Cura Personalis: John Devecka
WLOY Radio operations manager John Devecka got his start in broadcasting while earning his undergraduate degree at Bucknell University. It marked a major detour from his major in history and Asian studies, but he knew he’d found the right fit.
Devecka began his career designing custom broadcasting equipment—including systems for two Olympic games—before a chance meeting led to his 10 years of service at Loyola.
Many of his student employees have gone on to successful careers in broadcasting and other fields armed with a commitment to community service honed through their work with programs Devecka has spearheaded, including Both Feet In, a radio show on homelessness, and Word on the Street, a nonprofit newspaper led by people who have experienced homelessness.
How did you become interested in communications?
About 60 hours a week at my college radio station! I got involved at WVBU at Bucknell and it was just too much fun. That’s how I ended up at LPB Communications, a broadcasting equipment manufacturer. I spent 12 years doing everything from designing college radio stations to audio translation systems for the ’96 and ’02 Olympics. It was a great experience where I got to travel all over the world, setting some broadcast records and developing patents in the process.
How did you make the switch to higher education?
Through these projects, I often gave presentations at college radio conferences on broadcasting equipment design for schools and it’s there that I met Fr. Michael Braden, a Jesuit and communication faculty member at the time. It was clear from my conversation with him that there was a real commitment to building professional facilities at Loyola and I ended up designing the WLOY studios through LPB. Loyola knew the value the facility would be to students in the long-term and that’s one of the reasons that made my decision to come here easy. I transitioned to operations manager in 2002.
What do you think the station’s role is in the campus community?
On a basic level, we’re a source for new music and free concerts. But we also provide a chance for the city to come onto campus through our outreach programs. These also let students build skills through giving back. There’s a Jesuit ideal at Loyola, sort of an intangible, which encourages moving outside of your comfort level. Shows like Both Feet In bring a reality to the campus about homelessness that can change both perceptions and actions.
How do you see WLOY as a teaching tool for developing students’ broadcasting skills?
It’s the ultimate experiential learning tool. One of my students has done everything from web design to field events. Another student interested in criminal justice is participating in Homeless Lobby Day in Annapolis with individuals from Word on the Street and Both Feet In. I find ways to bridge the students’ passions with opportunities. That’s how I see my role here.
How have you seen social media change the industry over the past decade?
It has completely adjusted the landscape. Most freshmen don’t have a radio. They’re streaming audio through online radio stations like WLOY and services like Pandora and Spotify. And we’ve seen amazing happenings come from our social media channels. We were giving away concert tickets on Twitter and six minutes later someone was in the studio to pick them up. You just couldn’t do that 10 years ago.
WLOY has won several awards from national broadcasting societies. What’s your recipe for success?
The students! I’d love to say it’s all me, but it’s not. I can offer them direction, but this station is for them to learn and grow. The awards we’re winning are for the things that are the most impactful. We’re not winning for “Best Music” but for “Best Community Involvement” and “Best Feature Show.” The students are seeing that reward for the programs that matter and that’s the positive feedback they need. Of course being placed in the Top 10 College Radio Stations in the country at the 2012 mtvU Woodie Awards was pretty great, too.
What kind of opportunities does the station provide?
Some students aren’t interested in being a DJ but instead want to develop skills in public relations and marketing. Whether they want to work with our children’s program, the homeless, or other community projects, we have a lot of options. Students who want to develop web content, do audio editing, or learn to produce live shows are equally supported. We have an alumnus who now works at PricewaterhouseCoopers as an accountant but still produces the Moldie Oldies show where he channels a classic ’60s AM DJ from New York. The field is so broad that it’s nice that as a facility we can accommodate any aspiration.
What’s on your wish list for WLOY?
I’d love to find some more space for performances with all the live bands that want to do in-studio shows with us. We’ve been invited to join iHeartRadio (a Clear Channel digital radio service) and I’d like to get that project going. I also want to do more integration of existing programs on campus, too. There are a lot of Center for Community Service and Justice programs that we complement and can highlight. We’ve been approached by some educators in the community with amazing opportunities for our students and the station. It’s all about continuing to find new opportunities on and off campus for students who are driven to succeed.
Read John Devecka’s favorite Baltimore venue, personal favorite band, and more here.