The USA has been unique from the very beginning. Its very genesis was the result of an unlikely serendipitous event: a meeting to plan for a session at the 1999 PRC on the relationship between stations and their universities. Dr. John Keiser, President of Southwest Missouri State University (SMSU) and public member of the NPR Board, invited key members of his administration; Arlen Diamond, General Manager of KSMU, members of the KSMU staff; and Linda Carr, President, Carr Communications, to participate. After a discussion of the systemís history, assets and obstacles, the participants lamented the fact that ongoing problems between stations and their universities keep two-thirds of the system from reaching its potential. On the spot the group decided to explore the interest on the part of the system in creating a national initiative to address and strengthen the university licensee relationship. If there were enough interest, a planning meeting would be held. There was. And there is increasing interest in the initiative.
Participants in the Planning Meeting first tackled the difficult issues of identifying and discussing issues surrounding university-licensed stations. Perspectives of both the stations and the licensees were taken into account in order to build an objective view of the current situation and to form a more comprehensive approach to the problem-solving process. The second half of the meeting was dedicated to a discussion of goal-setting and the essential elements that will form the USA's foundation
Note: One of the characteristics that has exemplified the USA initiative has been its harmonious nature. That mood carried throughout the entire Planning Meeting. The time could easily have been filled with rancor because of the drastically different backgrounds of the committee members and the emotion surrounding the issues that were discussed. Instead, harmony was the watchword and consensus was the result. Therefore, the Planning committee easily concurred on the following Statement of Purpose and goals for the USA initiative:
At each juncture, the system has been asked to provide input to ensure that the USA remains pertinent to station needs. It has been that feedback, coupled with the hands-on work of the Planning Committee, that has allowed the USA to take shape and purpose. This has been a unique and interesting process from the very beginning. And what has made it rich is the grassroots nature of it, along with all the suggestions offered by the stakeholders in the system.