Housed within a small room, originally meant to serve as a storage closet, with just enough space to accommodate a desk and two chairs is Habib University’s exclusive, noncommercial, and student-run, radio channel, Runway Radio. Before going on air in spring of 2017, Runway Radio was ideated as a lab of science and mathematics by a physics professor who realized that students pursuing hard sciences seem to not only lack the training in verbal communication skills, but also the opportunity to partake in activities requiring the application of such skills. This, combined with the changing assessment methods of the modern day, which diverge from traditional classroom presentation styles, inclined him to the ambitious idea of launching a college community radio, which would stream shows that are novel and intellectually stimulating, largely benefitting the Habib community. The physics professor aka the man behind the Runway Radio, Dr. Anzar Khaliq - Assistant Dean of School of Science and Engineering and the Director of Integrated Sciences and Mathematics, even today, likes to call it an aspirational radio. Runway Radio took birth from an aspiration to communize the multitude of unique, intellectual discourses, alternative ideas, and disruptive design thinking occurring in different academic spaces on the campus, in an isolated fashion. It was driven by the realization that certain members of the community including staff, faculty of different departments, and even students had zero access to these new knowledges, revealing something a little amiss in the university’s overarching liberal arts pedagogical project.
The radio could provide that sense of community and point of convergence, he believed. He successfully managed to procure some basic radio equipment from the management, and mobilized a core team of five enthusiastic students across all majors and years, to launch the channel. Today, Runway Radio stands as an entirely student-run venture, with Dr. Anzar merely there “to iron out any wrinkles.” From deciding its name to designing its logo, recruiting RJs, curating the shows, sending out guest invites, designing show posters, updating social media pages, attracting listeners, and managing its operations... all the way down to the nitty grittiest, it’s a student outfit.
There are more than seven shows that are recorded, and streamed live every semester for the community to tune into. These are diverse in nature, and encourage lively interaction with the students, faculty, staff, and even Wasif Rizvi, President Habib University, who in fact recently featured as a guest on one of Runway Radio’s most popular shows,On the Line. That particular episode brought the town hall to the radio room for a change! Hosted by Dr. Anzar himself, On the Line brings a faculty member each week to the hot seat for an hour of light conversation, anonymous questions from the student body pouring in live throughout the duration of the show through an online form, and of course a rapid fire round. The show automatically tends to bring the students and professors one notch closer to each other outside the classroom as they share their own college struggles, thesis blocs, or post-graduation career crisis - experiences that students can resonate with.
Then there are original, unscripted, and radical shows such as, As U Like It, with student RJs wherein content ranges from discussing post Aurat March social media outbreaks to deconstructing classic romantic Bollywood films such as Mohabbatein.
On a Friday afternoon when you’re just drained from the entire week’s course load, and want to tune in to some light conversation and relaxing music, Campus Sundown Sessions provides just that - an escape to a “better place”. This laid back show, hosted by an incredibly cool staff member from the marketing office is known for its music and talk therapy. Past sessions have included ultra-chill live jams, and sparked fascinating conversations on music, movies, on-campus happenings and just about anything you can think of!
HU Unplugged is a fitting example of how Runway Radio seeks to present, encourage, and polish the talents of the Habib community. This show is all about hourly live jams by HU’s very own mousiqi lovers and music talents.
A show that rolled out last semester brought the life coach out of the wellness center straight into the radio room. The in-house wellness guru, in her weekly show, Out of the Box, is all ears as students rant about stress procrastination, exam anxieties, social pressure, and relationship crisis. She helps them practice mindful thinking, and makes it all better, even if it’s temporary, to get them through the bloc.
All shows are carefully curated, approved and promoted to interest everyone; Friday evening chilling, Monday motivation dose, Thursday medley fix, or your regular, daily news bites. There is Served for sports geeks and Tech News and Views for tech fanatics, Cheap Thrills for those with an appetite for an hour long Bollywood banter, and My Name’s Jeff for the much-needed weekly hit of sufi/indie music.
Among many other things, Runway Radio is academic, too. It’s a platform used by professors to advertise their upcoming courses, and make their end of semester course presentations more innovative, and engaging. Graduating seniors have voluntarily used it to share their thesis topics with the rest of the students on whom this daunting task would soon fall. Others have gone on air with their inspiring study-abroad experiences reaching out to at least one listener out there, who needed the boost of motivation to apply to Stanford exchange next year.
While Runway Radio doesn’t broadcast off-campus, there are plans in the future to gain the license and convert it into a public radio channel. For now, there is just so much potential in it to build a stronger sense of community within Habib University. In already a year, it has proven to be perhaps the most effortless, not to mention “wanted” platform for students from computer science and public policy majors to converge at. Town halls, orientations, and classroom convenings have all taken place from the confines of this tiny storage closet.
Dr Anzar Khaliq, the man behind the Runway Radio, is an experimental physicist by training with expertise in Nanomaterials. He is one of the founding faculty members of Habib University and currently serves as the Assistant Dean of the Dhanani School of Science and Engineering. He also worked as a Radio Jockey for nine years before starting his academic career. He tells Us more about this student-run radio at Habib University...
Tell Us about your team and RJs on Runaway Radio
Every semester, a new team takes over the management of the radio. Our current positions include:
The team works collaboratively at the start of every semester to hire a team of RJs for the semester. This is usually done once the class schedule is decided. All community members (faculty staff and students) can join as RJs. There is a screening process in which auditions are recorded and then the team selects the ones that can go on air right away and helps those who need improvement.
Faculty’s and students’ feedback; bad and good things you hear about this venture
We were relatively unknown in our first year of operation but since last semester we have a sizeable audience. This is due to the increasing number of students on campus. We have only heard good things about this initiative so far, primarily because it’s student led. I run one show that’s only based on student questions. Through that it appears that the community loves this initiative.
The Runaway Radio is run by students. How do they prepare for the show? Do they get any special training for radio broadcasting (handling instruments, recording conversations, interviewing and presentation skills, etc.)?
I give a training session to the student team who takes over the management. Then, the team trains the rest of the RJs and help them with using the equipment. Our Manager IT is usually someone who is tech savvy and could easily handle digital instruments and software.
Students are also capable of audio and video editing, thanks to the presence of a Film Studio on our campus.
We also guide RJs on how to brush up their communication skills and help them find areas, themes and topics which are best suited to their skill set.
How can students at HU listen to Runaway Radio? Is there an app or website? Is it available to outsiders?
We have an Android app, developed by a student on which the show is broadcasted. We also share a shout cast link with all the community through which they can stream the shows. Some shows also go live on the facebook group of the Radio. Currently, it’s only for internal audience and can only be used through Habib’s internet services.
What challenges do you face?
We are not a residential campus so streaming is done only from 9 am to 7 pm. Due to a very hectic class schedule, it’s difficult to find RJs that can fill all slots.
How do you plan to expand Runaway Radio?
We are planning to find a bigger base of operations on campus. Once the management frameworks reach maturity, we will start sharing some of our content with the external community. There are some discussions which are extremely relevant to modern times and they deserve an audience bigger than the one we have at HU.
Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) does not allow private FM stations to produce their own national news or current affairs programming. Typically, Pakistan’s private FM stations play music for 70% of the time. They devote about 10% of air time to talk shows, 10% to advertising and 5% to news.
Source: Pakistan Media and Telecoms Landscape Guide
Student radio is at the heart of university culture across the West, giving students the opportunity to share their passions with a global audience. It’s like providing the platform and support to ensure that interested students can get fully involved in radio broadcasting to express themselves and share ideas.
Oxford University also has its own student-run radio station, Oxide Radio, which is played out through the Internet. They feature a wide range of different shows that broadcast throughout the Oxford term: music shows of all genres, from indie tracks to Nordic tunes; chat shows featuring student agony aunts, or discussing the latest celebrity news; and plenty of news and sport for good measure too, covering stories in Oxford and further afield.