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Caroline Ervin ('02): Wonder & Curiosity

Caroline Ervin came to Walker — following in the footsteps of her older brother, Chris (‘88) — in second grade. Quickly, her interests — even at the Lower School level — began to center around the subject of art. “My art teacher [Sherry Walker-Taylor] was also my best friend’s mother,” she laughs. “It was sort of my dream then to be in (retired) Connie Snipes’s class in Upper School. But, her class got booked up really quickly when it was time to choose our electives,” Caroline shares, “and I was really bummed. Instead, I got stuck in the new journalism elective.”

Her attitude about working on the newspaper would soon shift. It was the year 2000, and Walker had just developed a curriculum for what would eventually become the school news program. For Caroline, it hit the mark. “I loved everyone I was in class with,” she remembers, “and it also sort of fit my anxious, workaholic tendencies. I kind of loved it. It set the course of my life, accidentally.” Describing the environment, Caroline admits, “it was a bunch of fellow nerds who really loved writing and were very curious. It was really fun to be able to learn how to interview people. Soup to nuts, we took care of that paper and everything that was involved in producing it.” Describing her journalism teacher, Douglas Wine, as an “ally,” she credits his willingness to allow students to “flex our creativity” and try new things as instrumental in building her confidence. 

In college, she found that Walker’s teachers — particularly English teachers Dixie Bowden, Kate McConnaughey and Leigh Block — and the school’s commitment to developing study skills set her up for success in college. “I remember hearing fellow freshmen agonizing over how to study and thinking, ‘Oh thank God I don’t have that challenge.’ I learned not only how to write a great paper, but also to love writing, analyzing words and meaning.” 

Following commencement, Caroline started at the University of South Carolina with the goal of studying anthropology and dreams of becoming an archaeologist. “I loved the study of anthropology, but I didn’t really like the archaeological part as much. So, I started trying to think of what else I could do, and I remembered that I loved journalism. It felt special.” At the conclusion of her freshman year, Caroline decided to transfer to The University of Georgia’s renowned journalism school. She discovered that her original intentions — “to save the world with my writing. And my words...” — was less enthralling than the role she played as an editor for UGA’s student newspaper, The Red & Black.  

In 2006, Caroline graduated and accepted a job offer as a copy editor from The Augusta Chronicle. For four years, she worked alongside four other UGA graduates. In time, Caroline realized that she wanted to work in a way that was more helpful. A moment of “crystal clarity” helped her to see that it was time to make a move. Returning to Atlanta, Caroline reconnected with a friend, Cristen Conger, and not long after, Cristen invited Caroline to become her new co-host on her podcast Stuff Mom Never Told You. In 2017, Caroline and Cristen decided to leave HowStuffWorks, their podcast parent company, and form their own media company while also beginning a new podcast called Unladylike* and writing a book by the same title. Laughs Caroline, “It was a terrible idea [to do it all at the same time], now that I look back. But, I’m glad no one told me that was a terrible idea because I never would have done it!”

With over 125 Unladylike podcast episodes published, today, Caroline and Cristen are taking the topics of gender, power, and feminism to a new level of raw and real. TIME magazine had this to say about the creative duo: “While there are plenty of discussion-based feminist podcasts out there, few have figured out how to combine storytelling and interviews with social justice. Unladylike is perhaps the first to succeed.” Unladylike is also listed on Oprah magazine’s 15 Best Podcasts every woman should listen to. Their book, Unladylike: A Field Guide to Smashing the Patriarchy and Claiming Your Space, published by 10 Speed Press, has over 100 five-star reviews on Amazon, many of which start like this one: “This one is a must-have.”

Set to launch their first Unladylike tour in April 2020, Caroline and Cristen refocused their efforts once the pandemic struck. A year later, they are excited to have kicked off Penn State’s Women’s History Month celebration on March 1 as virtual keynote speakers for the university’s Gender Equity Center. Described as providing “accessible, inclusive feminist edutainment for over a decade,” the duo tackled the topic of “confronting white supremacy in feminism.”

“I think it all comes down to curiosity. Having that curiosity fostered and encouraged all through my time at Walker (and beyond) and wanting to just follow that curiosity” has guided Caroline all along on the curvy, bumpy path to where she is today. And that’s just fine with her.

*Note: Unladylike does not shy away from difficult topics or hard truths. Their content does contain an “explicit” label and some podcasts would be considered appropriate for mature audiences only.
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