About On Being

Who we are

On Being

On Being is a social enterprise with a radio show at its heart.

On Being is a Peabody Award-winning public radio conversation and podcast, a Webby Award-winning website and online exploration, a publisher and public event convener. On Being opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live? We explore these questions in their richness and complexity in 21st-century lives and endeavors. We pursue wisdom and moral imagination as much as knowledge; we esteem nuance and poetry as much as fact.

On Being is the home of the Civil Conversations Project, an emergent approach to new conversation and relationship across the differences of our age. On Being’s listeners, readers, and online communities cross boundaries that separate them in the culture at large: generational, socioeconomic, political, religious. They report that On Being equips them to relate in fresh, new ways to different others, and emboldens them to engage in new kinds of service.

Krista first created the show — originally called Speaking of Faith — at Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media. It launched on weekly, public radio stations across the U.S. in 2003. In 2013, On Being transitioned to an independent production (Krista Tippett Public Productions) on Loring Park in Minneapolis.

On Being airs on more than 400 public radio stations across the U.S., and is distributed by American Public Media. Our podcast reaches a global audience via SoundCloud. We keep finding new ways to listen to our listeners and online communities, and they keep pointing new ways forward for this adventure.

Krista Tippett
Host/Executive Producer

Krista Tippett is a Peabody Award-winning broadcaster and New York Times bestselling author. In 2014, she received the National Humanities Medal at the White House for “thoughtfully delving into the mysteries of human existence. On the air and in print, Ms. Tippett avoids easy answers, embracing complexity and inviting people of ​every background to join her conversation about faith, ethics, and moral wisdom."

Krista grew up in Oklahoma, the granddaughter of a Southern Baptist preacher. She studied history at Brown University and went to Bonn, West Germany in 1983 on a Fulbright Scholarship to study politics in Cold War Europe. In her 20s, she ended up in divided Berlin for most of the 1980s, first as The New York Times stringer and a freelance correspondent for Newsweek, The International Herald Tribune, the BBC, and Die Zeit. She later became a special assistant to the U.S. Ambassador to West Germany.

Krista left Berlin in 1988, the year before the Wall fell. She lived in Spain, England, and Scotland for a time, then pursued a M.Div. from Yale. When she graduated in 1994, she saw a black hole where intelligent coverage of religion should be. As she conducted a far-flung oral history project for the Benedictines of St. John's Abbey (pdf) in Collegeville, Minnesota, she began to imagine radio conversations about the spiritual and intellectual content of faith that could open imaginations and enrich public life.

In 2007, Krista published her first book, Speaking of Faith. It is a memoir of religion in our time, including her move from geopolitical engagement to theology and the cumulative wisdom of her interviews these past years. Her book, Einstein's God, illustrates some of the important ways the program and her vision have continued to evolve.

Krista's two children are at the center of her life. She also loves cooking for her children and their friends, radio plays, beautiful writing, great science fiction, cross country skiing, and hot yoga.

Production Staff

Trent Gilliss
Chief Content Officer / Executive Editor

A driving editorial and creative force at On Being for the past decade, Trent received a Peabody Award for "The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi" and two Webby Awards. The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent's reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

Trent grew up in North Dakota and studied English Language & Literature at the University of Mary. He's a blue-collar cat who has tarred asphalt cracks, waited tables, and even driven a Zamboni. He spent several instructional years in state government, rode the dot-com wave, and worked at several Fortune 500 companies. He's now a family man who longs for subtle glimpses of beauty in the ordinary.

Lily Percy
Senior Producer

Born in Cali, Colombia, Lily immigrated to Miami with her family at the age of four. Like many public radio listeners, she fell in love with the medium while sitting in a car, listening to Click and Clack in the backseat of her father's Honda Accord.

Lily studied English Literature and Film Studies at Florida International University. She has worked as an associate editor at MovieMaker magazine, and as a producer for StoryCorps and NPR's "All Things Considered" on the weekends, where she produced the series "Movies I've Seen A Million Times."

Her work has also been featured on NPR's Latino USA, WNYC's Soundcheck, and Esquire. In 2012, she received the Religion Newswriters Association Radio/Podcast Religion Report of the Year Award for her profile of four Roman Catholic Womenpriests.

Chris Heagle
Producer / Technical Director

Chris has been a voracious consumer of all things public radio for as long as he can remember. So when he joined APM in 2007 as a technical director for Performance Today, it was a bit like coming home. Since that time he has contributed to several of APM's national programs and is thrilled to have landed at On Being.

Chris spent the better part of 15 years working in theater as a sound designer and production manager. Though he occasionally pines for the immediacy of live performance, he also believes that in the vast media landscape of our world, radio is still best at stimulating the imagination.

Chris holds a B.A. from Hamline University and an M.F.A. from the University of Illinois. When not in front of a computer screen, he loves the outdoors (regardless of the weather), just about every kind of music, and watching his daughters discover the world.

Mariah Helgeson
Digital Producer

Mariah grew up in a Minnesota family of artists and musicians, where she first heard On Being over the airwaves at age 11. She’s been a proud listener ever since.

She collected stories of human resilience and kindness in the classrooms of George Washington University — earning a degree in International Affairs with concentrations in the Middle East and Conflict Resolution — and over many cups of coffee in community movements, from nuclear nonproliferation, to interfaith dialogue, to compassionate communication.

Mariah worked as a program associate at the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network and lived in southern India for a spell as a documentary curator. When she’s not submerged in a good book she might be found laughing with her teenage sisters or playing chamber music.

Annie Parsons
Community & Engagement Coordinator

A wanderer by nature, Annie came to Minneapolis by way of Denver, by way of Nashville, by way of Seattle. A deep curiosity and value of human connection first led her to listen to On Being, and she was hooked from the start.

With a degree in music from Seattle Pacific University, Annie has used her love of songwriting in a variety of jobs (including once penning a jingle that earned her a role with a Fortune 500 company). Now in the realm of online communications and engagement, she believes that at its best, the Internet is a place where kindness can be shown and community can begin.

A social introvert, she loves hiking, wine & cheese, and her dog Foxy Brains. Someday she will have a 50K step day on her Fitbit.

Maia Tarrell

Originally from Aberdeen, Scotland, Maia and her family shipped out to Western Australia when she was 6. Back then, she liked to make fun of her Dad for listening to ABC's Radio National because it sounded like “old dudes going on about castles and stuff.” As she grew older (and marginally wiser) she had to eat her words when she, too, became obsessed with radio, especially the shows about castles and stuff.

Her first career incarnation was as a documentary filmmaker, which managed to give her an excuse to live in Melbourne, Sydney, London, and the Bay Area. She has since completed a postgraduate degree in decision neuroscience because she is also very curious about brains.

Maia loves to walk & talk, binge-listen to podcasts, freestyle dance, eat cookies, and drink tea. She is currently training to become a Certified Tea Master.

Tony Birleffi
Senior Digital Developer

When Tony was a kid they called him “50 questions.” He’s always been curious about the world around him, and how he could do his part. Fast forward to today, Tony is now the proud father of three daughters, who are 50 times more curious than he ever was, and the world is forever changing.

Tony comes from a 16-year background in technology and web development with a B.F.A. from the University of Colorado with an emphasis on Multimedia. Most of those years have been spent in the busy agency world working on big brands.

When Tony is not writing creative code, he’s spending lots of time with the family or working on his own music. Tony is deeply moved by the radio show and highly motivated to help push forward the poetry of the human condition with the aid of technology.

Marie Sambilay
Digital Producer

Marie grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and studied at New York University — where she picked up a degree in Media, Culture, and Communications, and a passion for media in the public service, in exchange for her ability to walk slowly. A voracious consumer of podcasts, she joined the team at On Being to fulfill her dream of contributing to the kind of enlightening programming that has captivated her as a listener during so many long city strolls.

Previously, Marie explored various avenues of media production — including television and documentary production, newspaper editing, and even a bit of pharmaceutical advertising. Her other obsessions include language, British comedy, large-breed dogs, documenting poignant and humorous moments that she encounters from day to day, and winning huge amounts of imaginary money while playing Jeopardy! over dinner.

Tracy Ayers
Office Manager / Executive Assistant

It’s really no surprise that Tracy landed here, she’s been on the path to Loring Park since her eager consumption of 1970s inquiry-encouraged children’s programming and 1980s talk radio and daytime talk shows. A long-time listener of On Being and supporter of MPR, she believes public radio is the soundtrack of her life.

Over the past 25 years, she’s been cutting her admin chops in a variety of positions from plain old office work to restaurant decor installation to coordinating art fairs to helping raise money for the University of Minnesota. She fancies herself a workplace cultural anthropologist with Lindsay Whalenesque “court vision.”

Tracy was born in Western Pennsylvania, grew up in Southern California, and moved to the Twin Cities 20 years ago for true love. She shares her days with her wife, her teenage sons, and a gaggle of animals, including squirrels that eat her tulip bulbs in the fall and wild bunnies that eat whatever is left in the spring.

Hannah Rehak
Production Intern

Hannah Rehak is a graduate of Macalester College with a B.A. in American Studies and English. As a Chicago native she was raised on long commutes to school accompanied by the sound of '90s rock and WBEZ broadcasts.

With a desire to create her own work, Hannah spent four years on Mac's improv comedy team and hosted two shows on Macalester's radio station. Summer internships included work for Saint Paul Neighborhood Network and a research position at Zester Daily, an online food and drink magazine in Los Angeles.

Hannah studied journalism while abroad in Morocco her junior year and her final article on underage marriage was published in GlobalPost leading her to a minor in Media & Cultural Studies. When she isn't working, Hannah can be found journaling, rearranging her furniture, or trying to make her parents laugh.