Emerson College’s award-winning radio station, WERS-FM (88.9), brands itself as a place to discover new music, but students interested in radio news and music discovered two years ago that the college’s Visual and Media Arts Department had discontinued radio as a major track. But now Emerson has created a minor in radio in its School of Communication.
“Emerson is tuition driven, so programs are very responsive to student demand,” said Phillip Glenn, Professor and Interim Dean of the School of Communication. “Yet we have WERS, and we have a lot of students who are excited about not only radio but audio content. That was the genesis then of the idea to start this radio minor.”
About two years ago, the college decided to ditch radio as a major track in the Visual, Media Arts department due to a lack of student interest. Since then, with the help of the WERS General Manager Jack Casey and the support of faculty members in the Journalism and Communications Studies departments, the radio program has been brought back as a minor in the School of Communication.
“It makes sense professionally because radio as an industry is in such economic transformation,” said Glenn. “The forecasts are there aren’t that many careers or jobs, but it could be a piece of a lot of people’s media profiles and a lot of people just have a passion for it.”
Casey said, “I think there was a question in the minds of some people at the college about the future viability of radio as a career path. That’s understandable given the huge amount of cut-backs that have ensued in the business, but I think we all agreed that there are lots of opportunities to produce audio content not just through traditional terrestrial radio but satellite radio, podcasting, HD and eventually internet radio where we all feel its going to go.”
WERS-FM, a student-run and professionally managed station, remains successful in the Boston area, and its its news department won ten Associated Press awards in 2013.
The radio program’s move from the Visual, Media Arts department to the School of Communications means there will be some changes in the structure and focus of the radio program.
“VMA of course is heavily involved in production, and that’s part of this new minor, but it’s a sampling of all aspects of the radio business” said Glenn.
Courses for the minor will span various aspects of radio. The college plans to offer classes in audio programming content, marketing, promotions and sales, writing and producing for radio, business and finance for media and a performance course that will give students experience behind a microphone.
“That draws on different departments in the School of Communications so that’s one difference,” said Glenn of the change. “It’s explicitly an interdisciplinary approach to radio.”
The program will be primarily led by Casey, whose current classes in radio programming and radio marketing and promotions are the only remaining courses from the pre-existing major. These two courses will be transitioned over to the new minor with a few updates to the curriculum.
“Our goal is to give people the requisite skills to get hired in that all important first job,” said Casey. “So they can present themselves as being well rounded and so that they can feel secure about the skillsets that they have and that those are appropriate to the industry.”
The college plans to roll out five courses for the twenty credit minor, starting one in the Fall of 2013 and another in the Spring of 2014. The goal is for students to be able to complete the entire program over two years.
“There are still plenty of stations that are hiring people and I don’t think that’s going to go away, it’s just not as easy as it was twenty years ago,” said Casey. “We feel that the college is very much behind this and we’re looking forward to launching it.”
This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.