The Golden Days of Student Media

Getting his start with WPRK and The Sandspur while an undergrad, Rollins’ general manager of student media Greg Golden ’11 ’16MBA now has a few more years under his belt—and all his “kids” let him know it.

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

Five years removed from his stint as managing editor of The Sandspur, Greg Golden ’11 ’16MBA now carries an affectionate, tongue-in-cheek nickname: “Sandspur Dad.”

And while this moniker aptly fits the College’s general manager of student media, in reality Golden is a 27-year-old father figure to more than just the newspaper staff. Some 100-plus students, alumni, and community volunteers across three other platforms—WPRK radio, Brushing art and literary journal, and Tars Media Production—can all refer to him as “Pops.”

“Part of it comes from the responsibility I take to make sure they have everything they need,” Golden says of the students’ paternal sobriquet. “It’s also their way of reminding me that I’m the old man in the group.”

Humble Late-Night Beginnings

Today, Golden is best known for his oversight of campus media, a position he started full time in February 2014.

But in 2009, he was just an upstart DJ hosting Flying High in the Mushroom Kingdom, a faithful companion to insomniac WPRK listeners each Wednesday from 1 to 3 a.m. The show’s name, Golden is quick to clarify, was simply a reference to Super Mario Brothers, not a certain “magical” fungus: “People were surprised we weren’t playing the Grateful Dead or other things that name might imply.”

When not spinning records, Golden—an English major who transferred from Valencia College with an associate’s degree—proved a Jack of all trades at The Sandspur, working as an advertising manager, webmaster, and copy editor, before managing the paper as a senior. 

With chops like that, it’s no wonder media students see him as one of their own—and feel comfortable enough to call him Dad.

“Greg brings people together and empowers them to act,” says Micki Meyer, Lord Family Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs – Community. “He’s shaped the direction of student media on campus and has worked closely in partnership with faculty for media to serve as a laboratory of leadership and learning for our students.”

English professor Emily Russell served as The Sandspur’s advisor—and for student media, more informally—for five years. She likes to divide that era into “Before Greg and After Greg.”

“In the dark times before Greg, students deserve a tremendous amount of credit for holding together these organizations that have such a rich history at Rollins,” Russell says. “Editors negotiated their own print contracts, station managers got mixed up in HR fights, and our responsibility to the FCC was often poorly articulated. With a full-time general manager in place, we can train student leaders, preserve institutional memory, pursue exciting new initiatives, and know that when problems bubble up—and they will—we have someone on the ground to address it before it becomes a crisis.” 

Meyer adds that bringing student media outlets under a single umbrella was “one of the best strategic moves in the past decade.”

Success Stories

Under Golden, student media at Rollins is focused on a collaborative approach that emphasizes innovation, technology, and new ways of thinking.

  •  In conjunction with the Rollins Archives & Special Collections, WPRK recently created its first podcast (about the history of the station).
  •  The Sandspur is mining revenue from digital advertising and forging strong relationships throughout campus, including the president’s office.
  •  Working with digital-stories and voice-acting classes, Brushing will produce online recordings of student authors reading their creative writing from the 2015-16 edition.
  •  Tars Media Production is handling video production and graphic design projects for several departments and groups on campus.
  •  And Golden, himself, has started hosting Fireside Chat-style interviews on WPRK with President Grant Cornwell. The next two are set for October 30 and December 10 from 9 to 10 a.m.

The entrepreneurial spirit drives student media, Golden explains, drawing comparisons to how small businesses must succeed with passion and limited resources. Whether in print, online, or on the airwaves, students have to motivate the culture around them to buy in to what they’re doing.

“My job is to facilitate and advocate for the work of students,” he says. “We’re in a unique point in history, so I try to give them opportunities to grow and succeed in a rapidly evolving media landscape.”