Willard Takes Workshops Online

Radio broadcaster Mark Willard (1997) is getting back into his workshop groove.

By Kylie Smith

Mark Willard
Radio broadcaster Mark Willard (1997).

About seven years ago, Willard and one of his colleagues discussed their shared goal to give broadcast students the necessary materials to thrive in the industry. Their successful Broadcasters Path workshops attracted dozens of eager students to Los Angeles for a weekend of intensive training. A job change and move for Willard put the program on pause, but now it’s back, this time as a virtual event in response to COVID-19 restrictions.

In September 2020, 40 students from across the country got the chance to craft broadcast reels, explore internship opportunities and hear from noted sports journalists. like Justin Hathaway, the head of content for NBC Sports Bay Area.

Among the participants were journalism students from Cal Poly, some of whom had taken Willard’s class in Advanced Sportscasting, which he created and began teaching in 2016.

Since age 10, Willard knew that sports journalism was in his blood. The Foster City native would sit on the floor staring intently at his parents’ TV, not only watching the Giants’ games, but announcing them. He once said to a high school friend that he would work one day at KNBR radio in the Bay Area.

The moment Willard stepped onto Cal Poly’s campus as a student, he found ways to get involved by calling the athletic department letting them know he did not care what job they had for him, he just wanted to get experience. After graduating in 1997, he landed jobs announcing basketball and baseball games for Cal Poly and eventually for the Boise Hawks minor league team in Idaho.

“I have learned that microphones are a beautiful thing. They are the path to the outside world,” Willard said. “I learned how to look at the microphone as a bridge to every other person out there.”

In 2019, after a successful broadcast career in Southern California at ESPN and XTRA 1360, Willard had the opportunity to move back to the Bay Area to host his dream show at KNBR. You can hear Willard on the station’s sports show every weekday from 6-10 p.m.

As a radio host, workshop organizer and Cal Poly instructor, Willard is keen on inspiring students and helping them transition to the professional world. Joining him now at KNBR is former student Erik Engle (2019), who is a producer and editor for the station. Engle was Willard’s student in his first Advanced Sportscasting class, then later acted as his teaching assistant the following spring quarter.

Willard is currently experiencing online learning from a different perspective now that all three of his children are home during the pandemic. He is looking forward to more virtual and even in-person workshops in 2021 and will offer an internship for workshop students who submit exemplary content they’ve produced. Willard hopes to create a scholarship for his workshops to expand to high schools, especially in underprivileged areas.

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