WVUM receives $150,000 for studio renovations

WVUM Station Manager Emmi Vélez sits inside the studio which broadcasts to the Miami-area and attracts an estimated 60,000 listeners. Photo credit: Kayla Haley
WVUM Renovation.jpg
WVUM Station Manager Emmi Vélez sits inside the studio which broadcasts to the Miami-area and attracts an estimated 60,000 listeners. Photo credit: Kayla Haley

WVUM 90.5 FM, the University of Miami’s student-run radio station, is celebrating its 50th anniversary of providing alternative tunes to the Miami community this year. And station managers recently got the perfect birthday present: $150,000 to renovate the station’s studios.

The station was approved for a complete overhaul of its two studios, one of which has been out of commission for years. WVUM has operated out of an office and two studios on the first floor of the Whitten University Center since 1999. The remodel will transform the broadcast and production studios from top to bottom: new floor, new paint, new furniture and new equipment.

Junior Emmi Vélez, WVUM general manager, said the remodel has been a goal of hers, but previous general managers have been hitting brick walls for years when it came down to funding. This year seemed to be the right time.

“The administration notices that we have been working hard for 50 years,” journalism and political science major Vélez said. “Also, we have just tried to be really persistent, and I think that was key.”

Vélez said the renovations are necessary because much of equipment is more than 40 years old.

“We are in dire need,” she said. “Sometimes the studio fails, and we are off the air and we really try to have WVUM be something very professional.”

Steven Priepke, senior associate dean of students and the financial adviser for WVUM, said the renovation is “long overdue.”

In 2015, WVUM’s office had a facelift, and the studio renovations are the next step in the process of modernization.

Priepke said the production studio has been out of commission for as long as he has been at the university.

Restoring the production studio will provide students the opportunity to double the work they are doing now, enabling the pre-recording of shows and interviews while other students are live on-air.

Vélez said the project is major for current and future WVUM staff as they continue to teach students live broadcasting skills to use in the professional world.

It all started when Vélez partnered with the operational engineers at WVUM and examined the studios top to bottom. After a complete walk-through, it was determined that nearly all of the equipment needed to be replaced. One of the new features will be a phone system to take calls from listeners. Previously, DJs and hosts could only take texts or calls off-air, but the new system will enhance audience engagement.

“I think that if you take pictures now … You will not be able to recognize any of the equipment in the studios once it is done,” Priepke said.

Priepke said the station has done a great job fundraising for the renovation. But since WVUM doesn’t have $150,000 up front, it is borrowing funds from the university, specifically from Student Affairs. WVUM will then pay the university back with the funds it earns as a non-profit over the next five years.

Junior neuroscience major Emmanuel Gorrin, host of “Get Smart,” a science talk show on WVUM, said the station has been at the core of his college experience.

“I am looking forward to the future and how we can grow and the different ways we can reach out to the community in Miami,” he said.

Renovations are set to start this month and are estimated to take three months. Both Priepke and Vélez said the goal is to have an official ribbon-cutting ceremony by the end of the spring 2018 semester, but it is contingent on the contractors and vendors.

During the remodel, WVUM will remain operational and on-air 24/7 for its estimated 60,000 listeners by renovating one studio at a time.

“I am excited to make this my legacy as general manager,” Vélez said. “I love this station so much and to be able to be the manager who made this renovation happen and to do it with an executive board that is so passionate about what they do is a dream.”