Closeup of studio microphone.

Hillsdale Students Take to the Airwaves on Radio Free Hillsdale

By Elena Naborowski, ’22

WRFH Radio Free Hillsdale is much more than a small room tucked away in the Knorr Student Center, or a part of the College’s journalism program. Hillsdale’s talk-radio station offers students opportunities to cultivate their creativity, develop technical skills, connect with the community, and participate in national awards competitions, all while furthering the mission of the College. Station Manager Scot Bertram, who joined the fledgling station in January 2016, has made it his mission to get students involved in a one-of-a-kind college radio station.

Scot shares that, growing up, “radio was the only thing I ever wanted to do.” He attended North Central College where he was involved in radio, hosting music, sports, and news shows. His senior year, Scot interned with ESPN 1000 in Chicago and got a job in sports radio after graduation. He worked in a variety of positions there—producing, anchoring, and reporting. Scot also worked in news radio in Rockford, Illinois. He came to Hillsdale with the skills to build Radio Free Hillsdale into a thriving enterprise.

“The opportunity to build a station and work with students was very appealing to me,” Scot shares. After growing and learning so much during his own college radio experience, he saw the opportunity to give Hillsdale students a similar environment. While not all students involved with the station pursue radio after college, he notes that “the skills that they learn translate into a number of professions, be that teaching, practicing law, public speaking, or writing speeches.” Jane O’Connor, a Hillsdale junior involved in radio, agrees. With an interest in film, she credits “the station with developing my interests and understanding of the technical side of radio. It is also giving me the tools to pursue the technical aspects of film. A lot of the skills do transfer.”

“The interest in the station, especially early on, is more than I would have expected,” shares Scot. This has boosted the station’s visibility and helped it grow as it airs more student-produced content. Scot wants to have as much student-created programming as possible and encourages students with ideas to get involved. “My role is to help figure out the best way to translate an idea into a show that suits radio,” he says. “Some shows are short-form, and some are longer, so we take the passion and knowledge of the student and help give it the form to succeed.” With Scot’s mentorship, a number of student shows on the station have earned national awards from the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System, College Broadcasters Incorporated, and more. Already in 2021, 12 Hillsdale students and recent graduates were named finalists in these competitions. Previously, the station was named College Radio Station of the Year in 2019 by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters.

Jane shares that Radio Free Hillsdale provides a “really encouraging environment” for students, where peers can support each other in their achievements. She has made a number of friends through radio who she would not have otherwise met. They remain close, even after some have graduated, by collaborating on podcasts and other projects.

Radio Free Hillsdale also provides a unique opportunity to connect with the greater Hillsdale community. Scot shares that the station receives more “phone calls and emails from local residents than the students might think. I hope that the station can be a good access-point between the community and the College.”

If you’re in Hillsdale, you can find Radio Free Hillsdale at 101.7 FM. Outside of town, you can listen on SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Amazon Podcasts by looking up WRFH Radio Free Hillsdale.

Elena NaborowskiElena Naborowski, ’22, is a Junior majoring in English with a minor in General Business. She is involved in Kappa Kappa Gamma, Hillsdale Felines and Friends, and hopes to one day work in marketing.

Published in January 2021