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NU Student Worked in Radio; Now He Wants to Save It

This is the first in a series of posts spotlighting new students in Northwestern’s Master of Science in Leadership for Creative Enterprises program.

By Jacob Nelson

As an undergraduate, Zach Silva loved programming for WNUR, Northwestern’s student-run radio station. He enjoyed the opportunity his roles as programming director and news director gave him to learn the ins and outs of working in radio.

But that doesn’t mean he had any misconceptions of the station’s popularity.

“We’re the connection between the Associated Press and five Chicagoland residents,” Silva joked about WNUR, “because nobody really listens to the radio anymore.”

Silva’s planning to challenge that trend. He recently graduated from Northwestern’s communication studies program, with a minor in legal studies. This fall, he will begin Northwestern’s new MS in Leadership for Creative Enterprises, a one year program designed to help students develop the business skills and industry contacts needed to thrive in a creative environment. He’s hoping that the program will give him the skills he needs to pursue a career in either radio marketing or artist development. Part of that pursuit means trying to get listeners to tune into radio in a media climate that is rapidly shifting toward digital audio services like Spotify and Last.fm.

“[Radio stations] are trying to find a way to give [listeners] something Pandora can’t, but it’s really difficult,” Silva said. “Media is becoming more transient.”

Silva first grew interested in the MS in Leadership for Creative Enterprises after an undergraduate trip to London organized by EPICS, an office within the School of Communication. The trip included meetings with executives from NBC Universal, the consulting firm Deloitte and the ad agency Ogilvy & Mather, and gave Silva a glimpse into the networking possibilities and practical skills he could take advantage of if he applied to the master’s program.

“That kind of professional trip is now being embodied in this year-long program, which I think is great,” Silva said. “It fills that missing link that I think really would help communication studies students in pursuing positions in the media industries.”

Silva is looking forward to learning the basics of finance, legal and marketing matters as they relate to creative industries during the next year. As the world of media increases, Silva thinks creative industries like radio will need to figure out ways to stand out among consumers. He hopes that’s where his interest in marketing will prove to be an asset.

“You don’t sit down and throw on a record anymore, you have your Spotify playlist playing in the background,” Silva said. “That’s what the creative industries are working toward.”