From birth defects to technology, one Clemson student is educating the state and making his own dreams come true
By Mary Mattox
Kids dream of becoming doctors, firefighters, ballerinas. Will Hall, a senior English major, has dreamt of becoming a broadcaster since he was 11. And he is making that childhood dream a reality today with the work he’s doing at Clemson.
For the past three years, Hall has volunteered as the production assistant at Your Day, a public radio program through Clemson University and SCETV. Your Day is a talk show that focuses on informing South Carolina residents about topics around the state such as health and wellness, entomology, gardening, birding and technology.
It was through this program that he was able to promote something close to his heart — spina bifida awareness. Hall conducted an on-air four-part series on the birth defect during National Spina Bifida Awareness Month in October 2009.
Hall was born with spina bifida, which affects about 1,500 babies in the United States each year. Spina bifida is a split spine, which affects various areas of a person’s body. It can directly influence a person’s neurological activity, muscular systems, learning, vision and more.
“It really depends on the part of the spine that is affected with how it will affect different parts of your body,” Hall said.
The largest challenge that Hall faces on a daily basis is mobility. Clemson is a large campus with a hilly terrain. Although he can walk around his dorm, the distances between classes and buildings require him to use a manual wheelchair to get around. This can be difficult with the hills and places that do not have easy wheelchair access.
During his Your Day series, Hall focused his four broadcast segments on different areas of the birth defect: general overview, neurological, orthopedic and genetics. The segments aired on Your Day once a week for four straight weeks, and during these segments, Hall personally interviewed people on the subject of spina bifida.
“When I was looking around trying to figure out who I wanted to speak with for the spina bifida segments, I first focused on people in South Carolina since Your Day is an in-state show. Since all of my doctors are in my home state of Tennessee, I had no personal connections to any doctors down here. I had to do some research to find out who I should talk to,” Hall said.
He interviewed a nurse practitioner from Greenville, a geneticist from Greenwood, an orthopedic surgeon from Greenville and his personal neurosurgeon from Chattanooga, Tenn., who has been Hall’s primary neurosurgeon since he was 3 years old.
“I wanted to educate new parents who had suddenly discovered that their child would have spina bifida, so they would know better what to expect as their child is growing up,” Hall said.
During his time at Your Day, he has worked directly on live shows and prerecorded shows. Hall has served as the on-air board operator and phone screener for live call-in shows and has assisted with Web archiving for the radio shows. Hall has managed the social media sites for Your Day and has even hosted several segments for the prerecorded shows on the program.
He dreams of more than just being on the radio, though. Hall uses the radio to create a difference in others’ lives by educating them on important topics, whether they are local or global. He hopes that this education will positively increase listeners’ understanding of the world around them.
“My ultimate goal is to better educate people on the topics I’m discussing with the guest(s) being featured, no matter what their knowledge level may be,” Hall said.
And people are noticing his efforts.
“I have been most impressed with Will’s work in hosting segments. He always does a great job in preparing for the interview and facilitating an interesting conversation for the listening audience about whatever the topic of the interview may be,” said Eric Rodgers, producer at Clemson University Radio Productions.
Initially Hall dreamed of going into television broadcasting, but after a visit to the Your Day studio in 2008, he transitioned his dreams to radio.
“Being able to get work at the radio studio has been an incredible experience. The first time that I went on the air was really cool. Well, every time I’ve been on the air has been a lot of fun, but to go through that experience for the first time of setting up the interview, recording it, then editing it so it sounded good on the air was a great experience,” he said.
In a society where there were approximately 700 Facebook status updates per second and 600 Twitter tweets per second registered in February 2010, it’s easy to assume that radio talk shows have gone out the door. However, Your Day is thriving in the Upstate. It airs four days a week, Monday through Thursday, from noon to 1 p.m.
During his time with Your Day, Hall has conducted three segments on the virtual program Second Life with Clemson professor Jan Holmevik, and he has done a segment with a retired forestry professor on the restoration of Southern Appalachian brook trout in the Upstate. Hall’s work with Your Day has given solidity to his childhood dream of becoming a professional radio broadcaster.
“I would say it was in the sixth grade; in English that year, they were required to give a lot of oral reports. His teacher made several comments about how well and how clearly he spoke. She remarked that he should ‘go into broadcasting.’ The statement made an impact because he has been determined to make it happen,” said Hall’s mother, Cathy Hall.
Hall recently decided that he wants to take radio broadcasting a step further and work in sports radio broadcasting. On top of the work he does for Your Day, he helps Your Day employee Bob Schuster with the sports talk show The Powerade Pressbox out of Florence.
Hall’s determination to make his passion a reality has allowed him to positively impact the people around him and even himself by allowing him to grow as a person and in the broadcasting field.
“After I graduate in August, I definitely want to go into the broadcasting field somewhere, whether it is with Your Day or somewhere else,” Hall said.
Know a determined Clemson spirit who you’d like to see us write about? Contact University writer Crystal Boyles at firstname.lastname@example.org.