Surfing through the channels on the radio, listeners might stop at country, rock, hip-hop or talk radio. Each listener has a preferred genre; the channels are programmed on their short list of favorites, and the call letters are a familiar sound, indicative of the genre they seek.
For those with 90.7 programmed into one of those radio slots, WVUA FM is not a marker of genre, but instead a marker of diversity. When the list of current hits has ended, listeners can find blues or classic rock on the station. Its airwaves carry country, hip-hop and even a dose of heavy metal to end Friday nights. On the drive home, listeners can learn about local news or even space exploration.
Much like the airwaves are a home to a diverse selection of content, 90.7 The Capstone is home to a diverse group of students, running the station as a professional organization while attending The University of Alabama as full-time students.
“There’s a personal aspect and a professional aspect,” said Honors student Jennifer Hester, station program director for the fall 2015 semester. “The personal aspect is evolving their taste in music and sharing that passion with others, which is really exciting. We have shows that develop really steady followings, so people love getting to talk about music and topics they love. People who want to go into the radio profession after college also get really good experience.”
Hester, a senior majoring in English and public relations, is in charge of managing that diverse group of students in her role. In her position, she serves as a human resources entity for on-air talent, handling content, performance and enforcement of on-air rules, allowing her not only to benefit from her role as a leader but from interaction with others.
“It’s a leadership position, which is invaluable in job searches and getting my foot into other organizations,” she said. “I’m friends with so many people, like my DJ’s, who I would not have ever met otherwise. It’s helped me be more comfortable speaking to people.”
The station, Hester said, incorporates people as diverse as their music preferences. Ranging from gospel to EDM, the station can provide a home for anyone from any part of campus.
“We have people who are passionate about music,” Hester said. “But beyond that, we have people from all different majors and all different personalities, so I guess you’d say we’re eclectic.”
Interested students can find the station in the Office of Student Media. Before they are given a show, students begin as playlist DJs, working during a period of automated music selection. After meeting certain criteria, playlist DJs are then allowed to pitch their own specialty shows.
One such student is Nick Williams, telecommunication and film major and host of Barefoot Blues on Wednesday nights. After working on other shows, he landed at his current show thanks to his passion for not only the genre, but the process behind production.
“I’ve always been interested in radio and the audio aspect of things,” he said. “It’s cool to be able to provide the tunes people are listening to out there and trying to play interesting music.”
Overall, the station provides students with a professional opportunity they can carry beyond their years at UA.
“90.7 is a fantastic environment to learn in,” Williams said. “I really like how they give you the freedom to do it on your own and figure it out. They give you training and everything, but you get in there and really learn and run your show the way you want within the guidelines.”
The station also features regular talk shows, each limited to an hour. Much like its music, the station’s talk shows cover diverse content as well. Matthew Culver, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, sought to add to this diversity with his show Houndstooth & Hardhats. He and his co-host Honors student Kara Parks spend Friday afternoon rush hours discussing topics from happenings around the engineering college to the latest events in space exploration.
“The two hosts are incredible,” Hester said. “It’s not my field of expertise, but they make it understandable for me. They have organizations from all over campus come on.
Culver came upon the idea of the show after guest hosting on other talk shows. He noticed a lack of news concerning UA’s engineering college, and decided to devote a radio show to it. Conveniently, he joked, the show, called Houndstooth & Hardhats, airs during Friday rush hours so listeners are forced to pay attention. Culver co-hosts the show with Kara Parks, a mechanical engineering student.
“Engineering had nothing in terms of public media, so I was thinking, ‘We need some publicity about what’s going on in the college,’” Culver said. “We’re doing all these cool things, but we’re kind of like Hogwarts. No one really knows that we’re there.”
Since the show’s inception, it has only grown and gained traction, an effect Culver didn’t ever think would happen.
“I talk to people that listen to the show every week, and they actually follow every week,” Culver said. “People have called the station and said we’re doing great. We got shot out of a cannon too. I thought, ‘OK, we’re going to talk to the robotics team,’ and the next thing I know, we’re talking to an Apollo astronaut. We took off in a big way.”
Anyone is welcome to come in and do just as Culver did, Hester said. Although the station is a professional organization, she said, leadership is always willing to transform anyone with a special interest into a radio personality.
“Generally, it’s hard getting people to know that we exist at all,” Hester said. “I’m always trying to tell people we have a radio station – I’m trying to recruit everyone I speak to. If people show up and they’re interested, we can usually get them on the air in some capacity. We have high standards, but it’s about helping mold someone once they come to us.”