When I stepped onto campus at West Virginia University in 2019, my mission was to become a manager on the basketball team. There was not much else I wanted at the time. I talked to Josh Eilert of WVU Basketball and he told me that there were no spots left, and that I should join the radio station as that would be more conducive to my career goals.
He could not have told me a better thing to do. My freshman year was filled with U92 memories such as rambunctious sports nights on Wednesdays, the first 92ers intramural basketball team and getting together with the boys to watch various sporting events. The most pivotal moment of that year was starting my mixed martial arts podcast, Throwin’ Hands, which made me realize what I wanted to do in life.
The times were not all great, however. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it created substantial challenges for those trying to gain experience through U92. Recruitment was essentially cut in half and our retention rate dropped more than that. We were not able to amply recruit as in-person activities were stifled. We had to move from U92’s home in The Mountainlair to the Daily Athenaeum Building so that we could do socially distant broadcasts, which ended up failing tremendously. When we had to broadcast remotely, it was a challenge with us residing in different parts of town and using different calibers of equipment.
A move to the Daily Athenaeum Building caused a loss of a culture. I never realized how much that little nook in the Mountainlair meant to our culture. It was a massive part of our identity and an important hub for our social lives.
The 2021-2022 academic year was sort of a year “zero” as our Broadcast Advisor, Alex Wiederspiel, put it when it comes to the eras of U92. Things were allowed to return to relative normalcy; however, we had lost many members of the station as they lost interest during the pandemic. By the end of the 2020-2021 academic school year, there were only 28 members of the station.
The start of the 2022-2023 school year dawned the new era of U92. Our growing pains from moving the Daily Athenaeum were still a bit relevant but not as significant as they were the two years prior.
At the beginning of the academic year and my tenure as Operations Manager, I strived to help build a new culture at U92. However hard it was, I accepted that we would not be able to bring back the magic that we had in that little room of a station in The Mountainlair. The hard part was trying to make that space ours as it felt like we were creeping in on the space of The Daily Athenaeum. We made it work. I believe we created a culture better than the last. People now hang out in the station. A couple of weeks ago, there was a rolling conversation between members of different U92 staffs. Seeing that made me smile, making it easily one of my favorite memories of my tenure here at U92, and I was not even a part of the conversation. There is interaction between the staffs that we have. We now have healthy relationships with those at The Daily Athenaeum and Prospect and Price Creative.
As I stated prior, we started with 28 members of the station at the beginning of the academic. As of right now, that number has nearly tripled as we currently have 70 members at the station. We had no news staff. We now have four members who are committed to making U92 news great. I know four members may not seem that impressive, but I am beyond proud of the work that they have put in and look forward to making them my priority as I step into the role of news director for my last semester at U92.
My ultimate goal as operations manager was to bring U92 back to where it was before the pandemic. I would like to think that we have accomplished that. U92 is on par with, if not past, where it was when I came to the station in September of 2019. I am happy of the work we have done this year. My expectations were surpassed.
I want to wish the best of luck to Aneissa Gallo and the rest of my successors. U92 is an important part of student media at WVU, and I hope that each one makes U92 a better place to learn, get experience and make friends and memories that will last a lifetime.
Admittedly, sometimes I doubted my tenure here at U92, whether or not I was a respected member of the team. Although the thought of leaving definitely crossed my mind more than once, my gut told me to stick to it and stay at U92. My decisions have never steered me wrong, and this was not an exception. Staying was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
U92 is the best thing to ever happen to me in college; through the good, bad and ugly. U92 is back, and I could not be happier.