Since its début in 1978, UAlbany’s radio station, WCDB (90.9 FM) – and its AM predecessor, WSUA – have afforded students opportunities for fun and creativity while preparing them for the business world. Here, three alumni reflect on their days in college radio and offer some insights into how the experience allowed them to segue into fascinating careers both within and outside the music industry.
Newly enrolled at UAlbany, Tisha Lewis Ellison discovered WCDB while exploring the campus with a friend and learned the station was seeking new deejays for the following school year. “I had always wanted my own radio show. So I knew that my steps were led to WCDB for a divine reason,” says the University of Georgia (UGA) assistant professor.
Ellison, then a Ph.D. student in UAlbany’s reading program, already had broadcasting experience at WKYS-FM and NPR in her native Washington, D.C., and with WTVR-TV in Richmond. Her other media work included a stint at the Richmond Free Press and a summer internship at Black Entertainment Television (BET).
Soon, Ellison was lending her talents to WCDB. “‘The Healing Room’ aired every Thursday from 12 to 2 p.m. for three-and-a-half years. I played contemporary gospel music, and I interviewed members of the community about events or information of interest to people in the Albany area,” she remembers.
For Ellison, “The Healing Room” was also “ministry”: “People would call in asking me to pray for them, or needing encouragement. I enjoyed being a representative for the Lord when I attended music conferences, and interviewing and writing about the gospel personalities I admired.”
Ellison no longer works in broadcasting, instead focusing on her research in digital literacies/media with UGA’s Department of Language and Literacy Education. “I learn how families and adolescents of color use various forms of digital tools to make sense of their literate lives,” explains Ellison. “Teaching, writing, and presenting on these topics about underrepresented populations is something I am most proud of.”
Several UAlbany professors mentored Ellison during her academic journey. “Drs. [Peter] Johnson and [Cheryl] Dozier were on my dissertation committee. I was a teaching assistant for Dr. [KaiLonnie] Dunsmore when she taught Literacy and Society, which had been one of my favorite classes. I see or speak with all three professors regularly; we attend the same conferences, so it is always great to reconnect with them. When I won the 2016 Literacy Research Association Early Career Achievement Award, they were there to offer congratulations. Dr. [Marcia] Sutherland of Africana Studies was a jewel, advocating for me during my time at the University. I am indebted to her and to everyone there who supported my endeavors.”
Ellison has also held adjunct or tenure-track positions at Trinity College, Howard University, American University, and Georgia State University.