UAF radio station run by biologists and engineers

Few people picture a Wildlife Biologist major working at a college radio station, but Paul Ollig, program director at KSUA student radio station at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, loves it. In fact, few of the station's staff are media majors.             

Katherine Goodnight, the station's general manager, is an Elementary Education major. Justin Carroll, chief engineer, is an Electrical Engineering major. Only two of their regular staff members are majoring in media: Brad Weber, production director, is majoring in Journalism/Broadcasting and Jon Johnson, music director, is majoring in Photo Journalism.

Most of the staff have been working at the station since January 2000, as most positions are filled for the year.

Many students find media jobs on campus to be more than just a job to get help get them through a financially strained time in their lives. For them, working in media keeps life interesting. One day it's a talent show, the next, a recruiting adventure. Overall, Paul Ollig said, “The people you meet are the best thing about working in student media. The talent you find in new students can be astounding sometimes.”

KSUA has five jobs filled from a total of six positions available and on-air time totals 21 live hours with six hours of “canned” programming. Ollig said staffing hasn't been a problem in the past, but transitions between new and old staff have sometimes been a little rocky. He said it's hard to find qualified candidates who are interested in the jobs, which he finds to be “rather surprising, considering the excellent experience gained from having a job like this.”

Like other college and university radio stations, KSUA wants to provide quality programming in an alternative format not available on any other local station. The station claims over 500 web site-related emails per month, so they are indeed reaching people. The staff also strives to provide a venue for students to learn the art of radio production in a friendly, non-competetive environment, Ollig said.

Student media isn't always a happy environment though. Ollig said it has traditionally gone through its ups and downs for both quality of production and student involvement, but he believes that there will always be a need for students to be involved in all aspects of broadcast and print media. “We need only look at the great political movements of the 20th century to see the tremendous impact student media can have both locally and globally. We need to impress upon today's students just how valuable a tool for change they have at their disposal,” he said.

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Ollig's biggest challenge in directing college radio is getting solid commitment from volunteer student DJs, especially since volunteers often make up the mainframe of DJ output for many universities.

So how does the staff at KSUA juggle it all?

“Time management…time management…time management,” Ollig said. “Out of our staff, only one of us has a second job, and two of us are married (one with children). The only time constraints that really interfere with daily life are the emergencies that arise when the board blows up at 2 a.m.”

Other problems that occasionally crop up at the station are DJs ignoring the station's commitment to "community standards" and people abusing their on-air privileges, preaching their personal opinions and beliefs in a way that is meant to incite and offend listeners, Ollig said.

In the future, Ollig hopes to go into environmental education, with a little dabbling in underground broadcasting. Katherine plans on becoming a special-ed teacher. Jon hopes to become the world's biggest talk show host. Justin thinks he might enjoy a career in monkey training. Brad wants to be a dinosaur.

This article was conducted through e-mail interviews.