WZIP Turns 60

Current students and alumni reflect on 60 years of learning in the studio at Z88.


Photo courtesy of Abigail Stopka.

Current WZIP members and alumni work together at WQMX FM 94.9. From left to right: Jake Herron (alum), Joe Headley (current WZIP member), Abbie Stopka (current WZIP member), Owen Pinion (current WZIP member), Rachel Evans (alum).

By Savannah Johns and Owen Pinion, Managing Editor and Contributor

Akron’s #1 for Nonstop Hits, WZIP, has changed the lives of many students and alumni for decades – six decades to be exact. The station celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2022.  

Since 1962, The University of Akron has been home to a radio station operated by current students.  

When the station was first founded, it operated under the call sign “WAUP” which stands for Akron University Programs (A call sign refers to the number code that all radio stations use for identification).  

The broadcast of WAUP consisted of campus news, taped educational discussions and fine arts programming. The call sign was changed in 1989 to WZIP, in reference to the Zips, UA’s athletic mascot.  

Today, WZIP has more than 125,000 listeners each week. It reaches many counties throughout Northeast Ohio, making it accessible to thousands of people. Being completely commercial-free, it is a top station around Akron, particularly for younger listeners. It is one of the most-listened-to student-run radio stations in the country, standing out from other colleges.   

Rachel Evans during her time as a WZIP member. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Evans)

Students can get training and experience in all aspects of a real radio station. At WZIP, students can become DJs on air playing music and interacting with listeners. Other departments include Music Programming, News, Production, Promotions, Sports, and Underwriting. These departments give students hands on opportunities to learn how a radio station is run.  

Current students agree, these experiences just can’t be taught in the classroom.    

Hundreds of WZIP alumni have taken what they’ve learned and used it in their career. Many alumni have had prominent and successful careers in the entertainment and media industry.  

WZIP also opens current students up to opportunities in the industry. Current members often get jobs at other radio stations in the greater Akron area while still in college. Working with one another and making connections helps students get real-life experience while working toward a degree.

Rachel Evans, program alum, shared that her time at WZIP helped her land her current job and she is grateful for the mentorship and opportunities she received from Chris Keppler and Sarah Kay.  

Evans was a member from 2017 to 2021 in a variety of departments: On-Air, Entertainment, Music Programming, Production, and News. She also served as both the Entertainment Director and Music Programming Director.   

“I learned about the ins and outs of how a radio station works, which was super helpful given I pursued it as a career,” Evans said. “I also learned how to edit audio, mix music, and network with people, all super important skills I still use today. Being a team player, as well as a team leader, are things I definitely got a hold of while I was there as well.”  

Evans found the experience beneficial and recommends that others consider joining. “If you’re going after a career in radio, it’s an absolute no brainer,” she said.  

WZIP alumni can be found in radio stations throughout the region and beyond. Some have moved out to LA or NYC, and some work in positions across many different industries. 

Beyond the experiential learning and career success, WZIP has always been a place to make friends and have fun. “…if you’re looking for a cool way to spend your time and meet new people, it’s a great way to do so,” Evans said. 

Cody Brown graduated from UA in 2016 and became a part of WZIP as a sophomore. He shadowed other members, secured a spot on the mic and eventually worked his way up to serve as DJ Director, where he booked and interviewed celebrity guests.

DJ and alum Cody Brown interviews American Idol Kris Allen on the air at Z88. (Courtesy of WZIP)

The friends and connections Brown made gave him a leg-up. Today, Brown works as an OnAir Personality at iHeart Media.   

“The main thing is, the people in the industry now will tell you, it’s not always what you know it’s who you know,” Brown said. “WZIP has definitely helped that just as far as networking; people I didn’t even graduate with but are alum of WZIP, they still look out for each other.” 

He explained that wherever there is a former WZIP member in the industry, alumni can make a connection. 

“I know people that work in the industry in Los Angeles, New York, all the major markets in the country, and there might be a WZIP person out there. They do look out for one another, so networking is key. I know a lot of people who got their biggest break from someone who was from WZIP and ZTV.”  

Rachel Evans’ mentor Chris Keppler is the current WZIP general manager. He is also a UA alum and was involved in the station as a student.   

“One way that WZIP helps just about anybody, particularly people that are on the air, it builds their confidence,” Keppler said. “Having solid communications skills and building this confidence can help you in any capacity. That can be applied anywhere in life.”   

Keppler and other faculty members have had great influence in the lives of students through WZIP.  

Amber Good recalls a former general manager of the station that made an impact on her. “Tom Beck, who was the program director for WZIP, gave us the freedom to cover the issues, businesses, and people that we felt would make an impact on and around campus,” she said.  

Students at the station have long been encouraged to be creative and use their uniqueness at the station; which helps WZIP stand out. According to Keppler, differing member ideas bring a lot to the table.  

Good used her gained perspective to help better the lives of others.  

“Ultimately at WZIP, I learned the power of reporting and how to use my voice to be an advocate for the community,” Good said. “I learned that so many people in Akron were doing major things within the neighborhood and simply needed a platform to continue to positively influence those who stood to gain from their services and/or story.”  

While at WZIP, Good had the opportunity to conduct an interview with ACCESS Women’s Shelter and remembers that interview as a moment she was able to create change within her community.   

“I was making the public aware of an organization that provided vital services to women of all ages and backgrounds who were faced with some of the most challenging times in their life for whatever reasons,” Good said.  

Today, Good works as the Senior Public Relations Manager at LeadCoverage. She believes that so many doors have opened for her within the industry because of the foundation that WZIP provided, and she is grateful that the radio station pushed her to come out of her shell.

Yvette Nicole Brown meeting with students
Emmy Award Nominated Yvette Nicole Brown visited the station on Nov. 9, 2019 to spend time with WZIP students. She is known for her role on NBC’s Community and has a long resume of television, film and talk-show host roles. (Photo courtesy of Chris Keppler)

Current students agree with its general manager and alumni that the experience at WZIP is life changing. 

“WZIP has given me an opportunity to get an early hands-on experience with something that I want to do for the rest of my life,” Alex Henry, a current member at WZIP, said. “Not only is WZIP able to give me experience, but the friendships I have made is what makes it so great. You are working with your peers, learning together and growing bonds. It is the best college experience I can ask for.”   

Alumni continuously return to offer advice to current members and pass down what they have learned, and the ones The Buchtelite spoke with had some to share. 

When asked about advice for current students, Rachel Evans said that the station isn’t just for Communication majors and recommended everyone from biology and engineering to music and art give the radio station a try.   

Cody Brown also had advice to offer to students. He encourages them to join. “Excuses will always be there, opportunities won’t,” he said. “What do you have to lose? If you’re looking for a place to build a resume and develop yourself as a personality and as a professional, then WZIP is the place to do it.”  

88.1, WZIP, Z88, “Akron’s #1 for Nonstop Hits,” whichever name you choose, is minting successful graduates every single year. That makes 60 years of success.  

Happy 60th anniversary to WZIP and may you remain Akron’s #1 for many more decades!