Alumni

We always like to hear from our graduates about their ComDev study experience. We recently talked to three graduates with a connection to the UN system; this time, out student assistant Yahneake Sterling sat down with Rosita Ericsson, an alumna from the very first ComDev MA cohort!

My name is Rosita Ericsson and I graduated from the very first ComDev class 2000-2002, when the course was still in its pilot phase. Although the course has matured and the field of study developed since then it was already a one-of-a- kind experience which significantly changed my professional path. I had just moved from Sweden to Switzerland with my new baby (now a high school student with a punk attitude) and my hope was that ComDev would add an international touch to my CV and provide an entry point to the rich international development opportunities that Geneva offers.

At first, ComDev was a real culture shock. I arrived from one of the oldest, most traditional universities in Sweden, and a field of study (political science) where staying within the boundaries of the disciplinary discourse seemed more important than the actual analysis. At ComDev we were just instructed to be creative and explore new ways of thinking – all very confusing to me. But as I started navigating through the constantly evolving field of communication for development I began to feel that I had maybe found my thing. I had previously worked as a newspaper journalist and took an interest in the role of mass media in social change. For my thesis I brought my then toddler to Senegal and Burkina Faso for a study on children’s participation in a regional radio campaign on children’s rights. My local supervisor at Plan International’s West Africa Office cleverly used the results of my research to fundraise for new media projects and I got a series of consultancy contracts for Plan to work on enhancing children’s participation in conception, production and monitoring and evaluation of media initiatives.

This was the entry point I needed. I got a job as a project officer at a Geneva based NGO and became involved in the preparations of the first World Summit on the Information Society, to help ensure a substantial participation of journalists from the global South. Having the ComDev perspective also proved to be highly useful when I later moved to Vietnam to work within the technical assistance team for a Sida-funded programme at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
I realised two things: First, that governmental agencies for international cooperation not necessarily had any expertise or even understanding about communication for development and, secondly, that Vietnam had nothing remotely resembling the social movements and grassroots’ organisations in Latin America and Africa, which we had discussed and studied in Malmö. But to me, ComDev is most of all an attitude: my studies had given me methodologies and ways of approaching development objectives that definitively helped me – and made our projects better.

The ComDev course opened the door to some very enriching experiences and has played an important role in my professional life. For several years I kept in close touch with several of the other students from my class, and with the course itself as a supervisor for later students in their thesis projects. I am now working in a more traditional communications position for a human rights organisation. Even if it’s further away from the field of study, I still have my ComDev attitude, helping me to keep our projects firmly grounded in local priorities and perspectives!

If you are interested in applying for one of our programs our courses, e.g. the flagship two-year part-time online blended learning MA, our free-standingAdvances in ComDev‘ course or add a second year of studies to your completed one-year MA, there is plenty of information on the ComDev portal!

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ComDev students and alumni are based around the world and work in many different fields where they apply their communication for development knowledge and skills.
As the application round for the 1-year MA for spring 2017 is now open between 15 September and 15 October we asked three of our alumni to share reflections on combining and applying their studies in the context of the United Nation system, a major organizational family that employs different approaches to Communication for Development, also known as C4D.
Riikka (Finland/Bhutan), Sajy (Palestine) and Nora (Germany/Nepal) talked to ComDev program coordinator Tobias Denskus and program assistant Samah Ahmad about interpreting ComDev in their work in Asia and the Middle East.

Riikka Suhonnen, United Nations Volunteers (UNV), Thimpu, Bhutan 

riikkasuhonenMy name is Riikka Suhonnen, I am from Finland, and my background is in African Studies and Development Studies. From 2013 to 2015 I worked as a UN Volunteer in Bhutan, in roles of National Coordinator and Communication and Resource Mobilization Officer.

Doing my ComDev Master’s thesis on youth civic engagement in Bhutan had definite, although partly unintended synergies with my work tasks

In my UNV role at the Secretariat for New Development Paradigm, I worked on an international project that focused on happiness and UN’s new post-2015 development agenda. My task was to ensure that people would be engaged in this discussion on happiness, well-being and development goals, especially young Bhutanese. We organized participatory workshops for different target groups including young people. Doing my ComDev Master’s thesis on youth civic engagement in Bhutan had definite, although partly unintended synergies with my work tasks. Coincidentally, youth volunteerism was the theme for the International Volunteer Day in 2013 that we organized together with several youth organizations in Bhutan.

We wanted to raise discussion with young people on issues they thought were important

The UN’s MyWorld survey – a kind of simple C4D tool to collect people’s views on development – served as a facilitation tool for deeper reflection and participatory activities. We wanted to raise discussion with young people on issues they thought were important, ranging from health to education and employment, and to inspire youth to make positive change happen in their own communities.

It was fascinating to see how this specific C4D method worked in practice

The UNDP in Bhutan trailed online game-based approach to search for new solutions for youth unemployment in the country. This innovation project was facilitated by Emerson College’s Engagement Lab in Boston. It was fascinating to see how this specific C4D method worked in practice – in a country with slow internet and very unequal opportunities to access internet in general.

ComDev background provides a useful theoretical framework to reflect on the core questions of development

At the end of my UNV assignment, I was very lucky to participate in a five-day edutainment training offered for Bhutanese media organizations and NGOs. The training was led by Professor Martine Bouman from Centre for Media and Health, and Professor Arvind Singhal – both experienced C4D researchers and practitioners with so many stories to share. Not only in this training, but in general, many colleagues at different UN agencies were curious about the programme in Malmö, and ComDev approach in general. I feel that ComDev background provides a useful theoretical framework to reflect on the core questions of development: why and for whom are we doing this – and how do we know what people actually need?

Sajy Elmughanni, Communication and Communication for Development Officer, UNICEF, Ramallah, Palestine

sajyelmughanniMy name is Sajy Elmughanni, I have been working in the development field for almost 10 years.   I gained a BSc degree in Computer Systems Engineering and MSs in Information Management Systems from the University of Houston- Clear Lake, United States. I am currently working as a Communication and Communication for Development Officer in UNICEF State of Palestine.

While working in my current role, I felt I lacked that theoretical Communication for Development background

While working in my current role, I felt I lacked that theoretical Communication for Development background and that is what  attracted me to the ComDev course, as well as I felt it was relevant to my work in UNICEF.

The degree has proved to be much more valuable than what I have originally thought

Delving into development cooperation, analyzing media and culture, grasping the role of ICT in development and many more interesting communication for development topics were a great additions to my knowledge and to my career in ComDev with UNICEF. The degree has proved to be much more valuable than what I have originally thought.

The virtual classroom was amazing, it felt like you are in with the rest of the students in Malmö

Aside from the academic value, the course was customized in a way that made it very convenient for someone like me who works in a very tough and demanding environment. I was very convenient for me to follow the live lectures from any place where internet connection is available.  Even when I had missed them, the live lectures were reordered by the course admin so I can conveniently watch them later. The virtual classroom was amazing, it felt like you are in with the rest of the students in Malmö. I was able to ask my instructor questions, comment on some discussions and even I was involved in a work group where some of us where online and some others were physically in the classroom in Malmö University.

I am proud to have completed my MA from Malmö University in ComDev

Despite my busy schedule and my frequent travel missions in my work, I was able to stay on top of things thanks for the convenient course structure. I was very much impressed with the level of guidance that we I had on ways to approach the course.

I am proud to have completed my MA from Malmö University in ComDev, it was a very rich and rewarding experience.

Nora Wegner, UNESCO, Kathmandu, Nepal 

norawegnerMy name is Nora Wegner, and am currently working as a DAAD Carlo-Schmid-Fellow in the education unit of the UNESCO field office in Kathmandu, Nepal; my academic background is in Political Science and Development Studies.

C4D is a field sensitises us on important theoretical knowledge and reflections about the structure and systems of the development sector

My motivation to embark on an additional Master’s degree was that C4D is a field that is highly relevant for and can be applied in basically all development sectors, as it sensitises us on the one hand on important theoretical knowledge and reflections about the structure and systems of the development sector, and provides us on the other hand with hands-on communication tools, which are applicable not only within projects on the ground, but also useful in order to convey messages on the topic of “development” between the so called Global South and North.  UNESCO is mostly working on policy level within the field of education. I realised that it helps a great deal to incorporate a C4D perspective into my work, as it provides me with a deeper understanding of arising issues as well as with new points of views and ideas.

Formal education becomes accessible even for marginalised ethnic and linguistic groups

Nepal features an incredible diversity with regard to traditions, ethnicities as well as languages. To be able to provide meaningful and useful education in such a context it is important to reflect on the questions: What will be incorporated into the curriculum, and how will this knowledge be imparted, in order to awaken the interest and create a chance for everybody within society to participate in education?  The goal is to create educational programs that respect and accommodate the different realities and circumstances of its population. One example is the initiative to offer primary education in the different mother tongues spoken in Nepal, so that formal education becomes accessible even for marginalised ethnic and linguistic groups. Another component is to leave space within the curricula to encourage the teaching about local/indigenous knowledge, traditions and customs.

It is much more interactive than other online programs….the teaching team manages to engage and maintain the motivation of the students

The possibility to complete the studies online gives us students a great deal of flexibility and is therefore, in my opinion, one of the main advantages of the programe. While studying the programe I have been living in Malmö, Hamburg and now Kathmandu. To be physically bound to your place of studies will always have an impact on the choices that you take with regards to other aspects of life, such as personal or career related. At the same time it is much more interactive than other online programes. Like this the teaching team manages to engage and maintain the motivation of the students, even though it is often very challenging to combine studies and work.

Dear all,

These are exciting times at ComDev!

As the spring application window for ComDev programs and courses opens from 15 March – 15 April we have great educational opportunities lined up for you!

First, the second round to apply to our flagship two-year part-time MA in Communication for Development is now open!
You can find all the details on the ‘1-year MA’ page.

This will be the first time that we will evaluate application letters for students starting the autumn course and based on our initial experiences for the spring course we strongly encourage you to submit a letter and strengthen your application!

Second, as you may have heard through the ComDev grapevine, it is now possible to apply for courses that will qualify for a 2-year, 120ECTS MA in Communication for Development! If you already completed our 60ECTS MA program this is an exciting opportunity to return to ComDev for a full-time year of practice- and reflective learning!

Third, our free-standing Communication for Development: Advances in Social Action, Planning and Evaluation course will also be available in the autumn semester!
Now formally part of the 2-year MA course package the third Advances course will attract a diverse group of ComDev alumni, new students and professionals from the global development industry-your ideal gateway to return to C4D and get to know (or continue) the ComDev experience!

All of our courses are 50% full-time courses taught in our online blended learning ‘glocal classroom’ that we have pioneered, improved and enhanced for more than 15 years!

You can also read what graduates from the course have said about ComDev.

Please note that applications have to be made through Sweden’s central university admissions website and that we only evaluate the letters of intent and not other parts of your application. University admission should always be your first point of contact regarding application matters.
However, our colleagues at Malmö University admissions (admissions(at)mah.se) and our course coordinator Åsa Ulemark can be contacted for technical questions regarding your application as well – and you can also get in touch with the ComDev team at comdev(at)mah.se – just allow a few days for replying individually during this busy period of the semester.

We are looking forward to your applications and welcoming you to Malmö in September!

Tobias Denskus & the ComDev team

ComDev anniversary event-News & Updates

by Tobias Denskus August 14, 2015 Alumni

Our ComDev 15th anniversary seminar is nicely taking shape and we would like to take the opportunity of returning from our summer vacation to share some updates with you. Below is the draft program for the 1.5 days in September. Our post from before the summer break outlines the rationale behind the seminar with some […]

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Celebrate 15 years of ComDev with us!

by Tobias Denskus May 22, 2015 Alumni

Dear students, alumni, colleagues & friends of ComDev Malmö! ComDev was founded in 2000 and we are celebrating the program’s 15th anniversary this year! We would like to take this opportunity to invite students, alumni, colleagues and friends of the program to a special 2-day event in Malmö on 18 & 19 September 2015. The […]

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ComDev alumni interviews: ComDev graduate completed her PhD

by Rebecca Bengtsson December 10, 2014 Alumni

Johanna Stenerson is one of the first ComDev graduates to complete their PhD. Johanna graduated from ComDev in 2006, and after having worked in Nicaragua as a programme analyst in a civil society organisation she was accepted for doctoral studies at Örebro University, Sweden. In November she defended her PhD thesis “Citizens in the Making. […]

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ComDev graduate Florencia Enghel defends her PhD thesis

by Rebecca Bengtsson December 8, 2014 Alumni

On 8 December, ComDev graduate and Glocal Times editor Florencia Enghel is defending her Phd thesis “Video letters, mediation and (proper) distance – A qualitative study of international development communication in practice” at Karlstad University. We’re wishing Florencia the best of luck for her defence! Florencia’s study scrutinizes the trajectory of an international development communication […]

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ComDev alumnus Shahriar Khonsari exhibits photographs in Finland

by Rebecca Bengtsson October 24, 2014 Alumni

Last year, Shahriar Khonsari completed his MA in Communication for Development at Malmö University. ComDev’s Tobias Denskus took Shahriar’s current exhibition in Helsinki as an opportunity to catch up with him and the work he is doing on Afghan refugees in Iran.  Tell us a little bit about the background of your work.  – For the last ten years […]

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New ComDev Alumni group on Facebook!

by Rebecca Bengtsson October 24, 2014 Alumni

We’ve set up an official ComDev Alumni group on Facebook, feel free to join us on this link!  

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ComDev alumni interviews: Erliza Lopez Pedersen

by Rebecca Bengtsson April 10, 2014 Alumni

Erliza Lopez Pedersen graduated from ComDev in June 2013 and in addition to her ComDev degree she has a Master of Arts in English. Erliza is the first doctoral candidate in Communication for Development at Malmö University. – The ComDev programme is, in my opinion, in a league of its own. The seminars provide wide-ranging […]

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