COOKEVILLE – When Tennessee Tech University started its first campus FM radio station, 88.5 FM WTTU, in 1972, then-president Everett Derryberry said, “It marks a significant milestone in the expansion of Tennessee Tech and should be a great step toward improving communications not only within the academic community, but in the surrounding area as well.”
When current Tech sophomore and music education major Hannah Koster walked into the station – now in its 50th year – she found not a lot seemed to have changed from its early days, for better or for worse.
“The poster boards were dingy and there were old fliers still up. When I pulled the papers off, you could actually see the words still on it because it had been there so long that the ink transferred,” Koster said.
Despite what she saw as dated décor and music, she decided to give working at the station a try. After going through training, Koster was given her own radio show called Rockin’ the Nest, where she played mainly rock music from the 70s and 80s – her favorite genre. She found that not only was she having fun creating her own show, but she was learning about audio engineering, something she could use in her music education major.
“I was a little interested in it before but working with the radio station really boosted my interest,” Koster said.
In no time at all, Koster was offered the position of program manager for WTTU and took the reins with enthusiasm. She and her team started updating and refreshing the look of the radio station itself, which is located on the top floor of the Roaden University Center. They retired some of the lesser-known music in their library and started pulling in tunes more familiar to modern students.
The station currently has about 11 student and faculty DJs in its rotation. After they receive training, each DJ is allowed to design their own program, whether that be a talk show or just playing their favorite music.
“There’s one show called The Couch because the DJs sit on a couch in the studio with their friends. They pick a topic and just talk about it, and if it goes off on a tangent, well, that’s fine. It’s just them talking and having fun,” Koster said. “I really feel this sense of joy in the studio. I’m so happy when I sit in here and I can hear laughter coming from the booth. It’s just so heartwarming.”
There’s another program called Radio Roulette where the DJ picks a CD at random from the studio’s collection and plays songs from it, then discusses her opinions on what was played. Another program features students discussing the paranormal and Tech English instructor Andy Smith hosts a Teacher on the Radio program on Saturdays.
Current WTTU DJs come from a variety of majors and most started with no experience with being on the air. They are responsible for picking a regular time and providing the content for their show. Koster says that so far, all the participants of the revitalized radio station have taken ownership of their work and treat it like a real job, even though they are volunteering their time.
“It’s been a great learning experience and something we can 100% put on a resume,” Koster said. “When someone uses me as a job reference I can say, ‘So-and-so was awesome. They always showed up on time for their show. They were responsible for themselves. They made sure that the booth was clean when they were done. They never said a cuss word on the air and got us in trouble,’” she laughed. “It really is, whether they realize it or not, building them up in a different way.”
WTTU will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a reception from 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, April 12, in the University Center’s Tech Pride Room. The official Titans Podcast will also make an appearance from 3-4 p.m. to record a podcast at the station and hold a meet and greet. To register to attend the free event, visit https://www.tntech.edu/univadv/cac/registration-wttu50th.php.
For more information about the radio station, including how to stream it online or how to apply to be a DJ, visithttps://www.tntech.edu/cis/communication/wttu/.