by: Barbara DeMarco-Barrett
A talk with Dmitriy, public affairs host of "Countdown UCI,” airing every Friday at 4:00 pm Pacific time.
Tell me about your show and how it came about.
“Countdown UCI” was a product of the weekly abundance of news at UC Irvine and my frustration over the fact that there was a paucity of campus media covering it. Even at UCI’s very own radio station, the airwaves were silent of the ups and downs of campus life. I felt that I could fill this void, and tell not only students, but also the surrounding Irvine community about the campus around which the very city itself was built.
Let’s back up. How did you find your way to KUCI?
The credit here goes to a specific individual: Sam Shaw. Many know him as the original mastermind behind the Largest Dodgeball Game world record (reclaimed by UCI on Sept. 21st of this year, I’m proud to say). He is also the former host of “The Shaw Show,” an early morning music and talk show on KUCI. Almost a year ago, Sam invited me to be a guest on his show. That was genesis. The concept of being able to share my opinions on the radio enthralled me, and that very day I contacted the then-training director Briana Wall and signed up for the KUCI training class. It was one of my best decisions, and I want to thank Sam for introducing me to the underground.
At UCI, you’re studying Civil Engineering and Philosophy. That’s an interesting combination.
First, a bit of history. I went to a strict Protestant high school that frowned upon pluralism and allowed little freedom of expression. All students were required to attend religion class daily, where we were inculcated with a specific religious dogma. Then, something happened that changed me and the way I saw the world around me. The summer after my junior year, I took an introductory philosophy class at my local junior college. It taught me that I didn’t have to accept everything that my teachers told me, and that the questions I wanted to ask were questions that consumed many of the greatest thinkers who ever lived. That was when I decided that I wanted to study philosophy in college (for which UCI has a very good program, might I add).
After coming to UCI, I worked through the class requirements zealously, and I was soon able to complete most of my philosophy degree. However, it is no secret that the job prospects for philosophy majors are slim, so I began looking for something that interested me and had real-world applications. I went through quite a few majors before settling on Civil Engineering, and I’m happy to have landed here. It is a field that works with people as well as with numbers, graphs, and computers and I am very pleased to have my feet in two completely separate disciplines on campus (both academically, and geographically – Humanities and Engineering are on opposite sides of the campus).
What shows do you especially enjoy at KUCI?
By far, my favorite music show is “Electric Pop Rocks” with Alex and Monique. All their songs sound like hit singles, and their show has turned me on to some amazing music that has become a staple in my library. I am also a big fan of Andy’s “Midnight Anthem.” Not only does he play amazing music, but he is also one of the wittiest, most amicable guys I’ve ever met.
On the Public Affairs front, some of my favorite shows are “Writers on Writing,” and “Health Matters.” Dr. Shakib is a passionate and knowledgeable host, and she is responsible for a big upgrade in my health consciousness.
And when you’re in your car, out of range of the signal, what’s your radio dial tuned to?
I am always listening to KPCC, KCRW, or another station that plays NPR programming. Patt Morrison, Larry Mantle, Robert Siegel – all of them have taught me something about being on the radio, and doing good interviews.
Back to the show, how do you choose your guests?
An important aspect of my show is that it’s divided into two sections. The first is the news and discussion, and the second is the interview. Normally, I prefer that the guest not be related to the news topics. One of my show’s missions is to communicate to the audience the incredible scope and depth of the campus life at UC Irvine, and I find that this type of structure works well for doing that. This also allows me to invite almost anyone I find interesting on any particular week. Often it will be a professor who is doing some incredible research, or an administrator who works behind the scenes, but whose job is vital to keeping the campus functioning. Other times, I invite fellow anteaters who, as students, are involved with something unique on campus.
Who has been your most interesting guest to date?
It’s quite difficult to choose just one, but if I had to pick I would go with Sonya Cooke, who is an MFA drama student in the UCI Arts School. She had directed a modern outdoor rendition of the classic play Antigone, and came on my show to share not only what inspired her to direct the play, but also why she chose to come to UCI after doing her undergraduate studies at NYU. However, what is probably the biggest reason I chose her, is that, as a trained actress, she was absolutely a natural on the air. She anticipated questions before I asked them and answered them with absolute grace and delicacy. It was a real treat for me, and I hope also for my listeners, to hear her.
What do you plan for the winter quarter?
One of my plans includes booking more UCI authors to come on as guests. Starting at KUCI, I had originally expected that most of my guests would be published authors from the university, but unfortunately those have proven especially difficult to book (not to mention that the reading requirement of a book per week on top of my schoolwork might get overwhelming). I am, however, planning to redouble my efforts, and get some authors to come share about their recent books on the air. I have a few names already in mind, but I don’t want to reveal those just yet, not until I’m certain.
Who would you LOVE to have as a guest?
Perhaps the one person from UCI that I would absolutely love to get on my show is Erwin Chemerinsky, the Dean of the UCI Law School. He is undoubtedly one of the most brilliant legal minds of our generation, and currently holds the honor of being the most cited legal scholar (more than doubling the citations received by the #2 on that list). I’ve been trying to summon the courage to send him an interview request, but haven’t gone through with it as of yet. He is, however, known for being extremely accessible to book for interviews and speaking engagements, so my hopes are high!
What do you hope listeners gain from listing to your show?
I truly hope that my listeners gain an admiration for the remarkable institution that is UC Irvine. In common lore, we are known for being an underdog to UCLA or Berkeley, and many students become discouraged for not attending a “top tier” UC. I think this kind of attitude is complete rubbish. I’ve had, and continue to have, an absolutely amazing college experience. I’ve met remarkable people, had lunch with the chancellor, and gotten hours of one-on-one time with the kind of faculty that I wouldn’t even have been able to approach at UCLA or Cal. I wouldn’t pass up the experiences I’ve been able to have at UCI for anything, and I want my listeners to have the same kind of high regard for this campus that is at the center of their community.
Anything I should have asked but didn’t?
Nope. I’m pretty sure you’ve covered it all. Tune in to my show, "Countdown UCI", every Friday at 4:00pm on 88.9FM and at kuci.org! And don’t be afraid to call in during the break!
Barbara DeMarco-Barrett's son was four when she started "Writers on Writing." He's now 16. She's Orange Coast Magazine's new literary critic, author of Pen on Fire, and has a story in the newish collection, Orange County Noir (Akashic). More at Pen on Fire .