Look out college radio, because Montclair State University’s very own station, WMSC, has been nominated for 12 national awards by The Intercollegiate Broadcasting System. The Montclarion Entertainment Editor Sam Nungesser caught up with student nominees Kaya Maciak, a junior communication and media arts major and WMSC program director, and Josh Tirado, a senior television and digital arts major with a concentration in audio and sound design and WMSC station manager, to discuss their nominations.
What awards were you nominated for?
Maciak: I’ve been nominated for Best Business Director (Office Manager) in the Nation. The official WMSC newsletter was nominated for Best Station Blog, which is a project I pitched and founded back when I was office assistant in my second semester of freshman year. The very first editions contained 15 pages of content that I composed on my own.
Now the newsletter is three semesters old, recognized nationally and has a new chief editor [who is] Sabrina Hajsok, the current office manager. The third nomination we received is for Best Use of YouTube where [I sang a cover] of “Rise Up” by Andra Day, dedicated to the elderly residents that my mom works with as a recreation therapist in Brooklyn, [that] premiered on the Morning Buzz.
Tirado: I have been nominated for Best College Programming Director in the Nation along with multiple other nominations for individual pieces such as Best Use of Sound Effects and Best Radio Drama
How did you get involved with WMSC?
Maciak: The former Morning Buzz producer encouraged me to attend a general meeting in my first semester of freshman year. I felt overwhelmed and definitely was nervous, but I pushed myself and the rest is history.
Tirado: On my first tour of [Montclair State] my guide pointed out that there was a radio station and the rest is history. It was the first and only club I sought out and joined my first semester.
Can you talk a little bit about the work you’ve done for WMSC?
Maciak: I started as a team member of the digital marketing team in my first semester of freshman year where I was responsible for creating posts for all our social media platforms at least once a week. I assisted in the social media coverage of the 2018 election night for WMSC.
I then was approached by the office manager at the time and was asked if I was interested in becoming office assistant. The idea of creating a bridge between the general members and student management and [getting to] plan events thrilled me, so I jumped at the opportunity.
There I planned several events like the Valentine’s Day Bake Sale, a Harry Potter-themed banquet and made an effort to collaborate with other organizations on campus like the Student Recreation Center for Friend’s Day. After one semester of being office assistant, I was promoted to office manager. I volunteered as office manager for a year, where my daily responsibilities consisted of leading the newsletter, drafting press releases for events, planning and executing events and secretarial work to maintain organization within the station.
Also during my time as office manager, I volunteered as a social media coordinator for The College Radio Foundation, running their Instagram account to promote World College Radio Day and College Radio Day. I also served as a student correspondent for the events between WMSC and The College Radio Foundation task force.
Just this semester, I was promoted to program director and immediately started my role during winter break. I started training by scheduling shows for our winter session for hours on end every single day until I was confident with the programming software we use, which is NexGen.
Tirado: I’ve been a student manager for four years now. I started in January 2018 as the assistant production director where I stayed for a year before moving up to the production director role. There I made a lot of features and public service announcements. One of my favorite projects, one of which was nominated, was a series of short form radio plays featuring different mythological settings.
The nominated episode, “Crusade of Hearts,” featured the wizard Merlin from the Avalonian Mythos as a radio host.
After being production director for a year, I became the programming director as well. Last semester I had to juggle both roles of programming [director] and production [director] which was a hard task, but receiving this nomination makes it worth it in the end. Now for my final semester, I have the role of station manager and look forward to all the exciting things I can do for this role.
How has being a part of the radio station impacted both your college and professional experience?
Maciak: College radio really was the first extracurricular activity I joined in college before I understood the pre-professional experience I would gain from my time here. It started out as a hobby for me, being like a safe haven for me to enjoy the things I like [such as] creating content and talking on-air.
However, joining the student management team allowed me to see the complexity and seriousness of operating a radio station. The mere idea that the hard work we put in to ensure our station is running will be rewarded by successfully broadcasting 24/7, releasing content created by each of our teams and being recognized for national awards, amazed me. That same butterfly feeling is still with me as I understand how much experience and skills I gained just from simply contributing and staying involved.
I’m now able to add radio broadcasting, hosting a radio show remotely and in-studio, manning a soundboard, news and public affairs reporting, audio-editing and video editing, content creation and social media management to my professional background.
Tirado: It’s been fun. It’s been cool. Before joining, I didn’t really know how to even edit audio and now that’s my major and what I do for a living. I’ve also received many opportunities from the station [such as] being able to represent college radio in the [United States] at a conference in the United Kingdom [and] earning scholarships from my participation in radio as a whole. The station has shaped my life immensely.
How has working during the pandemic impacted the WMSC experience this year? How do you feel about the overall work given the circumstances?
Maciak: The pandemic has been harsh on college radio stations nationally and internationally. Many college radios either seized their operations or had to close down. This was a reality that we faced in the beginning of the pandemic, not truly knowing where the future would take us.
Thanks to the support of the School of Communication and Media, Chief Engineer Adam Goldberg and our General Manager Anabella Poland, we were able to continue operating remotely during the pandemic when other stations couldn’t. Students were able to maintain some sense of routine and continue their involvement at the station [even] when things weren’t looking so bright. Our members persevered with us during such a difficult time and it really shows through the content that we publish.
What went through your head when you found out you’d been nominated for a national award?
Maciak: It honestly took me a full 24-hours to process the nomination. It’s been a very difficult period for me personally and my family during the pandemic and my involvement in radio grounded me and motivated me to continue evolving professionally. This nomination was emotional for me and my family because it was good news that we haven’t received in a long time.
Tirado: [I’ll] keep it real with you, it wasn’t the excitement that I felt. I’ve been submitting for awards since my freshman year and I’ve created so many things that I loved and I thought were amazing that haven’t received nominations. Even though it may not seem like it, that definitely creates an amount of stress and anxiety.
Last semester was brutal for me with the amount of work that I forced upon myself. It seriously made me reconsider my priorities in life and put me in a rut. So this nomination means a lot to me and my future career path and I hope it can revitalize my passion for all that I do.
What are your future hopes for WMSC?
Maciak: I truly hope that WMSC expands and we recruit more students in the next couple of years. WMSC welcomes students from all majors and colleges and diversity, equity and inclusion are core values and utmost priorities at the station. We want to see our WMSC family grow to reflect all the amazing talent we have right here on our campus.
Tirado: Right now I hope we can go back to being in the studio, so no other programming director has to go through so much work and has the time to be a proper programming director [who can] curate content and make fun, innovative programs.
What would you tell incoming members that hope to go on the same path as you?
Maciak: The amount of work you put in determines the amount of knowledge, experience and opportunities you will gain out of your involvement. You have the support and resources to bring in new initiatives and projects to the table and you ultimately pave your own legacy at the station.
Tirado: (Laughs) I would question their sanity. But in all honesty, this experience is what you make of it. There are so many opportunities available, all you have to do is put the effort in.
The winners will be announced during a virtual conference from March 2 to March 6.