Best Collegiate Radio Station: Wildcat 91.9 receives national recognition

Wildcat 91.9 is Kansas State's student-run radio station. It station has been named the best college radio station in the nation. (Avery Johnson | Collegian Media Group)

Editor’s note: Added credit to the story’s video from Avery Johnson.

Kansas State’s student radio station, KSDB-FM 91.9, received national recognition by winning several 2022-23 Intercollegiate Broadcasting System media awards Feb. 25.

“We got … Best College/University [Radio] Station with over 10,000 students,” Dawson Wagner, news director and programming director for Wildcat 91.9, said. “That alone is kind of the main award that the majority of colleges with over 10,000 students are really working for with all their programming and all their award submissions. Then, there’s the Abraham and Borst Award. So, the Abraham and Borst award is the best overall station in the nation award … it’s a station that’s able to embody every single facet of broadcasting whether that be sports, news, promotions, PSAs, specialty shows, dramas, comedies and music.”

Andrew Smith, A.Q. Miller School of Media and Communication professor of practice and co-founder of Wildcat Electronic Media, said K-State was up against other Power Five schools, some of which have a better reputation for media than K-State.

“It’s unprecedented here. … It’s kind of like going into March Madness and winning the national championship,” Smith said. “We’re up against everybody.”

Ian Punnett, chief operator and faculty advisor for Wildcat 91.9, said he sees the value of awards for the radio station.

“Awards could lead to funding and the more you get your name out there, the more you become sort of a player at a certain level,” Punnett, A.Q. Miller School of Media and Communication professor of practice, said. “We put a big emphasis — when I got here — on, we’re gonna put our best foot forward all the time, and it’s always going to be about recognition for what we’ve done right, and a willingness to measure ourselves against what other people are doing around the country.”

Wagner said he, along with Kolby Van Camp, graduate student in mass communication, received awards from IBS. Van Camp won Best Graduate Assistant and Wagner won Best News Feature Story.

“That was a Ukrainian student that I interviewed, and his name was Volodymyr Kavetskyi,” Wagner said. “He gave me a background on his family and kind of the things that he’s gone through over the last year, and I was able to do a feature story over him as an agronomy student at K-State from Ukraine.” 

Wagner said the IBS comprises more than 1,000 nonprofit education-affiliated radio stations and webcasters.

“We’ve submitted for the IBS awards for the last, you know, five, six years … and we’ve had individual winners here and there, but it wasn’t until this year when we’ve really been able to step up our game with the amount of things we’ve been programming at the station to really showcase how far we’ve come as a radio station,” Wagner said. “I think that’s why we ultimately won the awards that we did.”

Wagner said one thing that helps Wildcat 91.9 stand out is their neurodiversity campaign.

“We had over 50 different students create their own individual public service announcement, highlighting neurodiversity resources or talking about their own experiences with neurodiversity, or maybe interviewing somebody who’s neurodiverse and having them share their experience,” Wagner said. “And really diving into what neurodiversity is and how people either can get help, or the benefits that they can have from being open about neurodiversity instead of hindering them, is what that campaign was all about bringing awareness to. And so, I think that’s one of the things that the judges took into consideration.”

Punnett said another piece of Wildcat 91.9’s success is due to the number of women they have on the air.

“The kind of shows that they do often are much more talk than music oriented,” Punnett said. “And so they talk about the, kind of, the female K-State experience on the air, and that just sounds great. We just love it.”

(Avery Johnson | Collegian Media Group)

Wagner said some other highlights from the year include behind the scenes content from the Big 12 Championship Game, highlighting local bands and airing specialty shows about topics such as Dungeons & Dragons and Black History Month.

“It’s quite a range,” Wagner said. “From sports, to music, to movie reviews.”

Smith said Wildcat 91.9 is a reflection of K-State.

“It’s not A.Q. Miller School of Media and Communication — it’s Kansas State,” Smith said. “So we have people from the music department, from film, from ag, from business, from architecture, from all over the place. Even if this isn’t your specialty and … you want the experience, you can get it, and I think that that’s unique.”