Audri Pleas, UAA’s KRUA station manager, the student-run radio station on campus, is well known among students, faculty and staff for her charismatic and outgoing personality, positive energy and ability to bring the UAA community together. The petite, no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is history and journalism double major, is taking full advantage of her education, time and opportunities while attending UAA.
Donning a bright purple knitted cap with her hair tucked up inside, a red sweater, green camo cargo shorts and sneakers, Audri hops up on a stool in the KRUA station room and paints a colorful timeline of her experiences at the university over the last five years and ultimately what life lessons she’s learned in- and outside the classroom.
“There’s a saying that ‘leadership picks you, you don’t get to pick it,” says Audri of herself as a student leader. The wise-beyond-her-years 23-year-old says that she had never imagined herself as a student leader, running the university’s radio station or being so involved with UAA’s Concert Board. Her success has been through hard work, dedication, her passion for telling stories and music and her desire to bring UAA together as a community.
“I started with KRUA in 2008,” says Audri. “I was interested because they had just put in a small radio booth in the student union and I thought, ‘this is so cool,’ I can talk to people and have my own radio show.” Audri credits her initial baby steps into the KRUA office because of student leaders who came before her, encouraging her to become involved with the university, as well as her mother’s support telling her to stick it out at UAA.
“I’m from a single parent home, my mom’s been like my mom and dad at the same time,” Audri says. “I wasn’t always the best kid growing up, but my mom would always shoot me straight. She’s always provided me with a lot of wisdom.” Audri’s mother’s wisdom didn’t fall on deaf ears and she has passionately pursued her studies and interests at UAA finding her niche at KRUA and a community within UAA.
Over the last five years she’s watched KRUA grow as a station and since she took the reigns in 2011 she’s really pushed to create a radio station that’s representative of the university, from playing indie-rock to slipping in Top 40 tunes, to inviting students, faculty and staff to host their own radio shows. Audri uses networking skills she’s developed over the years to pull in people from all corners of campus.
“College radio is supposed to be hipsters, that’s what we pride ourselves on, but in a sense I felt like that was blocking new people from coming in and sort of alienating people,” Audri says shaking her head and laughing. “So I used my background as a young African-American woman to say, ‘No! We’re hipper than this!’ We’re not a bunch of folk kids from Eagle River with high waters on.”
She says since 2011, KRUA’s volunteer numbers have gone up dramatically and she spends much of her summer getting new student volunteers trained and brainstorming with staff for the upcoming school year. Although Audri says college radio is somewhat of a “dying breed,” she sees the bigger picture KRUA plays in the university community. She feels her role is to keep championing homegrown radio’s cause and carry the torch that was passed on to her from her predecessors.
“I’ve been able as a student leader to network across campus and volunteer a bunch of time, because those student leaders did those same things for me in the past,” Audri says. “But they didn’t know I was taking notes. It’s kind of paying back the favor and paying it forward.”
Audri admits that her role from volunteer to student leader has been through trial and error and that she has a “spitfire” personality that her mother helps her keep in check when she gets “rebellious.” Connecting easily with people is something that comes naturally to her, but she recognized early on in her UAA career that there were skills that needed sharpening and that each experience at the university was a stepping-stone in helping to create the confident woman she is today.
“I’ve been challenged as a student leader; I haven’t always had the easiest time,” she explains. “My professional skills have expanded greatly. I’m a lot more personable, and I know what appropriate language to use, how to network and the importance of treating people right and not just brushing them off.”
She has grown and changed over her six years at UAA and has really appreciated the big-school opportunities while having a small-school experience. Her hard work and dedication have paid off, Audri was recognized earlier this year by UAA’s Journalism and Public Communications Department with the inaugural UAA Dean Berg Integrity in Journalism Award. The award was established by the Berg family in honor of Dean Berg, a former broadcast television journalist, who left broadcasting to pursue media and public affairs positions with Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, RCA Alaska Communications and the Teamsters Local 959.
Audri recognizes the value of her higher education learning experiences at UAA, but says that students sometimes give the university a bum rap without realizing all the incredible opportunities at their fingertips, and that half the battle is just showing up. She says through her experiences with her professors, the faculty, staff and administration she’s realized they are really invested in students’ education, creating a positive college experience and they really want students to succeed while they are here and beyond.
“UAA is a family community. You feel like you’re a part of something that’s bigger than you. Faculty and staff genuinely care about you and that’s the stuff I appreciate as a student,” Audri says. “It’s not that they only keep up with you while you’re at UAA, I know when I’m graduating, I’m going to take all these connections with me.”
Audri loves her role as a student leader and station manager of KRUA. She hopes that she inspires her volunteers and continues to be a role model on campus, encouraging others to get their hands into UAA activities.
“There’s just so much to do,” she says. “I don’t think students realize the opportunities they have at UAA. The administrators, staff and faculty at UAA are amazing because they know how to get students involved and you get a lot more opportunities than you would get somewhere else.”
Audri says she knows her relationships and connections made here are life-long and that her “UAA family” will continue to support her long after she’s walked across the stage and received her diploma. Her college experience thus far has taught her that taking those first few timid steps are sometimes all it takes for a lifetime of success.