Susy Cheston’s experience at Ohio University and WOUB helped inspire her passion for addressing international poverty issues
Susy Cheston is now the chief growth officer at an international non-profit called the Business Council for Peace (Bpeace). But, back in the mid-1980s, Cheston was a young woman pursuing a career in public media leadership that led her to Ohio University and WOUB.
“I was living in St. Louis at the time working as a promotion manager/producer at KWMU public radio which included producing arts and features content for the station,” said Cheston. “I applied for a Corporation for Public Broadcasting Fellowship that took me to Ohio University to be a part of the public media graduate program where I focused on broadcast management.”
Cheston doesn’t remember exactly how she got involved with WOUB, but does know that she got to know Joe Berman, who was the Telecommunication School (now the J. Warren McClure School of Emerging Communication Technologies) liaison to WOUB at the time, and offered to use her experience producing radio arts and features segments for WOUB.
“The most phenomenal thing ever happened as a result of that,” said Cheston. “Yo-Yo Ma was performing at Denison University and through WOUB somehow, I was able to schedule an interview with him. I drove to Denison and sat down with him, just the two of us, on a porch at Denison for two hours and interviewed him about the Bach Cello Suites. I took that interview and interwove it with his performance recordings and aired it as a series on WOUB radio.”
Cheston remembers some other magical experiences as well.
“Michael Powell, director of 'The Red Shoes' and other film classics, and his wife Thelma Schoonmaker, long-time editor for Martin Scorsese, were in town for the Athens International Film Festival, and I had the opportunity to interview them for WOUB," she added.
Cheston is originally from Annapolis, Maryland and didn’t know much if anything about Appalachian Ohio before moving to Athens. She said her time at Ohio University and WOUB helped her learn about the area’s economic condition.
“I learned about the poverty in Appalachian Ohio,” said Cheston. “Also, the exposure I had to international telecommunications while at Ohio University through the graduate program got me thinking me more about the rest of the world and the ways communities can lift themselves up. I had a chance through my program to travel to Belize to participate in research on the impact of television and that gave me my first direct encounter with extreme poverty—an experience that helped shape my life and work.”
During the last month of her graduate program, Cheston was required to do an internship. And her connection to WOUB helped her land an internship at WGBH in Boston.
“Joe Berman was very kind and gracious to me. He used his connections and helped introduce me to people at WGBH,” she said. “Joe picked up the phone and called colleagues and told them what I could do and asked if they had a space for me.”
Cheston’s internship at WGBH turned into a full-time job. She was hired as a financial and administrative unit manager for the radio station and eventually became director of outreach for both the radio and television stations. But eventually Cheston decided to take advantage of opportunities to use her skills outside of public media. Throughout her career, Cheston has worked in places like Costa Rica and El Salvador, using her marketing, programming and finance skills in the non-profit arena to create business opportunities and jobs for those who are impoverished and underprivileged through the world.
“In my current role as chief growth officer at Bpeace, I connect business experts who offer pro bono consulting as volunteers to small business owners so they can create jobs in Latin America and the U.S. Part of my job is to recruit those volunteer experts to work with our program.”
Cheston says even though her career has moved in a different direction, the experience she had at Ohio University and WOUB was extremely valuable.
“The things I learned about management, marketing, and messaging, in part through WOUB, are very much things I’ve drawn on through my work,” said Cheston. “The WOUB connection was delightful. There was sense of welcome and openness. Here I was coming in with experience doing arts and features, and the people at WOUB made a place for me to do that. It was a gift to me.”