In 2015, Josephine Lukito received her master’s in media studies, with the aspiration of later attaining her Ph.D. While at Newhouse, she was a member of the Syracuse University Circle K International Club. As a student, she took advantage of the Association in Education of Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) conference and the International Communication Association (ICA) conference. Currently, she is a Ph.D. candidate in Mass Communications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with minors in English Linguistics and Political Science. Lukito has been accepted as an assistant professor at the University of Texas, Austin’s Journalism School where she will begin teaching in the fall, 2020.
“Newhouse’s Media Studies program prepared me for my current occupation as a Ph.D student, and contributed to my success in the academic job market.”Josephine Lukito G’15
How did you obtain your current position?
I am finishing up my final (fifth) year in my Ph.D program, which is one of the most internationally recognized programs in the field in Mass Communication. I began my Ph.D immediately after earning my master’s. My research in my Ph.D program draws directly from my research at Newhouse, which focused on public diplomacy and international/foreign/global news reporting. As a teaching assistant, I taught or assisted courses in advertising and news writing.
How do you feel Newhouse prepared you for your current role?
Newhouse’s Media Studies program prepared me really well for my current occupation as a Ph.D. student, and contributed to my success in the academic job market. While at Newhouse, I took advantage of every opportunity I could. For all my semesters, I worked as both an instructional assistant and a research assistant. This was really important to developing my organizational skills, so I could balance research, teaching, and classes simultaneously.
As a researcher now, I use a lot of quantitative and computational methods to analyze language and text. I developed my quantitative foundation at Syracuse, taking classes both in Newhouse and in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. I then applied it in a range of projects, including those I did with Dr. Guy Golan, who I was a research assistant for. While working with Dr. Golan, I was able to do more research on public diplomacy, which continues to inform my own research on state-sponsored disinformation and computational propaganda.
As a future teacher, my pedagogy is greatly informed by the courses I IA’ed in Newhouse, working with both experienced and new professors. One particularly influential professor was Dr. Anne Osborne, the first professor I was a teaching assistant for at Newhouse. The way she engaged with her students and excited them about mass communication continues to inspire my pedagogy.
What unique features of your graduate program drew you to it in the first place?
The program provides good support for graduate students going to academic conferences, which is essential for any young scholar who wants to be involved with the wider academic community. Another thing that really appealed to me was the combination of theory and methods courses in the curriculum, which I feel provides master’s students with a well-rounded foundation in Communication or Media Studies research.
What are some obstacles or misconceptions about your field that students ought to be aware of?
People tend to think that teachers, professors, and graduate students “take a vacation” during the summer months. In reality, we are preparing courses for the fall, attending several academic conferences to learn about cutting-edge research, and conducting research; research being extremely important in our profession.
Another misconception is that academic graduate programs are similar to terminal professional ones. In reality, the two train students to do very different things. The program I attended, Media Studies, was extremely good at preparing me to do academic research and become a professor. This involves reading academic papers, conducting research, and writing up results in our own papers. I think this program is best suited for graduate students who want to become communication or journalism professors, or who want to do communication or media research.
What moments in your career have been most exciting or defining thus far?
In 2019, my research was referenced in the Mueller Report. In the study, my co-authors and I found that U.S. news media outlets had quoted several Russian trolls in news stories from 2015 to 2017. Several months later, I spoke with CNN about the research.
What advice do you have for current or incoming students? Any classes or professors that you recommend?
I encourage students to take courses outside of Newhouse, and to bring what you learn in those courses [into] research with [your] fellow Newhouse graduate students and professors.
Truly, all of the professors that I worked with—[Brad] Gorham, [Carol] Liebler, Golan, [Makana] Chock, Osborne, [Charisse] L’Pree—were excellent and showed me different ways of succeeding as an academic.