Dedicated students, alumni behind UMSL Radio, U News resurgence

Secondary education major Cassie Elam (right) and UMSL alumnus Keith Robinson

Secondary education major Cassie Elam and UMSL alumnus Keith Robinson are two members of the enthusiastic team that powers the UMSL Radio booth and The U News. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Like many of her fellow University of Missouri–St. Louis students, Cassie Elam walks past the UMSL Radio windows in the Millennium Student Center several times a week, often spying an announcer in the booth. But one day, she decided to look into becoming a DJ herself.

“I figured I’d send in an application and cross my fingers,” said Elam, who is now a senior. “Surprisingly, I was accepted, and I honestly cannot imagine my college career thus far without both the station and the amazing people I have met.”

The English education major now serves on the executive board of UMSL’s Student Electronic Media Professional Association (SEMPA). She not only hosts her own radio show but also helps manage the station and assist with projects the group has spearheaded in recent months.

Some of those efforts can be found at umslradio.com, where the station schedule and a sample of the latest U News video segments are accessible.

“SEMPA, which contains both UMSL Radio and The U News, has really begun to take initiative,” Elam said. “Under the direction of genius [and UMSL alumnus] Keith Robinson, The U has interviewed various musical artists and launched a series highlighting UMSL and various events for students both on and off campus.”

Robinson earned a degree in information systems from the university in August 2012 and now works for Energizer. But on Saturdays, he’s typically back on campus, volunteering his time and expertise while sharing his passion for video and audio production with current UMSL students.

“I enjoy it,” said Robinson, who considers his alma mater and former employer to be like family. “It always feels good seeing the students I work with get something at the end of the day from what we’re doing.”

Back in 2013, he and a fellow UMSL alumnus offered a free video seminar to students. They weren’t sure if anyone would attend that first session, but a small handful of interested students did show up, and it’s been growing ever since.

“We said, ‘Here, this is how you do aperture and depth of field and all these things,'” Robinson recalled. “The goal of The U News part of SEMPA is to promote the university and also for students to be able to know how the camera works.”

To Elam, the skills and confidence she is gleaning from SEMPA are well worth the time and energy that her commitment to it requires.

“The U News has brought together a group of young men and women who not only love what they are doing, but are truly dedicated to bringing only the best to the UMSL community,” Elam said. “SEMPA has been helpful in keeping my eyes on the prize. Working with these other students who bring together diverse ideas is allowing me to grow as I look toward working with high school students after graduation … Being on the radio also requires me to think fast, which is another key skill I will need.”

While UMSL Radio hosts have been busy incorporating new elements into their shows, such as free on-air PSAs on behalf of other campus organizations and collaborations with The Current, The U News arm of SEMPA has especially focused on showcasing UMSL events.

Robinson said that so far, one of the productions he is most proud of the students for pulling together was last year’s extensive Relay for Life coverage.

“We were there from the start of the event to the end of the event,” he said. “I believe that The U News showcases what is great about UMSL. There’s a sense of community here – people working towards one goal to see this campus prosper.”

Most recently, The U has launched “This Week at UMSL,” providing a sneak peek at upcoming campus happenings. View a compilation of silly outtakes here.

The UMSL Experience

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