Sonoma State's KSUN is Where Students Find Their Voice

May 28, 2024

KSUN student managers and Gina Baleria, associate professor in the Department of Communication and Media Studies

The KSUN radio crew in the station

KSUN broadcasters audio editing their podcast

Sonoma State's KSUN Radio is more than just a college station; the online radio and podcast outlet is a community where students find their voice. Entirely student-produced and modeled after a professional radio station, KSUN teaches students about the broadcasting industry and often opens the door to internships and industry positions in broadcasting, media, communications, and related fields in Sonoma County and beyond.

"It helps you get comfortable talking freely and expressing yourself however you want," said Julia Zavala, SSU student manager of KSUN, about her radio podcast experience. 

Zavala said her involvement with KSUN increased her composure and confidence in public speaking, as well as her leadership skills. 

"It helped me overcome the fear of what people think of me. Most of the time, when you're on air, you're just going in blind. You don't know who is listening or on the other end. It helped me present in front of a real live audience," she said.

Jalen Jenkins, also a student manager at the station, usually produces a weekly music show, but late in spring 2024 started having conversations with faculty and other students during his on-air time slot. 

“It helped me to put my voice out there. I was so nervous, and my guests said they had a good time, and it helped me see how much people appreciate the experience and how much potential we have at the station,” Jenkins said. 

Gina Baleria, an associate professor in the Department of Communication and Media Studies and faculty advisor for KSUN, is no stranger to broadcast journalism. She was a broadcast journalist for many years before teaching, authored The Journalism Behind Journalism (Routledge 2021), and hosts the News in Context Podcast.

Baleria said she enjoys it when her students find their passion for live production. 

"I truly love watching them fall in love with radio and broadcasting," she said. 

Students are encouraged to step into leadership roles to produce and host their shows while learning the ins and outs of radio and podcasting through production, programming, promotions, and social media. 

"It's wonderful to watch them take ownership and care for the station, take it seriously, and come up with creative, cool ideas," Baleria said. 

With a 48 percent increase in streamed Spotify podcasts by Gen Z last year, it’s clear that music on the radio is not the only thing college students are interested in. 

"The relationship with music inside the radio audio space is slightly different than a few years ago," Baleria said. "We grew up listening to music and news radio, and this generation is listening to podcasts, so that's what the students want to emulate." 

Baleria said broadcasting on a college radio station also allows students to have discussions with people who have different perspectives and ideas.

"That's one of the values of having a radio and podcast station on college campuses – it provides students with critical assessment opportunities," she said. 

Baleria said KSUN is quintessentially a college station where the programming is exclusively created by students and operated for the purpose of training professional radio personnel. 

"The students are putting their heart and souls into their work," she said. "And it's a free-form college radio station, so every student gets to choose their show, the content, and who's on."

The KSUN team also is committed to the campus and the larger community. "I find there is a large focus on doing community-based shows," Baleria said. 

KSUN can be played in local establishments, and anyone interested can submit community PSAs. Baleria said getting the campus community more engaged in the station is one of her goals.

"It would just be great to get the campus more involved with the station, other departments, and other areas of campus. We would love to support the campus community more," she said. 

Jenkins said those interested in being on a show or curious about having their own show should contact the station. 

“We always want to get people in the studio and experience what it's like,” he said.  “There's a lot of open time during the week, so come and join us.”

Zavala's podcast, “Rest Rumors,” offers female and male perspectives on relationship challenges and airs from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays. When she is not doing talk radio, she manages the station's music between shows, inviting her colleagues to create playlists she can share over the air. 

The experience has been a great way to expand her music knowledge, and the podcasts have expanded her perspectives.  

"If you want to hear what the cool kids are doing now, you should listen to KSUN. I love it, and know you will too," Zavala said. 

Former SSU KSUN students can now be found at KSRO, Wine Country Radio, Sonoma Media Group, and across radio and broadcast outlets in the San Francisco Bay Area, Southern California, and beyond.

 - Krista Sherer, Strategic Communications Writer

Media Contact

Krista Sherer