WESS 90.3 Wins the 2014 mtvU College Radio Woodie Award, Makes ESU Proud
Rob McKenzie tried everything for four hours last night. He scoured websites, combed Twitter and Facebook and dialed phone numbers faster than he could have ever imagined. He came up empty on each and every attempt.
When the news finally came late Thursday night from Rhiannon Milliard, program director of WESS 90.3, East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania’s student radio station, McKenzie, Ph.D., ESU distinguished professor of communication studies and WESS’s faculty advisor, had one last phone number to dial. His mother’s. He couldn’t wait to tell her that WESS had just won the 2014 mtvU College Radio Woodie Award, a prestigious honor for WESS and the university as a whole.
After sharing a celebratory moment on the phone with Milliard, an ESU senior majoring in communication studies who actually got the breaking news off Twitter (“What can I say? Her fingers are faster than mine”), he had to track down the woman who he calls his biggest supporter.
“She listens to the BBC every night on our station,” McKenzie said. “She’s over the moon. And she knows my love for college radio and everything it means to me.”
WESS beat out more than 100 other college radio stations, including Boston University, University of South Carolina, University of California-Berkeley, Ball State University and Indiana University.
“It does make it exciting because we’re up against some really big names,” McKenzie said. When you get to big universities, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a really great radio program, and I know that we do.”
In late February, the news broke that WESS had been ranked in the Top 10 for the 2014 mtvU College Radio Woodie awards. MtvU is a subsidiary of MTV and Viacom, broadcasting at 750 universities and reaching almost nine million college students nationwide. Top 10 qualifiers were judged on three segments of data: Reporting playlists to the College Music Journal (CMJ) and the ranking by Princeton Review; its appearance in social media and the frequency of which they are mentioned; and its presence on Ratemyprofesor.com.
After mtvU compiled its list of the Top 10 college radio stations in the country, a nationwide vote was held to determine the overall winner. Votes were accepted online 24 hours a day and at predetermined booths on ESU’s campus for three days. In addition, to mark the last three hours of voting on March 6, there was a vote-a-thon in Stroud Hall, where nearly 150 students from McKenzie’s Introduction to Mass Media class stopped by and voted for WESS for three hours in 30-minute intervals.
“I thought we had a really great strategy,” McKenzie said. “We fanned out across social media, friends were voting, families were voting. I reached out to PASSHE, and since I was a disc jockey at Millersville, I reached out to them. We got great media coverage. It all culminated with the vote-a-thon, and I think that’s what put us over the top.”
In addition to the current group of students working at WESS, McKenzie also credits students in the last decade for this honor. Their ability to see past race, age, gender, field of study and appearance has only made everything at the station and on the air go more smoothly.
“I can’t tell you how many texts and Facebook messages I received [Thursday] night and into the morning,” McKenzie said. “Someone once told me the station works because they are empowered by their work. I guess they’re right. If you want it run right, you let the students do their jobs because they’re really good at it.”
Caption: seated is Rob McKenzie, Ph.D., ESU distinguished professor of communication studies and WESS’ faculty advisor. From left to right in the back row are: Fiona McKenzie, a junior at Evergreen Community School and regular visitor to the station; WESS program director Rhi Milliard, a senior communication studies major from Jim Thorpe, Pa.; WESS station manager Jill Monica, a senior communication studies major from East Stroudsburg, Pa.; WESS music librarian Chris Symonds, a senior chemistry major from Stroudsburg; WESS training director Brian Silva, a sophomore communication studies major from Carlisle.
For more info on the Woodie Award visit: http://www.mtv.com/ontv/woodieawards/2014/winners.jhtml