Videography by Rachel Glass
Diversity is on air and on fire for its sixteenth year at UIC Radio, and radio staff members are sharing wisdom about how high school and collegiate radio stations around the nation can inspire meaningful waves of entertainment, information and education.
“What makes UIC Radio unique from a lot of other college radio stations is that they use diversity to really emphasize what their mission is and how they’re different from everybody else,” said Rhonda Laylo, the station’s general manager and advisor. “But that uniqueness also makes them stronger.”
A place “Where Music and Culture Ignite,” the university’s official online radio station takes pride in showcasing UIC for what it is: one of the most diverse public universities in the nation. In early March, the radio’s executive board traveled to a conference in New York where UIC Radio was recognized for two things: being guest speakers at the event and finalists for two awards.
On March 4, the team hosted “Connecting Diverse Audiences Through Radio,” a panel about diversity in radio.
“Not just cultural or ethnic diversity, but diversity of the genres of music that stations play, the topics that they talk about, the diversity of their audience, how to connect diverse audiences and how to use the ethnic and musical diversity of their station to really leverage themselves across a broader audience,” said LaQueal Anderson, UIC Radio’s program director.
“I’m really proud of them,” added Laylo. “Because we don’t have a broadcasting program, so these students are volunteer students. They’re not getting class credit for it, and, at the same time, they’re working so hard that they’re getting national recognition.”
Laylo oversees the station and advises students, but the majority of UIC Radio is student run. The station has a staff of 27 DJs and 20 bloggers. Laylo noted that the recognition is fitting for a station that’s increased its listenership over 200 percent — and its website views over 150 percent, too — during the last few years.
The station, which streams 24 hours a day, seven days a week, won Chicago Music Awards for “Best College Radio” from 2010 to 2012, as well as Intercollegiate Broadcasting System awards for “Best Show Promotion,” and “Best Website, ”for the last two years. This year, UIC Radio was categorized as a finalist for two more at the 76th Annual Conference: “Best Show Promotion” and “Best Online Only/Streaming Station.”
“It’s phenomenal to see that they’re focused on engaging the campus community and getting themselves out there,” Laylo said.
Anderson, a junior in the College of Business Administration, created a promotion for his show, titled “Free Air,” that was a finalist for “Best Show Promotion.” His promo features some self-made sounds and a snippet of the Kendrick Lamar single, “Alright” from the album “To Pimp at Butterfly.” Anderson mentioned that he put some of what he’s learned as a marketing major at UIC into practice for the promo.
“I definitely chose a song I knew was very popular at the time, so it was catered to my target audience,” said the radio personality known as Just Q.
“Free Air” features dialogue with local artists and DJs in interview segments along with hip-hop tracks, R&B music and other popular genres.
“It’s all about getting guests in the same airspace and having them exchange ideas,” he said. Anderson joined the UIC Radio team in 2013; since then, he’s worked his way up from deejay to the station’s program director.
His material was up against five other finalists from around the nation, and the university’s station was, too, for “Best Online Only/Streaming Station.”
Despite not being named winner for either of the awards, the team is glad the station’s work is being acknowledged.
“We have a very collaborative and cooperative environment,” Anderson said. “And we definitely have quality people.”
And UIC Radio boasts an exceptional alumni track record, too. Gabriel Ramirez, also known as Producer Gabe, works for B96 Chicago’s The “J” Show, a CBS morning show that airs on WBBM-FM (96.3).
Ramirez was the station’s music director from 2007 to 2009, when he graduated with a degree in economics and communications.
“UIC Radio gives you an opportunity to grow because you’re pushed to the limits to create and generate ideas. And having an opportunity like that, being thrown into the fire, there’s no better place to do that than there,” Ramirez said.
Paulina Wysocka, who graduated from UIC in 2014 with a degree in English, spoke highly of the station, too.
“I think our work speaks for itself because the station is recognized and successful people come out of that program,” said Wysocka, assistant producer for the Chicago branch of iHeartRadio. “It was more than an extracurricular— it helped shape my career.”