Alumni Voices

Tuned into Teaching

The resounding success of a WXOU Radio Station alum and adviser

A man working a radio board

College of Arts and Sciences

icon of a calendarMarch 5, 2024

icon of a pencilBy Emily Morris

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Chasing the sound of Blue Suede Shoes — a four-man high school band — swayed Martin “Marty” Shafer, CAS ’11 and ’14, SEHS ’20, toward Oakland University. But, while Marty Shafer and the Blue Suede Shoes ultimately didn’t stay together, his passion for music was amplified through his OU studies and the WXOU Radio Station.

“Initially, I wanted to stay close by for the band, but there was more that made me stick around,” Shafer says. “Going to WXOU was one of the first things I did at OU.”

With no radio experience, Shafer strolled into the WXOU radio station solely based on a recommendation from his brothers’ friends, fellow OU students, who’d already begun developing a radio show there. Shafer recorded a musical demo tape his first year, and from that moment on, “the rest is history,” he says.

Intercepting Airwaves

While his high school band eventually became a memory, his enthusiasm for music continued throughout Shafer’s OU journey. His voice boomed through the Oakland Center hallways, bouncing through local radios set to 88.3 every Friday night in the early 2000s.

Eventually, his experiences solidified his studies, and Shafer graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communication in 2011. “At first, I just started taking classes, and I switched majors a bit,” Shafer says. “I was becoming more and more involved with the radio station, explored some communication classes, and I just thought, ‘I really like this; it’s just fun.’”

Tuning into his communication degree and his years of radio training, Shafer went on to earn a master’s degree in communication in 2014 and an Education Specialist: Organizational Leadership Certificate in 2020.

On OU’s frequency, Shafer was offered a teaching role during his graduate studies. He continues to teach today as a special lecturer in communication and media studies, as well as serves as a WXOU adviser. The radio station that guided his OU journey was now under his guidance.

“You just have to stick with it,” Shafer explains. “I’ve learned what it means to be a leader and take on a program … and make sure it succeeds.”

Shafer has also made his mark on the community as the radio station manager at Avondale High School. The WAHS 89.5 radio station doubles as a school and community station, inviting people of all ages and backgrounds to project their voices.

“A lot of this has been a passion project,” Shafer says. “Initially, the school just wanted to get into the community more, and I put out the call. If you want to do a radio show, I’ll train you. Everyone is welcome.”

And the community answered. “We have accountants, graphic designers, sales folk, construction workers, all kinds of people with radio shows,” he continues.

Encouraging Voices

By mentoring people of all ages, Shafer often weaves throughout his mentees’ lives. He’s had the opportunity to guide students from high school to university and sometimes further. “I would not be where I am today without him,” says Drew Marczewski, former WXOU general manager. “Marty taught me how to keep a cool head under stressful conditions, how to facilitate workplace communication effectively and, most importantly, how to make people dance.”

Always open to being a listening ear or a radio voice, Shafer has become a community pillar, from students needing guidance throughout their lives to emerging radio hobbyists finding their sound.

Shafer encourages anyone he guides to “lead and go very far on their own,” explains Caitlin Flora, former WXOU general manager. “But he always has their back when needed.”

Starting with his demo cassette tape during his first year, Shafer has watched community radio evolve into a digital world, giving him an archive of experience. “I always encourage people to try something outside their comfort zone,” he says. “The field naturally changes over time, and there’s also so much available. Anyone can produce a show.”

Radio shows under his guidance have involved live audio, cassettes, records, CDs and streaming. Keeping up with a range of technology allows him to bend to the preferences of anyone he’s teaching and ensure their specific sound is heard.

“I love watching people grow, develop a unique brand, and create a following over time,” Shafer says. “I just want to help people get to the point where they realize they have something special, and radio is something that can highlight it.”

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