The New Collegiate Sound
Check out this digital exhibit about the history of Villanova Radio from Falvey Library's Distinctive Collections department.
Villanova radio expands its reach,
attracting new audiences and accolades
There's renewed energy in the WXVU studio on the second floor of Dougherty Hall, home to Villanova’s own radio station: 89.1 The Roar. Newly soundproofed and painted, the studio’s equipment was recently upgraded to include a state-of-the-art mixer, editing software, a soundboard and new computers. In the hallway, a digital sign gives station information.
It’s an incredible hands-on learning opportunity for the 50 or so dedicated students behind the mic and behind the scenes who keep the station spinning in the right direction with their commitment to building camaraderie with listeners in unique ways.
“There is this misconception that college radio is dead, but it’s very much alive and thriving on this campus,” says Deena Leh, MEd, who served as assistant director for Student Media Programs until March 2023.
For the first time in Villanova history, WXVU is running a 24/7 lineup of shows. The station launched its full-time FM signal in August 2022, after renewing a license with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The University, with the support of a donor, acquired Cabrini University’s half of a time-share agreement that was in place since 1991. And thanks to streaming technology, WXVU is now reaching a global audience—with listeners tuning in from as many as 90 different countries some months.
“People are noticing WXVU for a variety of reasons,” says Leh, who has a background in audio production. “WXVU is producing a slate of podcasts, creating impactful content through new academic collaborations, and helping students master multimedia tools and grow.”
The station airs more than 30 programs hosted by Villanova undergraduate and graduate students, staff and faculty that run the gamut from a wide array of musical selections—hip-hop, country, classic rock, alternative—to commentary on sports, movies, pop culture, current events and politics.
Their efforts in creating all of this professional-level programming haven’t gone unnoticed: In February, the station’s partnership with the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing resulted in the first-place award from the 84th Annual Intercollegiate Broadcasting System Conference for Best Public Affairs Program. The station was a finalist in five categories, including Best Collegiate Station. With a membership of over 1,000 nonprofit, education-affiliated radio stations and webcasters, the organization honors the works of students and stations in the United States and abroad.
“WXVU is going through a renaissance of sorts,” says the station’s music director Christopher Cokinos ’24 CLAS. “Everybody here is really dedicated to making the station a go-to resource on campus so this is an important transition period.”
The fate of WXVU could have played out much differently if it weren’t for an unexpected partnership that developed in 2018 between the station and the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing. It revitalized WXVU and opened new pathways for radio programming.
Associate Professor and Inaugural Director of WXV&U Health Carol Toussie Weingarten, PhD, RN, ANEF, saw untapped potential in the radio station as a new clinical placement setting for a senior practicum she teaches called Health Promotion and Community Health. After receiving the greenlight for her idea from Director of Student Involvement JJ Brown, Dr. Weingarten’s Nursing students began to use WXVU to promote public health, well-being and safety through nurse-created podcasts and public service announcements about those topics.
“It was a great opportunity to blend academics and the work of a student organization,” Dr. Weingarten says. “It was evident from the start the unique synergy between the Nursing students who had no experience with radio production and the WXVU team who offered their complete support.”
From the initial small group of seven Nursing students in 2018, Health Promotion and Community Health has expanded to include additional groups and health and well-being collaborations with others throughout the University. Podcasts and PSAs on topics ranging from student mental health, stress relief and COVID safety to human trafficking have been produced.
Their talents and hard work were soon lauded. They were recognized for excellence in content, production quality and innovative use of audio in the podcast. An episode titled “Stop the Stigma: Student Athlete Mental Health,” developed by then Nursing seniors Keely Reardon ’22 FCN, Claire Barrett ’22 FCN and Emma Lovejoy ’22 FCN, earned third place in the Best Podcast category of the 2022 College Media Association’s Apple Awards. This was the first time Villanova nurses had a podcast submitted to this national conference, and the accolade validated the impact and importance of what they were doing.
“It was evident from the start the unique synergy between the Nursing students who had now experience with radio production and the WXVU team who offered their complete support.”
Carol Toussie Weingarten, PhD, RN, ANEF
In 2021, Dr. Weingarten was awarded an opportunity to expand this creative approach to teaching nurses beyond her clinical practicum. The Villanova Institute for Teaching and Learning offers a Faculty Associate Program, which allows faculty members to spend a semester working on a project that has the potential to enrich teaching and learning at Villanova.
Taking on the very first faculty associate position within the radio station in fall 2021, Dr. Weingarten used the semester to work with WXVU colleagues to establish a new department within the radio station called WXV&U Health, a partnership between WXVU and the Fitzpatrick College of Nursing in collaboration with the Office of Health Promotion. It is the first nurse-led health and well-being department in FCC-licensed college radio.
This dedicated department of WXVU produces podcasts and public service announcements that evolve from an ongoing campus assessment of health promotion needs conducted by the Fitzpatrick College of Nursing and the Office of Health Promotion. They also develop original health-related programming for radio broadcast and streaming, and possibly even syndication.
One of those programs won a golden microphone trophy for Best Public Affairs Program by the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System. In her podcast Ring the Alarm—Human Trafficking, the station’s first Nursing graduate student Alexandra Hudson ’22 MSN, a practicing emergency department nurse, shares information about how nurses can recognize and report suspected human trafficking victims. “The partnership Nursing has with our radio station is really distinctive,” says Dr. Weingarten. “We’re building a strong educational experience for students and faculty, and scholarship that includes research, professional presentations and publications.” WXV&U Health envisions health and well-being programming that includes expertise from diverse academic and co-curricular groups, including music and theatre arts.
In support of this important work, WXV&U Health has hired Nick Langan ’20 CPS, ’22 MS as WXV&U Health operations manager. Their first undergraduate research assistant, Mandy Love Ledbetter ’26 FCN, who matched with them through Villanova’s Freshman Research Program, is helping with a research project looking at health programming and nursing presence in FCC-licensed collegiate radio stations.
Looking to build on the momentum of the success of this unique partnership with Villanova Nursing, WXVU has been actively seeking to partner with other people and organizations on campus and in the local community.
Recently, as part of an English journalism course she teaches, Kate Szumanski ‘95 CLAS, ‘97 MA, director of Professional Development, built several studio sessions into the curriculum for students to create podcasts. The Office of Undergraduate Admission and the Department of Computing Sciences both have worked with the WXVU team to produce podcasts about who they are and what they do.
And WXVU team members are forging relationships across the community by running contests in conjunction with The Refectory restaurant and with Ardmore Music Hall in the neighboring town of Ardmore, Pa. “We’re here to amplify all the great things Villanova has to offer,” says Langan. “But it’s important to remember that for us to thrive it’s vital to capitalize on community partnerships.”
Before assuming his new role as WXV&U Health operations manager, Langan served as operations manager for WXVU from 2019 to 2022. A self-described radio fanatic, Langan played an instrumental role in training students to use the equipment and helping them find their voices on the air. “Spreading excitement for radio to students who might think it’s a thing of the past is what’s most rewarding,” he says.
That excitement is palpable in the studio, with people from all areas of the University dropping in and out to record their shows, practice their digital media skills and work on podcast productions.
The space is divided into three rooms—one part of the studio is for podcast recording, a larger area is for radio broadcasts, and the third room has computers used for editing. A shimmering tribute to the past, a large bulletin board covered in CDs once played on WXVU, decorates one wall.
Since the early 2000s, the station has used an automated playout software system to execute a scheduled playlist of content that includes live or recorded shows/programs, ad breaks and PSAs.
“It’s been immensely rewarding to be a part of something so fantastic that serves the Villanova community,” says Allison Bajada ’23 CLAS, who rose in the ranks from DJ to the business director and ultimately station manager after joining WXVU in her freshman year.
Allison is not only grateful for the new skills she has acquired but also for how the experience has shaped her as she prepares for her next chapter, which begins in Greece this fall as the recipient of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship. “I’m a more confident person,” she says. “I’m a better problem-solver, a better speaker, and better at figuring things out on the fly—all things that will be translatable after I graduate.”
The students at WXVU are encouraged to add their opinions to the airwaves, to be creative and to make meaningful connections with their listeners. “WXVU is not just doing one format—student team members are allowed to let their creativity run free and the results are phenomenal,” Leh says. “WXVU is empowering students to perform their best by creating a sense of ownership in their work.”
It’s an approach that has produced a wide variety of compelling content. While WXVU’s listenership is at its highest during live broadcasts of Villanova basketball games, audiences are also growing around new programs such as the first-ever tapings of concerts from the Mullen Center for the Performing Arts and a smooth jazz format on nights and weekends on WXVU that have found a following beyond campus. Another popular addition is an hourlong Friday morning show called The Morning Roar, which features a team of high-energy Villanovans chatting about the week’s news and goings-on.
Looking back, all they have accomplished is a validation of the vision, effort and perseverance of everyone involved in this college radio station. “WXVU has transformed into a powerhouse of collaborators,” says Leh. “Students want to be at WXVU because it provides the Villanova experience and helps prepare them to achieve their goals in life.” ■