Kakie Urch: From UK student to teacher, role model

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Kakie Urch at the WRFL mic in the Student Center studios as a professor of multimedia in the School of Journalism and multimedia. 

In 1985, a UK student wrote a letter to the editor to the Kentucky Kernel that explained the importance of student-led radio. UK was one of the few SEC schools not to have a radio station, she wrote.

In 1988, she became a founder of WRFL, a student-led radio station with the goal of playing non-traditional music.

Now, 30 years later, that student is Associate Professor of Multimedia Kakie Urch, whose office is just down the hall from the Kernel office.

READ: Recognizing the impact of Kentucky's women; what's changed since 'Kernel Kuties'

WRFL’s office is a few buildings over, nestled in the basement of Whitehall. WRFL has held true to its identity as the station that promotes any type of music to anyone in the Lexington area. To many, WRFL is an escape from the world, into other passions.

“WRFL is a living, breathing community organization that has had so much impact on the city and the people in it,” Urch said. “It has thrown people together because of the love of music, broadcasting and letting the people get the news. It’s just a real point of gathering for a community.”

Urch emphasized that it was not any one person who founded WRFL; it was a group effort to start the station that would combine non-mainstream music and the news. She said WRFL’s creation was not accepted by many people at the university and in Lexington, but nevertheless, the station persisted.

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Kakie Urch, a founder of WRFL, a student-led radio station created to play non-traditional music, stands with the original WRFL Music staff. Left is Amy Boucher currently a leader at the library at Emory University in Atlanta, whose son Max Hulsman is an engineering major at UK, Urch, Rhea Perkins, whose daughter is a current architecture major and whose son is a recent graduate and Diane Pipes, a graduate of the honors program and a Master's of Social Work whose work with at risk youth in Northern Kentucky has been significant.

Earlier this year, the radio station and founders celebrated their three decades on air with a concert, the scattering of Ale-8 bottles, the pumping of the bass from guitar amps and a gathering full of smiling people.

That letter to the editor did not only start Urch’s involvement with WRFL, but also with the Kernel. She later began working for the Kernel as a music writer and general reporter.

“The Kentucky Kernel got me into journalism,” she said.

After she graduated from UK, Urch’s passion kept coming through her journalistic work. In her career, she went from mastering radio to social media.

Urch has lived journalism from the beginning of the technology age. She was once told that technology had no part in journalism and would never be needed for journalism. Things like that did not stop Urch as she kept investigating technology and finding opportunities to embed it in journalism.

Once, when Urch was working as a reporter, a teenager on spring break in Tijuana, Mexico, died. She was investigating the situation when someone told her to look on Myspace. After the invention of Macintosh computers and social media, Urch always recognized the importance of social media due to its instant storytelling abilities and easy access to news.

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Kakie Urch stands in the Kernel office with Erik A. Reece, now an English professor at UK and former Kernel arts editor, and Jay Blanton, UK spokesman and former Kernel editor, around the time she wrote the 1985 column suggesting that UK needed a student-run radio station. 

Urch said her passion is being a mentor to many and an inspiration to all she serves as a professor at UK.

“The University of Kentucky, for me, is the place where I was able to coalesce all of my interests, learning and experiences into activities that were enlightening, fun, helped the community and were great entry points to a variety of different careers,” Urch said. “I tell the students it’s like a golden ticket; you’ve got everything here at UK. You can explore all of this stuff on this college campus.”

Urch said UK is a diverse college campus with many opportunities in student activities, student organizations and academic departments.

Her office is always open as she is on the move in the basement of the Grehan Journalism Building. She is always trying to find a way to give journalism students every opportunity imaginable.

Urch said she enjoys the experience of helping new journalists get their start. Being a mentor at UK reminds her of the people who helped her along the way, such as Maria Braden, Scoobie Ryan, Dr. Virginia Blum, Dr. Ellen Rosenman and Dr. Eldred.

Urch had some advice for women on campus searching for jobs in any profession.

“I would just tell of all types, but especially women, do your research, find out what is the best practices in the area you want to embark on, and don’t ask for permission,” she said.