by Lindsay Boyle
On Friday, Oct. 26, a four-member panel discussed the various aspects and types of work that Ohio University has done with development agencies throughout the United States and around the world.
The panel was part of a program celebrating the Communication and Development Studies program’s 25th anniversary. David Mould, former director of Communication and Development Studies, organized, introduced and moderated the panel.
Panel members included Yusuf Kalyango, director of the Institute for International Journalism; Rafael Obregon, Chief of the Communication for Development Unit at UNICEF; Lauren Brown Vulanovic, a graduate of the Communication and Development Studies program and an employee at Pan American Health Organization, and visiting professor Karen Greiner.
The panel session kicked off with Obregon — also a former director of the Communication and Development Studies program — speaking primarily about the noticeable impact that communication and development studies has had within UNICEF and other agencies. He said that UNICEF has benefitted from many ever-changing communication and development strategies.
David Mould introduces the panel.
Kalyango first discussed the evolution of the Institute of International Journalism since 2008, the year he became director.
Today, he explained, the IIJ has enough money to fund student employees, international conferences and trainings, the publishing and production of research, foreign correspondence internships, and travel scholarships for students to present research around the world.
“If you have a very small program, you have to figure out how to market that and brand it, and find a way of showing that it can manage finances,” he said.
According to Kalyango, that was all possible primarily because of partnerships he worked to establish at the university level and beyond, including one with the Communication and Development Studies program.
For example, the IIJ was approved for one of its grants — the Study of the U.S. Institute on Journalism and Media grant — after the U.S. State Department learned of some of the projects the IIJ and the Communication Development Studies program had done or had in the works.
IIJ conferences and trainings have occurred in countries such as India and Turkey, and students have presented research in countries such as Singapore. The IIJ’s ever-expanding international network includes scholars from more than 50 countries.
According to Greiner, there are many windows of opportunity for various research projects as long as graduate students know where to look and what to do.
In the Communication and Development Studies program, she explained that a group she is part of has started to organize a database of past grant proposals that successfully acquired funded.
Greiner encouraged students interested in consultation or grants, quite simply, to ask about them. When pitching an organization, Greiner emphasized that students should be specific and ready to prove they have done their homework.
She suggested that students should consider proposing research fellowships rather than internships because many organizations do not conduct their own research. She also said students should work to self-finance via grants and funding so the organization will not have to worry about paying them much, if at all.
“There are organizations working in development and social change that don’t have a lot of time to investigate or document or evaluate what they’re doing,” she said. “Many of them evaluate, because if you don’t evaluate and show impact, then you can’t get more funding. But oftentimes they don’t document in the day-to-day.”
Greiner said, in addition to typical communication and development studies skill sets, it is important for students to be able to help an organization explain its actions in terms of theory and research methods, as well as in layman’s terms.
“Communication theory is something that I was surprised that people wanted from me,” she said. “I’ve been flown places to sit in front of USAID and talk fancy.”
Vulanovic, who graduated in 2008, gave advice about some of the things she said she wished she had learned in college.
In addition to knowing methodology and research, Vulanovic said students should learn finance skills such as grant writing, budget planning and evaluation skills. Regarding the latter, she said many people are not able to write appropriate indicators for what they are trying to measure, and explained that having that skill would therefore give students an edge.
“The number one recommendation that I would have for everyone is learn to write grants,” she said. “If you can bring in funding, you can bring in a job.”
During internships, Vulanovic said students should not be afraid to be aggressive, especially if they feel as though they are not being challenged enough or are being ignored.
“Real world experience is so, so valuable,” she said.
Vulanovic added that communication and development skills are important, too, including the use of social networks.
“A lot of the concepts that you’re learning now…are absolutely, 100 percent applicable to stuff that we’re doing in WHO,” she said. “So, don’t lose heart on that — it still works.”