kcod college of the desert

Making (Air)Waves

KCOD offers students real-world experience while providing a connection to the valley through community-based programming.

Harrison Bluto Arts & Entertainment, Current Digital

kcod college of the desert
Alyssa Saaenz and Alex Zatarain work the control board at KCOD Radio at the College of the Desert.

From a one-room operation to international recognition, College of the Desert’s community radio station KCOD has gone through a tremendous amount of growth since its creation.

KCOD (99.9 FM) started in 2011 as a platform for College of the Desert students and faculty. “We started KCOD really to give students some hands-on opportunities,” says Laurilie Jackson, an instructor of media production at COD who serves as faculty advisor for KCOD and the college newspaper, The Chaparral. “So the broadcasting students and students taking an acting class and writing classes could actually have something where they could practice their skills and actually put their announcing voices on the air.”

Today, KCOD continues as a nonprofit radio station funded by College of the Desert where students get hands-on experience in broadcasting classes such as radio production, radio announcing, and media writing. “Students have learned how to write for radio, how to use microphones, and self-produce amazing radio content,” says student station manager Giselle Woo. “They know how to work the soundboard and use editing software; these kids are so technologically savvy and catch on so fast. I’m impressed every day by them.”

KCOD also acts as an extension of the Coachella Valley with weekend programming filled primarily with community-based shows, such as “Urban Talk,” which focuses on African-American issues in the Coachella Valley. Jackson adds that many former DJs in the community come to KCOD to book a time slot.

KCOD is able to accommodate this array of creatives thanks to its variety format. KCOD is the only variety station in the Coachella Valley, meaning that it allows its show hosts to feature music from many types of genres. Jackson says that format helps students because “it’s a chance for them to try new things and learn new things.” Jackson says that the non-profit element helped with the decision to use a variety format because they are less focused on selling ads and more on creating content.


KCOD's new facility comes with a lecture room to teach rdio and media classes.

For example, KCOD obtained press credentials to the desert’s two biggest music festivals of the year, Coachella and Stagecoach in order to interview musical acts. “I’ve always been curious about how news outlets work behind the scenes, so to me it’s fascinating to see all the journalists and the public relations agents working together, scheduling interviews with artists and just watching people in action. It’s so cool, and I am very grateful for these opportunities,” says Woo, who through KCOD, was able to interview the bands Traveller at Stagecoach as well as The Marias at Coachella.

KCOD’s dual role of serving both students and the community has played a role in eight Intercollegiate Broadcasting System nominations this year. Jackson recalls the first time KCOD was nominated for an IBS award. “We were just blown away — oh my gosh, we were meeting in a closet at the time, and our little radio station was just nationally recognized,” she says.

KCOD was also nominated for Best Community College Radio Station in the Nation, Best Public Service Promotion, Best Overall On-Air Schedule, Best Station Playlist/Music Selection, Best Promo Series, Best Staff Newsletter/Email, Best Promotional Video, and Best Station Facilities.


KCOD staff members include (from eft) Abraham Cervantes, Kevin Lyons, Alex Zatarain, student station manager Giselle Woo, and Toni Bakal.

As of September 2018, KCOD has operated out of a brand new facility across the street from the Palm Desert campus — a major upgrade from their original one-room operation. “We all have more space to work in,” says Woo. The new facility consists of two recording studios, a multi-media room for student workers, offices for each faculty advisor, and a classroom for media classes. “But I wouldn’t change the ‘before’ situation one bit. It made us appreciate what we are creating even more. It proved to me that if we stay steady and focused, everything else will eventually fall into place,” Woo says.

Adds Jackson: “We just keep hoping to get bigger and better and offer people relevant programming that will help change their lives.”

To learn more about KCOD, visit kcodcoachellafm.com.