Sept. 1, 2015

CJSW is campus radio and much more for student volunteers

Experiences on-air and behind the scenes open doors to new ideas, friendships, career possibilities
From left, Kai Sinclair, Sarah Dorchak and Alexander Kim, all volunteers at the campus radio station CJSW.

From left, Kai Sinclair, Sarah Dorchak and Alexander Kim, all volunteers at the campus radio station

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

CJSW 90.9FM is celebrating its 30th anniversary on the FM dial this year but it is more than just a campus radio station. It is an environment that brings together music, culture and academics to form one of the biggest and best voices in Canadian community radio.

Student involvement is hugely important to the success of the volunteer-driven station. 

“Volunteering at CJSW is a way to improve student life on campus and get a broad audience listening to your ideas, whether they’re academic or personal,” says Kai Sinclair, news director at CJSW.

Seven full-time staff members train volunteers from all walks of life to be confident on-air programmers. They teach everything from how to conduct interviews to using top-of-the-line, industry standard audio equipment.

For individuals with an interest in broadcasting, on- or off-air, and a few hours to spare every month, opportunities extend beyond on-air.

“If you have interest in graphic design, you can design logos; if you’re a writer, you can write copy. Whatever skills you have, we can help you improve your portfolio,” says Sinclair. 

Popular science podcast on CJSW peaks on iTunes store

Alexander Kim, a 2014 neuroscience graduate, began volunteering at the station in 2012 as a means of building his journalism portfolio.

During his time at CJSW, Kim was a volunteer host and multicultural news summer staffer who developed the podcast Theoretically Speaking with station manager Myke Atkinson. The format takes what Kim describes as “silly hypothetical science questions,” and then asks experts to explore the scientific ideas behind them.

For example, what's the possibility of evolving mermaids from modern humans through artificial selection? “We’re looking to start somewhere weird, get somewhere transcendent, and to break down fundamental concepts,” says Kim. So would evolving mermaids be possible? “It’s more possible than you might think — possible but improbable.”

Theoretically Speaking recently saw success after it was featured on the front page of the iTunes store, peaking at number two in Canada and number 11 in the U.S. on the podcast charts in July.

“Over the course of a week, we went from 40 subscribers to over 13,000,” says Kim. “The show I make with my friends at CJSW was right next to my heroes and shows I admire.”

Campus radio station CJSW celebrates 30 years on air, marking a history of giving volunteers an outlet for their voice, ideas, and academic interests.

Campus radio station CJSW celebrates 30 years on air.

Ewan Nicholson

On-air host and grad student explores feminist themes 

While Kim’s goal is building his portfolio while exploring his scientific interests, Sarah Dorchak volunteers at CJSW to broaden her understanding of feminism. Dorchak is one of four hosts on the talk show Yeah, What She Said, which explores feminist issues ranging from mental health in the bisexual community to body love and positivity.

Yeah, What She Said has benefited me personally because it has helped develop my own understanding of feminism and community,” explains Dorchak.

As a grad student in communications, media and film, Dorchak finds that the flexibility in her show's format has helped her to juggle CJSW and schoolwork for the last three years. “We rotate as lead host,” says Dorchak. “And because CJSW is on campus, you can pop in on your break, do bits here and there as it fits your schedule.”

Station continues to be a campus connector 

As CJSW celebrates its 30th anniversary, it continues to allow volunteers like Dorchak and Kim to find an outlet for their voice, ideas, and academic interests.

“I get to do the thing I want to do with my life — being creative with audio,” says Kim. “CJSW has been able to make that happen. I’m super grateful.”

There will be a commemorative magazine and celebration centered around its Funding Drive in October. Find out more about CJSW on their website, get connected with the station on Twitter and Facebook or stop by in person in MacEwan Hall.

“We’re a welcoming environment so if students just want to hangout, we’re a relaxed place to have your coffee and study,” adds Sinclair.