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Last school year, flipping your radio to 101.7 FM would have brought you a 24-hour stream of star-spangled tunes. This year, under the lead­ership of General Manager Scot Bertram, the student shows WRFH Radio Free Hillsdale are growing into their own.

Sopho­mores Shadrach and Dylan Strehle and Ross Hatley record their show for WRFH Radio Free Hillsdale. Ross Hatley | Col­legian

Some shows, like weird-news hour “Off Topic,” and the aptly named “Science & Ethics,” are rolling into their second semester. Others are launching all the time: “The Michael Luc­chese Show” got its start just this week. Between them, they cover an impressive swath of campus life and dis­cussion, from pol­itics to phi­losophy to music to Hillsdale news to sports.

“Off Topic,” the brain­child of sopho­mores Dylan Strehle, Shadrach Strehle, and Ross Hatley, bills itself as “a place of low-key, low-tension dis­cussion.” In a given broadcast, the three hosts may debate the worth of Taylor Swift in the “Judge Hatley” segment, unpack the Super Bowl’s Stranger Things 2 com­mercial,  and rem­i­nisce about the “middle school emo phase.”  

“When we first thought of the idea of doing the show, we thought — well, it’s Hillsdale College, everyone’s going to want to do a political talk show, everyone’s going to want to come out and spout their opinions,” Dylan Strehle said. “So the original thought in our minds was, what would be a good antithesis to that? So we thought we would do a morning show, some­thing fun, a little bit of the variety show, nothing too serious.”

Weighing in on the more serious side is “Science & Ethics,” a biweekly show in which seniors Lillian Quinones and Madeline Johnson interview Hillsdale pro­fessors and outside experts on tech­nology and humane issues.                                          

“It kind of cap­i­talizes on our respective strengths: She’s a biochem major, I’m a phi­losophy major,” Johnson said. “When we know who our guest is, we try to come up with ques­tions that are a mix of just pop­u­lar­izing whatever they’re talking about for a general audience and trying to ask more directly philo­sophical ques­tions, kind of frame whatever their par­ticular area is in a way that brings it into con­ver­sation with other fields, other dis­ci­plines. And then we just have a con­ver­sation.”

When Quinones wanted to start a show as a project for Bertram’s radio class, she asked Johnson to co-host to rep­resent the philo­sophical side of the con­ver­sation.

“I love public radio; I listen to NPR a lot, so just on an aes­thetic level I enjoyed the idea of intel­ligent con­ver­sation in a recorded format,” Johnson said. “But also Lily and I have had a lot of con­ver­sa­tions and we’re always trying to bridge our dis­ci­plines, so the idea of some­thing inter­dis­ci­plinary was exciting, just learning to talk to dif­ferent people who have very dif­ferent basic frame­works.”

One of the newest shows to the WRFH roster is junior Dean Sin­clair and senior Kayla Stetzel’s “On Air with Stetzel and Sin­clair,” the station’s first music program since the initial 24-hour patriotic one. But this show is more likely to feature garage rock from Cal­i­fornia or dance music from Sweden than John Philip Sousa.

“It’s mostly wall-to-wall music with some com­mentary sprinkled in,” Stetzel said. “We each pick five songs and then we talk about them. There’s a really good mixture of stuff: Dean and I both have very eclectic music tastes, but our tastes at the same time are very dis­tinct from each other.”

Stetzel said she has been trying to lay the groundwork for the show since she first heard about the plans to create WRFH, but orga­ni­za­tional delays kept them from starting until this semester.

“I needed to find somebody who is going to be ded­i­cated, will put in the hours, will put in the time, knows a crapton about music — and, lightbulb, I was like, I just described Dean Sin­clair,” Stetzel said. “So I reached out to him, and he was really excited about it.”

Other student shows rounding out the roster include a Hillsdale history segment, “Wait, What Hap­pened?” hosted by juniors Sarah Schutte and Chandler Lasch; a Hillsdale ath­letics show, “Charger Rundown,” hosted by senior Kat Torres; and “Right Wing & Red Wings,” a show about hockey and pol­itics show from junior Jenna Suchyta.

The radio station may be blos­soming quickly, but Dylan Strehle stressed that it is still in its infancy — which pro­vides an oppor­tunity for would-be jockeys.

“The fact that we’re still in the infancy of our station means that it’s a great time to get involved,” Strehle said. “Because there’s so much space open. We’re still at that phase where, if you come in here and you’ve got a really good idea, or you believe you do, and you’re willing to put the work in, you’re going to get a slot. That’s one of the best things about coming in at this time, is that the reason why we exist as a show is, I’m not going to sug­arcoat it, because they had no one else.”

“Three punks talking about nothing con­sidered trail­blazers?” Hatley said. “How’d that happen?”