Friday, October 21, 2022

Frankline Matanji
Frankline Matanji

Frankline Matanji is a recipient of the 2022 Global Student Award, which recognizes one undergraduate and one graduate student who are leaders deeply engaged in international education on campus or abroad. Matanji is a PhD student in mass communications with a focus in international/development studies, from Mumias, Kenya.

Learn more about Matanji’s engagement with international education below.


What experiences, organizations, programs, and/or community involvement in which you have participated have furthered your international education?

My journey at the University of Iowa started with receiving a Graduate College’s Iowa Recruitment Fellowship which has played a vital role towards my progress in the PhD program. The award of this fellowship, coupled with my passion for research led me to apply for a Stanley Award for International Research grant in 2020. I was awarded the grant to conduct a pre-dissertation study in Kenya. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 pandemic, I was not able to travel to Kenya. I ended up collecting data in Kenya remotely. The award of this grant motivated me to apply for a Student Impact Grant, an award from the University of Iowa’s office of the president in collaboration with the Center for Advancement. I am collaborating with Dr. Louisa Ha from Bowling Green State University on this research project. We interviewed Kenyan journalists in Kenya on how they make decisions on which news to be aired (journalistic gatekeeping) when covering Chinese investment in Kenya.

Additionally, I won the T. Anne Cleary Dissertation Award from the Graduate College. This grant facilitated my travel to Kenya during the summer of 2022 where I conducted interviews on Kenyans public opinion towards Chinese investments in Kenya for phase one of my dissertation.

I will be traveling back next year to conduct surveys for phase two of the dissertation. Lastly in terms of research grants, I won the Graduate Engagement Corps (GEC) Grant for a community engagement project. For this grant, I will be traveling to Kenya during the summer of 2023 to explore the role of digital media in community fundraising and empowerment in Kenya. I am working on this project in collaboration with my advisor Dr. Melissa Tully and Dr. Kate Magsamen-Conrad from the Communication Studies department.

Early this year, I published a research paper that looked at how media from different regions of the world report about Chinese investments in Africa. I looked at media from the U.S., United Kingdom, China, South Africa, and Kenya. I observed that media from the West, China, and Africa report about the issue with varying intensity in terms of topics covered and the sentiment expressed. The findings of this study were vivid indication of the need for scholars to internationalize their scholarship to ensure representation of globalized views.

As evidenced above, working on diverse research projects on topics focusing on various countries have facilitated internationalization of my research focus. Working with a diverse pool of scholars from across the world has also helped stage my upcoming scholarship as a global researcher who can collaborate with distinguished scholars in my field from both the Global North and South.

As a teaching assistant, I was awarded the John F. Murray Outstanding Doctoral Student Teaching Award for my outstanding contribution to teaching during the spring of 2022. This award was in recognition for my hard work and dedication as a TA as well as my ability to teach while sharing global perspectives which students appreciate as evidenced in their course evaluations.

During this academic year, I am currently the managing editor for the Journal of Communication Inquiry (JCI) housed in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication here at the University of Iowa. JCI publishes interdisciplinary and international research with its international contributors focusing on varied areas of mass communication such as cultural studies, journalism, philosophy, sociology, and political science. Serving as the managing editor has given me the opportunity to interact with both local and international scholars in our field who submit their manuscript to the journal. It is also equipping me with relevant experience that will hopefully provide an avenue for me to thrive in academia.

In terms of service, I served as a member of the International Student Advisory Board (ISAB) during the 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 academic years. During the 2021/2022 academic year, I also served as the communication director for ISAB. As a member of ISAB, I advocated for a winter clothing drive. For this drive, we worked with the Dean of Students Office and International Programs. These winter clothes are intended to help students (especially international students who are encountering winter for the first time) to have winter clothing free of charge. The donated clothes are kept in the Clothing Closet housed in the Iowa Memorial Union under the Dean of Students Office.

Additionally, I led a subcommittee in collaboration with the Graduate College that oversaw the creation of short videos of international students who have won scholarships, awards, or grants. I was interviewed in one of the videos. These videos were aimed at informing international students about awards and scholarships available for them. These videos were posted on social media of the Graduate College to create awareness about opportunities available in the college to motivate international students to apply for them. 

I also served as a member of the English Language Proficiency and Teaching working group chaired by International Programs Dean and Associate Provost Russell Ganim and other members of the committee from various departments among them the Graduate College. The working group was tasked with examining English proficiency standards for teaching assistants whose English is not their first language, most of whom are international students.

I was also a member of the committee that drafted the DEI statement included in the syllabi for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication led by Dr. Sujatha Sosale. 

In addition, I am serving as a peer mentor for the iPeer program in the International Programs office, now in my third semester of service. This year, I am mentoring two international students in the iPeer program and one international student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. 

Lastly, I am currently in my second year of serving as a grant reviewer for the Graduate & Professional Student Government (GPSG). As a grant reviewer, I have reviewed several research, service, and travel grants most of which are applied for by international graduate and professional students. I am also a member of GPSG’s International Affairs Committee that advocates for international students.


Other campus or community involvement?

As a graduate student at the University of Iowa, I have gotten a chance to serve on various committees and workshops. I have attended and shared my experience as an international student during open house recruitment events organized by the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Sharing my experience as an international student has served as a motivation to prospective international students to apply to the program hence promoting diversity on campus.

I also organized a virtual workshop where professors from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication connected with students and faculty at Kisii University in Kenya. This workshop was aimed at providing information about resources available for prospective Kenyan students who would like to consider applying to graduate school at the University of Iowa. This initiative was aimed at promoting the University of Iowa, as well as promoting internationalization of the student body at Iowa, hence increasing diversity on campus.


What is the most valuable thing that you have learned through your international education experiences?

One thing that has stood out for me through my international education experiences has been the ability to connect, experience, and learn from and serve diverse communities. By serving both local and international students on campus, I have gotten a chance to learn about other people’s culture through relationship building and advocating for the wellbeing of my fellow students. As a scholar, international educational experiences have expanded my field of research horizon by diversifying and internationalizing my research focus. This has resulted in publishing research projects about the trade war between the U.S. and China, resulting from research that I worked on with Dr. Ha and professor Peiqin Chen of Shanghai International Studies University. I have also published a book chapter on proliferation of mobile phones and their role towards social movements in Africa in collaboration with Dr. Tanja Bosch of University of Cape Town, South Africa. Currently, I am working on a project about misinformation around Covid-19 in Kenya and Senegal in collaboration with Dr. Melissa Tully and other collaborators from The University of Sheffield (UK), Indiana University, and Francis Marion University in South Carolina.


Please share a message to your fellow classmates about the importance of international education.

International educational experiences are a good way of expanding our world view by having a global perspective in every aspect of our academic career. Serving on campus gives us the opportunity to interact with diverse communities across campus which expands our horizon. Additionally striving to collaborate with other scholars diversifies and internationalizes our research interest which is a utility in ensuring representative research drawn from both the Global North and Global South resulting in inclusive and diverse ideas in our research findings. Lastly serving diverse communities on campus and collaborating with scholars from different backgrounds expands our networks which could in the future provide employment opportunities.


What are your future academic or career goals?

As an upcoming scholar, my future career goal is to work as a faculty member involved in teaching and research. As a researcher, I hope to continue collaborating with other scholars from diverse background as well as focusing my research on different countries both from the Global South and North to enhance research quality and visibility. As a teacher, I look forward to bringing diverse and international experiences, and approaches into class to enhance high quality global education.


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.