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!