By Victoria Dravis
General manager in the 2014-15 school year
A student’s first year at college can be daunting, especially if that person comes in to the school without knowing anyone. At JMU, Student Org Night gives freshmen the opportunity to quickly immerse themselves in the various clubs and organizations the university offers, but for most first year students, there’s an adjustment period for everything.
In 2011, however, Kelly Carlin entered her undergraduate career unconcerned.
“I got started in WXJM right off the bat because I had a cool older sister who was involved,” Carlin said.
The transition period was practically seamless, according to Carlin, who explained that she immediately found a home at the station and had a show every semester for the five years she attended JMU.After graduating in 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in English, Carlin moved up north. She currently resides in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where row houses line the streets as bars and shops occupy the corners, entertaining the eclectic mix of residents. Located in the heart of the neighborhood sits Cedar Point Bar & Kitchen, where Carlin works as a host, food runner, and barback depending on the day. During her time off, she continues to put her English degree to work and, in Carlin’s words, does “some writing and music on the side.”
Radio and WXJM were on the forefront of her mind during her time at JMU, and Carlin has made it clear she is not quite ready to leave the airwaves. She recently applied to Philadelphia’s local NPR station, and she said she “definitely [hasn’t] given up on those kinds of media opportunities.”
Carlin wants WXJMers to maintain the passion they have for indie radio. She feels the amount of love and time that is put into shows is for a reason, and her involvement with the station contributed to who she is today.
General manager in the 2015-16 school year
It’s completely OK for life to not fall into place immediately after graduation. For some students, jobs are found easily and a 9-5 is right around the corner. Others may not get an opportunity of that sort in part to a wide range of factors that are out of their control — but Molly Ryan is firm in her value that success is not linear.
“Being successful doesn’t necessarily mean doing everything you thought you’d do when you thought you’d do it,” Ryan said, adding that it’s not worth it to beat yourself up over something you dub as a failure. “Take responsibility for your own actions but accept the things you can’t control.”
As a double major in history and English, the former WXJM general manager has plenty to look forward to. After graduating in May of 2016, she moved to Fairfax, Virginia, and started working at her current employer, Trader Joe’s. With plans to move this coming summer, a lot is on the horizon for Ryan, which includes graduate school. In early January, she submitted the last of her four applications — three Master of Arts programs and one Ph.D. program all in English literature.
Although she does not envision herself pursuing a career in radio, Ryan promises she’s not ruling it out.
“It would be fun,” she said.
With four years of WXJM under her belt, Ryan knows just how fun radio can be. Her first encounter with the campus station was during the third week of her freshman year, allowing her to find her place at JMU sooner rather than later.
Being a general manager comes with its stresses and a student-run radio station has its issues, but Ryan was adamant that the pros completely outweighed the cons.
“It was always a bit of a hot mess,” Ryan said about WXJM, “but one that I loved and worked hard for.”
WXJM was a home for Ryan, and the station continues to be a place of solace for present members. With one more piece of advice for those in college radio, she simply said, “Be kind to yourself and to others. You’re going to be OK.”
General manager in fall of ’16
Driving toward Richmond, Virginia, the skyline is comparable to grooves in a record, with each building standing near the same height, demonstrating a sort of indentation between every structure. Touching the sky but not scraping the clouds, they differ from the towers of New York City and Chicago, yet still give off the same atmosphere of being in a crowded city.
As a student involved with WXJM for three and a half years, walking the streets of Richmond can remind Tyler Hoover of music in the smallest of ways — along with allowing him to see a number of live shows, as well.
“Being in Richmond, I’m fortunate enough to be able to catch a lot of the touring bands that make stops in the city,” Hoover said. In December, he saw Kamasi Washington and has tickets for Brockhampton and STRFKR in the coming months.
Completing his undergraduate career in May of 2016, Hoover studied accounting and finance, and currently works for Cherry Bekaert LLP, a regional public accounting firm stationed in the capital of Virginia. Although he enjoyed his time at WXJM, Hoover said he does not see himself working in radio again unless his schedule clears up, and even then it would only be a volunteer position.
Thoroughly involved with WXJM, it is no surprise music still makes its way into Hoover’s busy life. He loved all the genres the station played during his stint as general manager, but tended to lean toward the progressive genre.
“The new stuff each week would typically catch my interest faster,” Hoover explained.
During the seven semesters he was there, Hoover said he had at least one show for each genre WXJM offered.
With the induction of a couple of new general managers after his departure, WXJM has gone through a number of changes. The members of the station, though, have always been enthusiastic in their beliefs and love of music, and Hoover encouraged WXJMers to continue that fervor.
New experiences, he said, will lead to your most memorable moments, so “seek out and dip your foot into every opportunity you can.” The way one goes through life is how individuality is cultivated.
“Your unique interests, including the ones you have yet to discover, are what will lead you to truly being happy.”
General manager in spring of ’17
As a SMAD major, Sidney Yi could not have been more thrilled to accept an internship position with Digital Natives Group in New York City after graduating in May of 2017. For three months, she worked with clients like NFL, “I Love New York,” and New York Times best-selling authors.
Originally from Fairfax, Virginia, Yi saw moving back home after her time in New York as a defeat. With this thought in the forefront of her mind, she forced herself to look for jobs in the city. The bright lights and busy atmosphere that captivates so many others, however, fell short for her.
“I didn’t even like New York,” Yi bluntly said. “I didn’t like living there.”
Regardless, the idea of being successful in a big city and then not finding work — even when one is qualified — can be disheartening like it was for Yi.
Her stint in New York eventually came to an end and moving back home was inevitable. Presently, Yi works as an IT administrator for George Mason University, and looks at the move back to Virginia with buoyancy, as she is able to explore numerous interests and opportunities she may have overlooked in the city.
Yi also currently does freelance work in graphic design for the nonprofit organization Women of Color, in Solidarity. Although she concentrated in Integrated Advertising and Corporate Communication (now known as Creative Advertising) at JMU, she has discovered she doesn’t think she likes doing advertising, and would much rather work for nonprofits rather than agencies.
WoC, in Solidarity was established at Clark University. Some students noticed that, although the student population was in solidarity with people of color, many white peers were speaking for those POCs. Their website reads that it is “a safe space created by Women of Color, and is for anyone who identifies as a Woman of Color.” The nonprofit now holds an annual conference in New York City.
"I think that I’m pretty successful in what I’ve done and I hope to continue to be successful,” Yi said.