had to develop my own voice,” Holland said. “It was hard at first. When I had Jenna, I could bounce ideas off her, have a conversation with her. Now, I had to have more topics ready ahead of time to make sure I had enough content to run a three-hour show by myself.
“But having listeners call in let me know it was worth it,” she said. “I would get into these deep conversations with people over the air. It was great.”
After being elected program director of the FM station as a senior, Holland moved off the graveyard shift and took over a two-hour afternoon slot on Fridays with the FM station, where she has been happiest.
But as much as she enjoyed her time on the air, Holland said she prefers to be behind the scenes, rather than behind the mic.
Holland would like to pursue a career as a program director so she can coordinate music and guests and guide the direction of a radio show. After spending summer 2013 as an intern with XM/Sirius Satellite Radio in New York, Holland said she would like a chance to return there, but she is exploring all of her options on the job market.
In the meantime, she continues to hone skills such as audio editing to bolster her resume and make her a more marketable candidate. Regardless of where she ends up, Holland is happy to pursue a career that allows her to continue finding and listening to great musical artists of all kinds.
“I try to listen to a mix of music and, if I find something different that doesn’t fit with what I usually listen to, that’s great,” she said. “Anything but country.”
Photo by Nora Lewis