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From left, Noah Hutton ’09 and Jeremy Finch '09 are co-producers of the new WESU 88.1 FM show, "The Faculty Lounge."
Posted 02.27.08

Student-Produced Radio Program Highlights Wesleyan Faculty

Over radio waves, Neely Bruce chatted about his recent musical compositions; Peter Mark expressed his opinions on the recent crisis in Kenya; and Patrick Dowdey spoke on his passions as a museum curator.

Bruce, professor of music; Mark, professor of art history and professor and director of African American studies; and Dowdey, curator of the Freeman Center for East Asian Studies and adjunct assistant professor of East Asian studies and anthopology, had the opportunity to speak on their scholarly work during a student-engineered radio program, “The Faculty Lounge.” The show, which launched Feb. 1, airs from 1 to 2 p.m. every Friday on WESU 88.1 FM. It is also broadcast through a live audio stream at www.wesufm.org.

“Too often we get honed in on a particular department or focus at the university and lose track of what is going on in the rest of the school,” says the show’s creator, Noah Hutton ’09. “The Faculty Lounge provides a space for questioning and hopefully understanding the incredibly diverse work of the Wesleyan faculty.”

Hutton developed the idea for “The Faculty Lounge,” as a way for WESU to engage with and understand the vast array of scholarly work presented by Wesleyan professors. He and Jeremy Finch '09 are co-producers of the show.

Every week, the show hosts interview a different Wesleyan faculty member and offer glimpses into their scholarly work to listeners in the campus community and beyond. The show ranges from the formal to the informal, and the guests are asked to provide their own music for the show’s scheduled breaks.

“Faculty members at Wesleyan are always doing really great things out of the classroom that people may not even know about,” Finch says. “I'm always curious about how they ended up at Wesleyan and what type of research interests they have outside of teaching.”

The Feb. 15 show featured an interview with Jorge Arevalo Mateus, an ethnomusicology Ph.D candidate who recently won a Grammy for his role as a producer of “The Live Wire," a rare recording of a live Woody Guthrie performance. The Feb. 22 show featured John Paoletti, the Kenan Professor of the Humanities, professor of art history, for a discussion on his recent curated exhibition with Wesleyan students at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Conn.

Upcoming episodes of “The Faculty Lounge” will include interviews with Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, chair of the Film Studies Department and curator of Cinema Archives; and Mary-Jane Rubenstein, assistant professor of religion, assistant professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

Hutton and Finch interview the professors; however they encourage their peers to provide faculty suggestions for the show. The interviews are conducted prior to airing, but Hutton and Finch hope to incorporate live interviews in future shows. This would enable listeners to call in and ask live questions to the faculty interviewee.

Hutton and Finch don’t claim to be experts in any of the topics addressed on the show, however they do conduct some background research before going into an interview. They aim for all interviews to be not only educational, but engaging and entertaining.

“Someone like James Lipton from ‘Inside the Actors Studio’ probably has a staff of five people doing research before each interview session. We don't have a research staff like that, so it makes things a bit trickier when you just try to wing it,” Finch says. “When interviewing faculty, it's a different dynamic because you are not in a classroom, there's not a grade, and you introduce them with their first names.”

Finch grew up listening to Terri Gross on National Public Radio’s "Fresh Air" and learned from her approach.

“I loved the way she could ask such a complicated, leading question in such a benign, concise way,” Finch says.

The producers encourage listeners beyond the Wesleyan community to tune in and learn about cutting-edge scholarly work being conducted by local professors. Hutton says the show appeals to a diverse audience, including NPR fans.

“There is a growing trend among universities of publishing taped lectures and other class materials on the internet for the general public. I think this program taps into that trend while still offering an entertaining, made-for-radio show,” Hutton says.

The show is broadcast immediately after “Democracy Now,” so the producers hope “open-minded folks” will keep the radio on afterwards and get a taste for the interesting research going on at Wesleyan.

“'The Faculty Lounge' is an excellent example of how WESU functions as a service to thousands of listeners throughout central Connecticut and Wesleyan University. At the same time programs like this empower students by providing a venue for them to hone valuable broadcast communication skills,” says Ben Michael, WESU general manager.

Both Hutton and Finch have more than two years experience working with the campus radio station.

Hutton, an art history major, trained to be a DJ during his freshman year, and hosted a weekly jazz show before creating The Faculty Lounge. He also is the station’s vice president.

Finch, an East Asian studies major, spent the past two years hosting a folk and rock show called "Passenger Side" but has put that aside for "The Faculty Lounge". He plans to host a music show next summer.

“I'm confident about the future of radio and excited about the different possibilities that it provides to connect with people,” Finch says. “The Faculty Lounge is just one way we can make connections.”

Past shows are recorded and posted online at http://facultylounge.mypodcast.com/.
 
By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection editor