Professor Spotlight: Richard Zumkhawala-Cook
Richard Zumkhawala-Cook, or Dr. Rich, as he prefers, has been an associate professor of English at Shippensburg University since 2001, and he is also involved with WSYC 88.7, Shippensburg’s campus radio station.
Zumkhawala-Cook does a weekly radio show that airs Fridays from 12 to 2 p.m.
The show focuses on music and how it is connected to the lives of those who listen to it.
Zumkhawala-Cook’s interest in radio began as a curiosity.
“I thought it was an activity that would be fun,” Zumkhawala-Cook said.
His first radio show was in 1988 at Colby College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree. He has had radio shows during his time in graduate school and at his previous jobs.
“I have been at six or seven stations,” said Zumkhawala-Cook.
One station located at the University of Southern California where he worked during a summer program had a broadcast range of just around one mile. Zumkhawala-Cook informed me that, for a college radio station, that is a fairly broad range.
“I would do the show and I knew that I had several dozen listeners,” Zumkhawala-Cook said about his radio show at USC.
Zumkhawala-Cook began his show on WSYC during his second year at Shippensburg University, and he is in his 10th year working with radio.
“Having the radio show keeps me connected to lots of good music,” Zumkhawala-Cook said.
He says that his radio show “brings a different flavor to the radio station.”
Zumkhawala-Cook said that he enjoys listening to music on the computers with all the studio lights out, the only light being the glow of the computers.
“The staff thinks it’s funny,” Zumkhawala-Cook says, “but it allows me to savor the music.”
As part of his duties as disk jockey, he is required to give the weather at certain times and he keeps logs of what he does during his show.
During breaks, he gives me the basics on how the radio station functions. Zumkhawala-Cook’s musical taste is not particularly selective.
“It’s all over the place,” says Zumkhawala-Cook, who enjoys a wide variety of music, from funk and blues to hip-hop.
“Sometimes I want heavy metal, sometimes I want jazz,” Zumkhawala-Cook said.
The one musical form that Zumkhawala-Cook is not fond of is what he calls “corporate country,” which refers to most country music after 1975.
“I dislike what country is becoming,” he said.
Over the course of his show, he plays a variety of music, ranging from Johnny Cash to Red Hot Chili Peppers, and gives commentary on the songs at intervals.
“I try to give the listeners a wide variety and eclectic mix of music,” Zumkhawala-Cook said about the selection of music he plays.
Zumkhawala-Cook had to leave the studio slightly earlier than 2 p.m. to pick up his two children, Anjali, 8, and Ravi, 5, from school.
“I have to go be dad,” he said. “That happens sometimes.” He parts with a song by Billy Bragg, something he often does as a sign off, and reminds listeners that “great music is always playing on WSYC.”