Munachim Amah, a second-year PhD student from Anambra, a southeastern state in Nigeria, is in the University of Iowa’s journalism and mass communication program. His broad research interest is in journalism studies: how journalists work, where they work, and what they produce. Amah is a recipient of the 2022 Stanley Graduate Award for International Research. Learn more about him below.
What prompted you to pursue your graduate studies at the University of Iowa?
I have always wanted to do a PhD. It was a matter of when, not if. After getting a master's degree in Nigeria, I taught at a Nigerian university for three years, and when I started thinking of getting a PhD, I knew I wanted to do it in the U.S. I applied to a couple of schools and received a few offers. I decided to come to the University of Iowa because it was the most familiar to me. The Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa has a strong reputation in Nigeria, and it really was my first window into the university. Eventually, I learned about the people doing stellar work in the journalism and mass communication program and had conversations with some of the professors. The professors were warm, kind, and supportive. I was convinced after speaking with a few of them that the journalism and mass communication program at the UI would be the right community for me for the next four years.
You applied for the Stanley Graduate Award for International Research and did a research project in Nigeria. Can you tell me more about this?
Yes, I applied for the award and was supported to travel to Nigeria this past summer for research. The Stanley award supports preliminary research for dissertation writing. I spent eight weeks in Nigeria: five weeks doing ethnographic work in a newsroom and the other three weeks conducting physical interviews with journalists at different locations. It was a stressful experience but also an important learning moment for me. I had taken a class on humanistic research (it's a methodology class that focuses on qualitative research methods like text analysis, ethnography, and interviews). I did a couple of exercises in this class, but the summer research in Nigeria was an opportunity to transfer those learnings to the field. I am researching how journalists approach the coverage of poverty in Nigeria, so I spent most of my time in a newsroom observing journalists during editorial meetings and throughout the course of their daily work. Additionally, I interviewed a few of them and learned so much about the challenges journalists face while trying to represent the marginalized poor. Overall, it was an interesting and rewarding experience!
How has the UI prepared you for a future career in your area?
I'm still in the early stages of my program, but I have learned a lot already (and done so much too!). I am definitely a better researcher and teacher now than I was when I joined the program last year. I have taken a lot of seminars that have challenged me, and I have learned to be more intentional about my teaching and presence with my students. Some of my professors tell me they believe I will be a great scholar, and I believe that's a sign for how much growth has happened in one year. I am excited to see what big ideas I end up working on in the future and how many people I will inspire through my teaching.
Do you have any faculty and/or staff members that you would like to mention?
I feel very supported by all the faculty members and graduate students in my program. I can't explain this enough, they're all so wonderful. More specifically, my advisor, Dr. David Dowling, is a lovely, lovely man. He is a father, friend, mentor, and model of excellence. I have enjoyed working with him and learning from him. Also, I have particularly liked taking classes with Dr. Brian Ekdale, Dr. Melissa Tully, Dr. Rachel Young, and Dr. Sujatha Sosale. They're all wonderful people who have challenged me in different ways.
What advice would you give to other international students on campus and prospective international students considering the UI?
Not a piece of advice, really. Just a comment.
For other international students: You're doing great already by just being here. Do not be afraid to lean into care and help any time you need it. There's support around you.
For prospective international students: Apply! There's a strong international community in the university and so many people who would be willing to walk with you as you adjust to the new environment. It can be a bit tough initially, but I felt encouraged knowing that there were so many international students doing the same thing. In my program, I had a couple of people I could run to with questions. I also had a few friends outside my program who helped me settle in. The international community is strong and the ISSS office is thoughtful about its activities and the support it provides to international students.
International Programs (IP) at the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to enriching the global experience of UI students, faculty, staff, and the general public by leading efforts to promote internationally oriented teaching, research, creative work, and community engagement. IP provides support for international students and scholars, administers scholarships and assistance for students who study, intern, or do research abroad, and provides funding opportunities and grant-writing assistance for faculty engaged in international research. IP shares their stories through various media, and by hosting multiple public engagement activities each year.