November 4, 2009
By Andrew Mitchell
There aren't many people sitting behind the microphone at the Prairie Star, UIS's online streaming campus radio station.
But that's soon going to change said Associate Professor Jim Grubbs. The veteran broadcaster is putting the finishing touches on the studio and audio lab to prepare for students taking his Introduction to Radio class this spring.
“It's almost like I've gone full circle,” he said from his desk in the audio lab. Grubbs first came to campus as a media technician back when UIS was called Sangamon State and the Student Affairs Building was the library. The studio and lab is located in what used to be the library's receiving area.
“I started here and now I'm back here,” he said. But this time, the room is equipped with new carpeting, a new coat of paint, computers, headphones and microphones ready to be set up and played with.
Photo by Andrew Mitchell
Grubbs signed on to organize the station after student interest he said reached, “a critical mass.” The Prairie Star officially signed on from its original location, a small room in University Hall, on Valentine's Day, 2008.
The station didn't feature a lot of UIS voices that day. Grubbs had set up the station to be a fully automated music station, playing almost everything from current hits to music from the 1960s on up.
“It was as much as anything just to prove the point that it could be done,” he said. The station remained on automation from then and through Grubbs's academic sabbatical last year.
Now in its new location, Grubbs hopes to provide an open door for students interested in getting into radio, whether as a career or for general fun.
“Certainly students are most interested in music programs,” he said, “but there is almost an infinite number of possibilities.”
Other stations close by include National Public Radio member station WUIS, or WQNA, the community station operated out of the Capital Area Career Center on Toronto Road.
Grubbs said the Prairie Star can differentiate itself by focusing primarily on campus and school related issues and concerns.
“Our difference is we're the UIS campus radio,” he said. “WUIS is a service for the community at large.”
Randy Eccles, WUIS's Development Director, sees the situation similarly. The station employs current UIS students and gladly accepts volunteers, he said. They are also looking to get more students involved in their new HD radio station. But still WUIS does not primarily cater to the university.
“We want to serve the campus, but we also serve the broader community of central Illinois,” he said.
Plus, with the limited number of opportunities for students to get on the air at WUIS, Eccles thinks the Prairie Star can serve as a great entry point for students looking for more experience.
Grubbs hopes to get things fully operational for next semester so he can provide students with valuable radio experience, try things out and help turn the Prairie Star into the student-run station it can potentially be.