Monika Pater on Understanding Mundusians' Life Choices and Career Decisions After Mundus Journalism

Dr. Monika Pater, who teaches on the Hamburg specialisation, shares insights from her ongoing research project to identify factors that are instrumental in Mundus Journalism students’ life choices, career and migration decisions.

2020.01.28 | Sabeen Jamil

Dr. Monika Pater is working on a research project that will tell us more about what Mundusians do after the programme.

‘Mundus Journalism changed my life’ is a statement that most Mundusians agree with. But what does this actually mean and what factors before, during and after the Mundus experience contribute to this change? A team of Mundus Journalism researchers from our Hamburg specialisation has set out to find answers to these questions.

Led by Dr. Monika Pater, the research project ''What Next? Alumni Career Expectations and Career Choices In  Life After Mundus' was launched early in 2019 with funding from Hamburg University. In this study, Dr. Monika Pater and team are conducting one-on-one in-depth interviews with alumni from European and non-European countries across Mundus Journalism cohorts and specialisations. 

The project aims to understand the factors that motivate Mundusians to make choices which result in their migration status, life stage and profession. Dr. Pater says that: “Gaining such understanding will enable Mundus Journalism programme to align the course content to the various careers that are available for the graduates of the programme and to train students for those jobs.''

In this interview, Dr.  Monika Pater shares details of the project and discusses how alumni decisions could be reflective of the new career choices for journalism graduates among other factors. 

Mundus Journalism: What is the motivation behind this research project?

Monika Pater: At first it was curiosity. Having worked with the Mundus programme from the start,  I wanted to know where Mundus Journalism students end up, how they are doing today and why they end up where they do. That was one starting point.

Second was an observation that a lot of graduates, at least in Hamburg specialisation, go into the non-journalistic professions. I started to wonder if there was a relation of career choice to the specialisation or for some alumni is the career decision connected to the necessity to stay in the host country and not return home. Are Mundusians pushed by factors like unfavorable circumstances for journalists in their home countries or bad economics that contribute to them not going back to their home countries and choosing non-journalistic professions? Or is it that they are not sure of where they will be headed after graduation and they take the first job that comes their way?  

I was also wondering whether there was a connection of nationality to those staying back in Germany and the career path that they took. It is not very easy for people from some nationalities to get a visa or permanent residence or scholarships in some Western countries. So I started wondering if there was a connection between limitations of citizenship and visa requirements to the career paths that students take after having finished the Mundus programme. 

There was also an observation that  countries in the world are becoming more nationalistic. I wanted to know what that meant for a programme like Mundus Journalism which still invites people from all over the world to become a part of the International Mundus family- The community of people aiming for communication for the public good.

These were some questions that I had for a while and that were behind the idea for this project. With the Hamburg specialisation's time as a degree awarding partner coming to a close, I wanted to know the decisive factors that are behind the life choices and career decisions of Mundusians.

Mundus Journalism: As more journalism graduates are switching to non-journalistic professions for different reasons, what does this mean for journalism studies programmes like Mundus Journalism? 

Monika Pater: I think journalism programmes have to look at what they actually need to educate people for. What kind of communication situations do they train students for. We (Mundus Journalism) are still a journalism studies programme but journalism as a term and profession has become more difficult to define because of the intense digitalisation it has been subject to over the years. This is something that we (Mundus Journalism) have to take into account. I think the Mundus Consortium on the whole has tried to do that in the new applications round. Now we have to see if the new challenges provide a different environment or a better framework for people to deal with in different environments. 

As for journalism graduates switching to non-journalistic professions, a lot of our graduates went into non-journalistic professions like public communication before as well. The Mundus Programme focuses on commonalities in human beings and does a good job at providing an environment where people learn to connect with other human beings above their cultural realities and conflicts. This aspect of the programme is not directly related to their career choices but to the career paths that Mundusians take. Literature suggests that people become very mobile after studying in transnational programmes like Mundus Journalism and that is connected to the career decisions that they take. 

Mundus Journalism: How far along is this project? What trends do you expect to see in your research? 

Monika Pater: At this stage, we are conducting one-on-one in depth interviews with alumni from across Mundus Journalism cohorts and specialisations. We have conducted 7 interviews so far. Our participants come from both European and non-European countries. We met with some participants in person and we interviewed some on Skype. In the next few months, we will continue with the interviews and collect data from at least 5-6 more alumni before we start analysing the data. We plan to go public with our findings before the end of this year.

In our research, we hope to see some indication of how journalism as a profession has changed in the last few years since we started the Mundus Journalism programme in 2005.  I expect the results to reflect that more younger people go into digital professions like social media marketing and social media editing- We see that career trend at least in graduates of Hamburg specialisation-This means that our graduates are producing for a different kind of platform. This is also true for those alumni who go into online journalism. 

I wonder if this is not the part of the youth international experience and knowledge of foreign languages all adding up to a new kind of workplace that we had not envisioned when we started the programme in 2005.

I also wonder if we can see some gender related differences in this study. Literature suggests that women show different migration patterns as compared to men. Women also have different reasons and patterns for migration and for going back to their home country. Living abroad is found to have brought in the feeling of respect among women for their achievements and decisions as well as the recognition that they are their own person.  Going back to their home countries after their first migration experience for many women means picking up the same roles as before in the environment which does not facilitate women self organization and independence. This is not easy for most women. So I am wondering whether such patterns will be reflected in our data as well.

Mundus Journalism: In addition to this project, what other research projects are you currently involved in?

Monika Pater: In an ongoing Hamburg University’s research project Sustainable Food Choices, I will be looking at the data from a gender perspective in food and sustainability. I am also working on a project with a colleague where I am researching what it means for radio in Germany to end the on-air women magazine ‘Woman’s hour’. Whether it means that women have less air space, less women's voices and experiences on radio?  In our study we would like to find out the exact number of women's voices during the slot what used to be the woman hour. If we are lucky it will be the same percentage as previously. If we are not lucky, it would be a lower percentage on airspace.

Would you like to participate in the project 'What Next? Alumni Career Expectations and Career Choices In The Life After Mundus’? Reach out to Dr. Monika Pater at monika.pater@uni-hamburg.de or Sabeen Jamil at sabeen.jamil1@gmail.com

Staff
Tags: Research, Life after Mundus Journalism, career paths, journalism