CHLOE SFERRA, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus—Everyone has a dream coming into college but getting from Point A to Point B can be a lot more difficult than we anticipate.
With several alumni on campus, this past weekend reminds us of the reality of post-grad but there was one alum that reminded students why they came to school in the first place.
The dedication of the Michael D. Eisner Center for Performing Arts brought many enthusiastic alumni back to campus, one of which was Chicago-based radio host Roe Conn ‘86.
Conn graduated in 1986 with a degree in Anthropology and a passion for radio.
While at Denison, he worked at the WDUB “The Doobie,” Denison’s radio station on Saturday nights and immediately looked for a broadcasting job after graduation.
“I applied for probably one hundred jobs but I couldn’t get into the business,” Conn told a group of students invited to have lunch with him through the Knowlton Center for Career Exploration.
“It’s about showing up: put in the work and physically be there and that’s how you make your own opportunity.”
“It was a phenomenal opportunity to have Roe Conn on campus, not just for Denisonians involved in the Doobie, but a wider population of aspiring authors, publicists, musicians, and critical thinkers who were able to engage with him through discussion and asking poignant questions,” said WDUB station manager Rachel Weaver ‘20, an art history visual culture and environmental studies double major from Nashville, Tennessee.
“This is just one example of alumni engagement being a foot in the door for students or giving them advice on how to succeed in a competitive field.”
Conn currently works under ABC on WGN radio in Chicago with a show from 3-7 p.m., as well as appears on televised news programs.
However, Conn says he had years of hosting at undesirable times, low pay and difficulty in the industry before he reached his current level of success, and his visit reminds students to go for what it is they desire.
“Say what you want,” Conn said of interview questions.
“Don’t look for the answer that you think the interviewer wants. Say exactly what it is that you hope to accomplish.
If your goal is to publish a book, say that, and let that drive your career.” Conn told students about several friends who have successful careers but always say they wished they followed their passion.
One piece of advice was to not back down when a job on your ideal career path gets too difficult. There’s always room to grow.
“When I was at Denison I got a ‘D’ in political science and now I talk about politics for a living, which I find kind of funny but my political science professor doesn’t find too funny,” Conn joked. His show often talks about the current political climate with a strong dedication to protecting truth in media.
This was also a topic of conversation on Conn’s guest talk show at the WDUB following lunch. Conn invited Denison political science professor Paul Djupe to join this 40-minute show.
Conn was inspired to host this conversation after reading an article Djupe wrote by chance.
Realizing the author was a Denison professor, Conn made the connection easily.
A few minutes into the show it became clear how Conn’s passion drives his work.
He seamlessly popped in and out of questions for Djupe, keeping Djupe both relaxed and nervously fidgeting his hands.
Conn’s strategy was to circle around different topics to get a variety of Djupe’s answers. Conn can have an interesting live show but then edit the audio into a cohesive interview to post online.
Like any experienced radio host, Conn remained in control of the entire interview, and you would never know what he really believed from listening to him on-air.
To be more clear, Conn was very good at balancing his own opinions and maintaining unbiased in his interview. he often pushed back on Djupe’s answers, despite being a fan of his political writing.
It is a lesson in public speaking and media personality that any student can benefit from listening to, particularly the current DJs of Denison’s radio station.
“We were thankful to have an awarded DJ alumnae back in the booth to show us how many doors our little community can open,” says Weaver.
Weaver is part of the team that organized Conn’s visit.
“Personally, I have been lucky enough to have been in contact with Roe over the last year, and his insight to the broadcasting field helped me to gain a position at my dream internship at a local radio station in Nashville this past summer.”
Djupe too noted how impressed he was by Conn’s skill level as a broadcaster, speaking to the ease of listening and speaking he seemed to portray.
Conn is a reminder to students that the end of college is the start of whatever you want to do.
Conn left Denison as an eager graduate interested in broadcasting, and returned as an established DJ and anticipated alumni.
In the words of Conn himself: now what do you want to do?