If you have ever listened to WIUX on 100.3 FM, you've heard the catchy promos, a wide range of University information and a taste of the diverse variety of music. You've also heard the luring voice of junior Zach Pollakoff, which appears on the station at least every 20 minutes.
Pollakoff writes and edits his own on-air spots and records the promos, the station identifications and the public service announcements. This isn't just something Pollakoff does in his spare time. This is his major, and he created it himself.
Pollakoff began his freshman year as a theater major, but it only took two semesters for him to change his mind and head toward something a bit more authentic. Pollakoff is majoring in radio and voice-overs, to be exact, and created his own schedule of classes. To do this, he found a sponsor and compiled a unique list of courses appropriate for his major. Pollakoff chose Jeffrey Huntsman, the man who created the individualized major program, to be his sponsor. Pollakoff's schedule had to meet all distribution requirements and had to be approved by a line of University professors.
"It's cool that I get to make it all up and do it on my own," Pollakoff said.
At the end of his senior year, Pollakoff is required to present a final project. For this, he will submit a collection of what he considers to be his best radio work, something he calls a "reel."
Every Tuesday from 1 to 3 p.m., Pollakoff has complete control of all the station's content on his own show called "Box Lunch." During his two hours of controlling the airways, he plays anything from Cat Power to The Mountain Goats, and happily takes listener requests.
Pollakoff dedicates at least four hours a day to his work at WIUX.
"Music is one of my passions," Pollakoff said. "If I'm not making music, I want to be involved in it in some way."
While music is a strong interest of Pollakoff's, he said his heart belongs to the art of comedy.
The highlight of his week is performing with his friends in the original Full Frontal Comedy troupe, which he has been a part of since he was a freshman.
"Comedy is an underrepresented art form," Pollakoff said. "It has a lot of artistic elements to it. People don't understand that when we perform, we're not always just aiming for a joke, we're portraying the truth."
The troupe, which was developed by three theater majors in 1994, performs weekly. Shows consist of short games similar to those seen on "Whose Line is it Anyway?" as well as a montage -- a series of improvised scenes, one sometimes leading to the next. Pollakoff calls the montage "the heart of the show."
The audience is an important part of the act, and troupe members need crowd suggestions to get the show rolling. The seven members of the troupe meet twice a week for two hours to polish their skills and to strengthen their group work.
"We have a very strong troupe this year, and it's because we're all friends and we have a group mind," Pollakoff said.
This "group mind" gives the performers their distinct on-stage chemistry and displays their ability to keep the audience laughing.
"Our shows can be uplifting for somebody having a rough day," Pollakoff said.
His involvement with Full Frontal Comedy has given him a group of life long friends, one being his roommate, Joseph Rogan.
"I would have never gotten to know Joe without the troupe," Pollakoff said, "And he's my best friend."
Rogan, a senior, has been a member of the troupe for two years and says the mixture of diverse personalities the group encompasses is what makes Full Frontal Comedy so extraordinary.
"Being in the troupe is something I'll always remember," Rogan said. "We're living the tradition and it's nice to see the program is still going. It's definitely been the highlight of college. I just love making people laugh."
Pollakoff's parents stand behind his unique choice in majors and enjoy attending Full Frontal Comedy performances, he said.
"I wouldn't be nearly as ambitious if it weren't for my family," Pollakoff said. "My parents are the coolest parents to have ever parented."
After college, Pollakoff hopes to find a job as a DJ, but expresses that this will be a day job. In his free time, he wants to stick with comedy.
"Improvisers know not to take themselves too seriously, and when they work, they call it play," he said. "It's a completely different field. It's organic, awesomely organic."
Despite spending countless hours in the WIUX radio station and giving people a good laugh, Pollakoff said he's enjoying himself.
"Basically, I'm doing everything I want to do with my life," he said.