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May 11, 2017
A new series airing this spring on Northwest Missouri State University’s award-winning National Public Radio affiliate, KXCV-KRNW, shares the stories of students living with disabilities – both visible and invisible – and it is the product of a Northwest student and his faculty advisor.
“Students with Stories,” the seven-week series, premiered April 26 and airs each Wednesday at 9:06 a.m. and 6 p.m. on the station at 88.9 and 90.5 FM. Fred Lamer, assistant professor of mass media at Northwest, served as executive producer on the project and Tom Taylor, a recent Northwest graduate, was its producer. Dr. Theo Ross, a professor of theatre at Northwest, provides the introduction and closing for each program.
The series features Northwest students who have disabilities that include attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Asperger's syndrome, a hearing impairment and a genetic connective tissue disorder called Ehlers Danlos syndrome.
“One of the themes across all of the podcasts is, understandably, people just want to be treated like everybody else,” Lamer said. “We all have certain issues. Some disabilities require treatment. If somebody’s visibly impaired, there has to be some accommodations. But if somebody has attention deficit disorder, that impinges in the classroom, and faculty and the support group need to be aware of it, and there might need to be certain accommodations. Otherwise, they are a student like any other student.”
The idea for the series took shape after Lamer served on a University committee for reviewing access and accommodations for students with disabilities. He was startled by a statistic that indicated Northwest’s enrollment included more than 300 students with some type of disability – the majority of which are so-called invisible disabilities, such as depression or PTSD.
Last fall, with an interest in raising awareness about the issue, Lamer approached Taylor about developing the series to earn some profession-based experience along with some academic credits. Taylor is passionate about audio production and hopes to launch a career in radio or the production field.
“This was the best opportunity I could have asked for because, not only did I get an opportunity to further enhance my abilities and my skills as an audio engineer, I got to learn more about scheduling and appointments, everything that went into the execution, all the logistics,” Taylor said. “I think it has really prepared me for my career.”
The series is formatted in short audio episodes, lasting about two or three minutes each, and features a Northwest student conversing with a friend or family member about their disability.
“That’s a big part of the problem,” Lamer said. “A lot of people, unless you’ve had first-hand experience, don’t know how to treat people with disabilities. They kind of shy away or are over accommodating. So I thought those two things dovetailed Tom’s interest and expertise in audio along with the need to raise awareness about these issues and, hence, ‘Students with Stories’ was born.”
The format called for Taylor to record lengthy conversations for each pairing and then edit the conversations to shape the stories for a radio audience. In the early stages of the project, Taylor logged 10 to 15 hours a week in planning and conducting pre-interviews with prospective subjects for the series.
“I really listened as to what they were telling, what sentiments they were expressing,” Taylor said. “Some people had different struggles, and other people were trying to explain what they’ve encountered. It was trying to stay true to what they were trying to tell and what they were communicating from their experiences.”
Taylor, of Kansas City, Missouri, completed his bachelor’s degree this spring at Northwest in mass media with an emphasis in broadcast production. While at Northwest, Taylor served one year on the School of Communication and Mass Media’s radio practicum executive board and worked at KXCV-KRNW for three years, including time on the air.
In addition to airing on KXCV-KRNW, previous episodes of “Students with Stories” are accessible on the station’s website at www.kxcv.org/programs/students-with-stories.htm. KXCV-KRNW also plans to air the series again in the fall.
Lamer and Taylor hope future students may continue “Students with Stories” by producing additional episodes that explore other topics.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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