In this series, we're catching up with some of the UNCW/WHQR past Graduate Fellows.
Next up is Michelle Billman! Michelle joined WHQR as a graduate news intern in 2008 and became the News Director in 2010.
What is your job title and role now?
I’m the news director for KUNR Public Radio, which serves Northern Nevada and parts of the Eastern Sierra.
What was your position at WHQR and how long were you here?
I started as a graduate news intern and eventually served as news director. I worked at WHQR for a total of about three years, if memory serves me correctly.
What school were you in and what was your degree?
I was attending the Master of Fine Arts program at UNCW, focused on creative nonfiction.
What do you remember most about your time at HQR?
What stands out to me the most looking back is the mentorship I received from Cat Welch (WHQR News Director at the time, now Assistant News Director at WFAE). I got really lucky to fall into her orbit during such an important time in my career development.
I felt close to many staff members during my time at WHQR and am grateful to have had such a supportive group of colleagues to learn from and hang out with.
Any funny or exceptional memory or experience you can share?
I remember regularly having to stop during my walk from the parking lot to the front door of the station in the mornings because crews would be filming One Tree Hill and they would be in the middle of a take. It gave me an excuse to go grab coffee at Java Dog (I miss that spot).
I also remember a photo shoot in the newsroom involving dressing up in silly yellow full-body ponchos before covering a tropical storm! Probably my favorite memory was finding a box full of biscuits (my favorite food) from several folks for one of my birthdays. Other than having my oldest daughter Nora on my birthday, finding a surprise box of biscuits is probably the best birthday gift I could ask for. One of my colleagues at KUNR replicated the experience for me a few years ago.
How did your fellowship impact your future and where you are now?
I’m not sure I would be in public radio without this experience. Also, WHQR’s commitment to folding students right into several processes and departments taught me that students can do anything. It inspired me to start an internship program at KUNR that has now trained more than 30 college reporters.
Anything else you'd like to add?
The fact that UNCW offers salaried graduate fellowships with the goal of training the next generation of public radio reporters, producers, hosts, and other industry leaders is remarkable. I would love to see more stations partner with academic institutions to go this route in the future.
To catch up with other past WHQR/UNCW Graduate Fellows, click here.