Anabella Poland ’20 MBA took the reins of WMSC 90.3 FM, Montclair’s Alternative Rock & Talk Student Radio Station, in 2015 and has strengthened the University’s presence on the air waves, day by day.
“When I came on board as the station’s general manager, morning programming was limited to three hours, once a week,” she recalls. “Today, our flagship morning talk show, ‘The Morning Buzz,’ runs two hours per day during the fall and spring semester and one hour per day in the summer. The show also airs live on Hawk+, the School of Communication and Media’s streaming platform.”
The university radio community is taking notice of the station’s quality and growing impact. In 2022, WMSC earned first place in four Intercollegiate Broadcasting System (IBS) award categories including Best Special Broadcast, Best Show Promos, and Best Celebrity or Artist/Band Interview, as well as 13 finalist awards, including the National Broadcasters Association Marconi Award. Already in 2023, the station has been nominated for 13 finalist categories, ranging from Best Radio Drama and Best News Director to Best College Station in the Nation (among universities of more than 10,000 students).
As a university-based radio initiative, however, WMSC is – and must be – more than an award-winning radio station. “Radio offers so many opportunities for learning beyond the classroom,” Poland says. “It is 365-days a year and many students stay with WMSC for their entire time at Montclair. I work with the students who are our on-air talent, and also with those who run the many different sides of the radio business, such as production, social media, engineering, programming, FCC compliance, and more.”
“Students develop an understanding of the structure of a show,” Poland continues. “Programming covers everything from politics to sports. Current events teach them to create content from challenging topics. Semester-long ‘Focus’ programs involve a deeper dive into subjects. For example, a ‘Focus Fashion’ series covers fashion history as well as the industry’s inroads into accessibility and sustainability.”
The station’s offerings cross disciplines and play with the boundaries between information and entertainment. “We have a career services program called ‘Manual or Automatic: What Gears are Driving Your Career,’ as well as ‘Dr. K’s Vinyl Fantasy Funhouse,’ a music program hosted by President Koppell. Many of the station’s programs can be found as podcasts as well, on platforms such as Spotify.
Poland’s role at Montclair extends well past radio programming. She is a mentor for the students involved in radio and serves as an adjunct professor, designing the University’s first-ever podcast production course in 2016, which covers content strategy, journalism and radio production.
Poland came to Montclair with significant experience as director of Talent and Industry Relations at Sirius XM Radio, Inc. and associate segment producer and entertainment associate segment producer for ABC News – “Good Morning America.” She has, for more than 20 years, served as a USA correspondent for El Exprimidor, an award-winning radio show based in Buenos Aires. For several years, she served as a community advisory board member of WFUV, the radio station at Fordham University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Media Studies with a concentration in Journalism and a minor in Visual Arts. In 2020-21 she presided over College Radio Day.
More recently, Poland founded and serves as president of College Radio News Network, an organization that facilitates collaborations between college stations around the world, and in 2023 she was named president of College Broadcasters, Inc. (CBI), a member-driven organization serving students and advisors of college and high school electronic media outlets. “I am already working on streamlining programming and operations at CBI,” she says, noting that the organization hosts a comprehensive annual conference as well as virtual workshops.
Even though Poland was more than prepared for her role at Montclair, there came a time when she felt it was important to broaden her education. Rather than pursue a master’s degree in a communication-related field, she opted for Montclair’s MBA program. “I already had a lot of career experience in communications,” she explains. “I wanted more of a challenge, something that would present me with a healthy learning curve. With an MBA, I would become one of a handful of professionals with a deep understanding of both the creative and business sides of the industry.”
She immediately found ways to put her growing knowledge into practice. “I had good intuition when it came to making business decisions, but now I am able to back those choices with a solid analysis of data,” Poland says. “I have always had a good eye for seeing what’s next on the industry’s horizon, and now I have a more informed strategy behind what we are doing. This strengthens my ability to align the mission of the radio station with the mission of the University.”
“The MBA program also made me more aware of areas where I could improve, and showed me how to make those improvements,” Poland continues. “For example, I learned about leadership styles and structures, and new strategies for motivating teams. When I implemented some of them, such as building consensus and creating hierarchies, we were able to accomplish more.”
While a student at Montclair, Poland also earned induction into Sigma Alpha Pi, the National Society for Leadership and Success.
With Poland at the helm, WMSC has become an engaging, highly visible part of the Montclair campus. While she appreciates the station’s contributions to building community at the University, she is also deeply aware of the value that a media initiative of this scope brings to the students who are involved in it.
“The students at WMSC come from a wide variety of majors, and they volunteer year-round,” she says. “Moments become lessons. The station is a safe space where they can make tough decisions, and occasionally fail. What they learn here will stay with them throughout their careers, whatever they decide to do.”
Poland enjoys keeping in contact with students after they graduate, often engaging them in supporting the next generation of station volunteers through efforts like the Excellence in Radio Scholarship. “Students don’t get paid for their work for WMSC, nor do they earn college credit,” she says. “This is a tangible way for alumni to help.”
“More and more, we are enrolling students who are choosing Montclair because of WMSC,” Poland adds. “I advise every one of them to take advantage of what the station offers them in terms of personal and professional development and to make use of every benefit available at the University. There are so many things at Montclair that are ready and waiting to help students succeed.”