Engineering_Success_at_Radio_Stations

schmitt shoots!!
Jurison
Alan Jurison, a sophomore in the School of Information Studies, sits at the disc jockey's board at Syracuse radio station WAQX-FM 95X. He is chief engineer and information systems manager for the station's owner, Pilot Communications.

Like many college students, Alan Jurison holds down a job in addition to his full-time studies. The School of Information Studies sophomore works for Pilot Communications, which owns four radio stations in Syracuse, two in nearby Cortland, New York, and eight in three Maine cities. But the 20-year-old has a bit more responsibility than the average working student—as chief engineer and information systems manager, he spends more than 40 hours a week designing and maintaining computer systems for all Pilot stations. "It's rarely dull," he says. "This summer I went to Maine, where we upgraded the stations' software and hardware to be Y2K compliant."
      Jurison has worked with computers since he was a first-grader. As a teen he started his own network of computer bulletin board services, which were widely used before the advent of the World Wide Web. He was 15 when he began working as an intern for WNTQ 93Q, a popular Syracuse FM station. An avid listener, Jurison often called in to chat with disc jockey Rob "The Ragman" Wagman. "I wrote him a program that tallied all his phone calls and requests for a nightly countdown show called 'The 9 at 9,'" he says. "I came in one night to install it, and he liked it and asked if I wanted to be an intern. I said what the heck." Jurison worked with Wagman for a year, learning how to run the studio equipment. "Occasionally I'd go on the air with him, tell jokes and stuff like that. It was a lot of fun."
      Jurison continued working part-time at the station, writing software programs and servicing its computers. He was there when Pilot Communications bought the station in 1995, and helped move the 93Q studios from Old Stonehouse Road in DeWitt, New York, to the company's James Street facility in Syracuse, where all four local stations operate. "We had to take apart the broadcast equipment, move it to James Street, then put it all back together," he says. "That was interesting, and it was my first taste of something beyond computers. I already knew how to run the equipment; now I know how all the pieces fit together. It was like a three-month crash course on how everything is interfaced."
      By the end of the project, Jurison had helped build five studios and thoroughly understood how each piece of equipment worked. When Pilot's chief engineer left in 1996, the company didn't have to look far for a replacement. At the end of his sophomore year at Fayetteville-Manlius High School, Jurison took over as chief engineer, working closely with operations manager Dave Edwards. "We work as a team," Jurison says. "He has been an engineer for quite some time, but was not as well-versed in computers as I was. So we traded off: I taught him computers and he taught me things I didn't know about radio."
      Jurison regularly logged 40-hour weeks at Pilot, working on weekends and for five or six hours after school each day. He followed a similar schedule during his first year at SU. "I'd go to classes and then to work for several hours a day, go home and do my schoolwork, and go to bed," he says. "Since I had started working there in high school, they were already pretty flexible about my needs. When college began I actually started working more, because I wasn't locked up from 7 to 3 every day in the same building."
      Jurison, who is majoring in information management and technology, likes the program because it allows him to go beyond the core subjects as much or as little as he chooses. For instance, he enjoys taking electives in writing and government. While much of what he's studying is familiar, he says, the theories he is learning are invaluable supplements to his on-the-job experience. "Many people say I don't need the degree, but I value a college education," he says. "For the jobs out there, they usually want someone who is a college graduate. It's more than just the education; it's the whole college experience. I didn't want to miss it."
                                                                                                                                  —GARY PALLASSINO



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