KSUN Radio a 2nd home for Sonoma State students

Sonoma State University’s Communications Department offers media outlets to students to explore various avenues of communications and media studies.|

As the spring semester comes to an end and graduation approaches, students scramble to get last-minute assignments in and prepare for their final exams. It’s a stressful, exciting time for graduating seniors who have come so far – one to be enjoyed as it’s the end of our time at Sonoma State University.

As a Communication Studies major, wrapping up my senior year includes a final project or two, a quiz here and there, concluding my wonderful internship with the Argus-Courier, and my last couple of weeks as the station manager for KSUN Radio, Sonoma State University’s college radio station.

KSUN Radio began its journey with the college’s shift from “Sonoma State College” – established in 1960 – to “Sonoma State University” in 1978, when it officially gained university status. The student-run radio station has existed in many forms over the years. Beginning as a campus club operating out of the dorms where the University Police Department currently is, and eventually moving to a studio in the basement of the Ives Building, the station shifted again to an online-radio format in 2002, and has operated as such ever since.

As a transfer student coming from Santa Rosa Junior College, I didn’t get the same experience that most four-year students did. Starting my time at SSU during COVID-19 brought challenges that an in-person learning environment wouldn’t have. Interacting with peers through “Zoom University” lacked genuine connections and I yearned for a stronger sense of community.

I joined KSUN during my second semester, and after the first few weeks, we were back on campus in person. I started out as the communications manager for the station, running the department that handled community outreach, collaborations and building connections for the station.

The following semester, I moved up to general manager for the station and stayed in that role through the following spring.

During most of COVID, the station wasn’t in operation. Once students returned to campus, we had the opportunity to bring it back. This was a new challenge: With KSUN being student-run, we had to figure out what we wanted to do and what the station meant to us.

“You all have brought KSUN back to life after the pandemic,” faculty advisor Gina Baleria recently told us. “I hear a lot about how bad the pandemic was for a lot of students, and it breaks my heart, but also the opportunity came to embrace community and creativity. You all just care for the station so much. You’ve turned it into this vibrant wonderful place where you’re networking with each other, you’re connected, you’re creating really interesting, strong podcast/radio/audio shows.”

Baleria, it should be pointed out, always provides a safe and welcoming environment in her classes and in the studio. She helps students see opportunities, discover their passions and believe they can do anything they want after college.

“Everyone embraces and dives in to trying to make their vision come to life,” Baleria said. “It means everything to me.”

Students get what they put into this class, of course. We are fully responsible for the imagery and sound of the station. We produce the content we put out there, we promote the station and we collaborate with other organizations. Students learn teamwork and how to be a part of a staff. Department heads gain experience in leadership and management, learn how to run a team and play an important role as a staff member for the station.

We produce our own shows and can make them whatever we want. Whether it’s a sports show, true crime, live music performances, news or theater and voice acting, at KSUN we have the freedom for full creative expression.

We are KSUN.

“The professor really cares what you’re interested in and what you want to do with your time,” said soon-to-be Sonoma State graduate Braden Woodward. “It’s been very nice. It’s a breath of fresh air to actually have someone care. School is so stressful and this class is the only time I have to wind down and do my own thing, where the professor actually cares what you have to say and isn’t just giving you busy-work to get it done with to give you a grade.”

Another beauty of the class is that it provides endless opportunities. Students have the freedom to be creative and produce any content they want, gaining experience in different areas of media and communications such as social media, promotion, production and operation of audio equipment, developing music and news programming for the station and much more. There are no limits as long as students are respectful and aren’t using words that harm or hurt.

In other words, KSUN provides an opportunity for students to get out of their comfort zone, for their voices to be heard and to learn skills in various facets of communications and media.

As a communications student focusing in journalism and primarily writing, finding a love for radio was a little unexpected for me. I shouldn’t have been surprised, considering my passion for journalism came the same way. On the first day of my first journalism class at SRJC, I was recruited to join the Oak Leaf, SRJC’s newspaper. I was immediately hooked and decided to pursue journalism as a career path.

That’s the wonderful thing about this major and the incredible communications departments at SRJC and SSU. Students can explore so many mediums and forms of communication on campus. Communication students are required to take eight units of a media outlet. Sonoma State offers the radio station, the newsroom of The Star, a public relations firm called Primitivo and Studio Blue, the video production class.

I’ve gained a strong sense of community through my experiences at SSU, and especially through KSUN. I discovered a love for audio and a strong passion for leadership, management and mentorship as the station manager. It feels truly amazing to do something you love.

As the general manager, I facilitate outside communications and collaborations with the station, scheduling the weekly shows and conducting interviews with other departments and organizations on campus. I lead the class and assist students with assignments, showing content, addressing technical difficulties and more.

This is all, of course, with the help of the department managers, the rest of the students, and faculty advisor Baleria. At KSUN, students have assignments and responsibilities, yet many consider it a fun, creative outlet, a break from more tasking and demanding classes.

Another graduating senior, Drew McQuaid, said she could guiltlessly consider KSUN a hobby, admitting that she wanted to take a fun class for her last semester.

“Something where I felt I could have the creative freedom to do different things,” she said. “And Gina has really achieved that as a professor, to give that to us.”

Daniel Dinerman, a senior in the communications department, agreed. “What I think is really refreshing about KSUN is, if I’m having a good or bad day, I’m going to come in here and I’m going to have a good time.”

That’s what KSUN is to us – a safe space, a community, a place where we can gain experience that teaches us important skills and provides opportunities following our time at SSU. It’s been a place we can call home, one we will never forget.

Find KSUN at @ksunradio on Instagram, Tiktok, Twitter and Snapchat. Visit the website for show schedules and more, KSUN.studio. Emma Molloy is an intern for the Argus-Courier. She can be reached at emma.molloy@pressdemocrat.com.

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