USSU On The Air: Turning on community engagement

By in Culture

The University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union radio show, USSU On The Air, is a space dedicated to discussing important student and community issues — as well as just about anything else — in a fun and engaging way.

Since the USSU exists to represent the interests of students, it always tries to find ways of interacting with them. The radio show USSU On The Air — which airs on CFCR 90.5 FM from 7 to 7:30 p.m. every Tuesday — is one of their more interesting forms of outreach.

USSU On The Air is on CFCR 90.5 FM from 7 to 7:30 p.m. every Tuesday.

Vice-President Academic Jessica Quan — one of three hosts for USSU On The Air — believes that radio is a meaningful medium for open and engaged discussions, because it makes listeners feel like they are part of the conversation.

“There is something about a radio show that makes you feel like you are there,” Quan said. “When topics are discussed on air, you get a better understanding. You can go into that critical dialogue, be part of the conversation and hear the different sides of it.”

USSU On The Air features a wide array of topics, thanks to its three distinct segments. Quan’s segment focuses on topics and events of interest to the student body, while Brent Kobes — a fourth-year political studies student and St. Thomas More College counsellor on the University Students’ Council — runs an interview show that explores student issues.

Gabriel Simons — a USC counsellor and fourth-year Edwards School of Business student — hosts a more freeform segment that focuses on light-hearted topics. For instance, when thinking back to his favourite episodes, Simons recalled both a profound discussion and a moment of childish fun.

“In one episode, we talked about the concept of ‘glory days,’ relating to [the] university [experience] — if these are our glory days or not… It was a cool, honest conversation,” Simons said. “We did a Christmas episode that was a lot of fun, where we read the original Night Before Christmas poem in old English… There were some old words in there that now have a different meaning that we were really immature about and had a tough time saying.”

While these light-hearted moments can make the medium appealing, hosting a radio show can be scary for those who are unfamiliar with the format. For Quan, one challenge she faced when first hosting was understanding that she wasn’t always going to sound like a seasoned professional.

“I had this expectation that I would sound like Malcolm Gladwell from Revisionist History, … but to be honest, it is not like that at all. Half of it is just me repeating the word ‘like’ and then listening to myself thinking, ‘Why do I sound like that?’” Quan said.

Unlike more traditional radio shows, USSU On The Air is not a live broadcast. Instead, the hosts record and edit the show before broadcasting — while also uploading the recordings to a podcast of the same name, located on the USSU website. Even so, there is something scary about sitting down to be recorded — something the hosts are mindful of with their guests. For Kobes, making the guests feel comfortable is his highest priority.

“It’s kind of an intimidating medium, but I always remind them that it’s not live — that we can go back and edit… [What] you want your guest to leave with is ‘this is a great experience,’” Kobes said.

USSU On The Air is a good way to keep up to date on student issues. It mixes important discussions with some fun, and it allows students to interact with the USSU. Quan encourages all students to reach out to the USSU through its website with any topics that they think are pertinent to the student body and that they wish to discuss on the airwaves. Happy listening!

Ana Cristina Camacho

Photo: Heywood Yu