Town/Gown Series: Industry Experts Interact With UNIZIK MassComm Students

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*10 students get empowerment

By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja

The maiden edition of Town & Gown Series, an initiative of Mass Communication Department Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, aimed at bringing about valuable interaction between classroom and industry has ended on a high note.

The event with theme “Exploring emerging opportunities in media and communication,” was organized in partnership with Beyond Community Care foundation (BECCAF), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) founded by Chief Dennis Ezebuilo, Ogbuodudu II, Igwe elect of Amanuke-Eri kingdom.

www.odogwublog.com correspondent reports that the event which was held on Thursday, 19th August, 2021 at ASUU NAU Secretariat, Nnamdi Azikiwe university, Awka, saw 10 indigent students and people living with disabilities receive empowerment from the partnering NGO.

Meanwhile the Town & Gown Series event saw media experts enlighten the students on the best ways to pursue a fulfilling career, charging them to explore the emerging opportunities in the media and communication industry.

Speaking, former Managing Director of The Sun Newspapers and former Commissioner for Information and Culture, Anambra State, Chief Tony Onyima, PhD, said the place of mentorship in media profession cannot be overemphasized, as it prepares younger generation of media practitioners to surmount many challenges often faced in the practice.

Chief Onyima, who noted that social media convergence had widened the scope of media practice in recent time, added that universities must rise to the occasion and bring students nearer to the emerging realities in the new media ecosystem.

Speaking on the theme of the event, “Exploring Emerging Opportunities In Media and Communication,” the guest lecturer, Jika Attoh, urged students to develop sound writing skills to survive in the profession irrespective of the platform.

Attoh, the Executive Director, West Africa Broadcast & Media Academy, said content creation, copyright, blogging and editing are lucrative areas students could engage to earn income, instead of walking round the streets in search of scarce paid employment.

Attoh further advised the students to fact-check and verify their sources in the course of their practice to avoid libelous publications that have often been used by politicians to destroy media houses and practitioners.

Speaking, Co-Chairman of the occasion and MD/CEO of Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS), Chief Uche Nworah, PhD, urged the mass communication students to emulate the giant footprints of professionals who have made enormous contributions to the growth of society through practice of journalism.

Chief Nworah preached self-development as key to expertise in the job, challenging the students to take charge of their destiny by believing in themselves.

Earlier in her welcome address, the Head Department of Mass Communication, Prof Chinwe Uzochukwu, said Town & Gown Series was aimed at bringing about a valuable interface between students undergoing training in the classroom and professionals in the industry.

Prof Uzochukwu said the partnership with Beyond Community Care Foundation which made the maiden edition possible was timely as it coincided with the time when the mass communication discipline is being unbundled for better efficiency. She thanked the planning committee led by Odogwu Emeka Odogwu, PhD, for their effort in making the event a reality.

She informed that the department will welcome future partnership from generous individuals and bodies towards sustenance of the initiative. She encouraged the students to take advantage of the event to chart a course to career greatness in the media and communication industry.

Also, the Vice- Chancellor, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Prof Charles Esimone, lauded the Head of Department, Prof Chinwe Uzochukwu, on the initiative, and pointed out that the programme is in line with the ‘Project 200’ of his administration aimed at raising quality students to be active players in the industries.

Esimone, represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration), Prof Joseph Ikechebelu, said ‘Town and Gown,’ was initiated in the institution to foster relationship between the academic community and the industry. He appealed to the students to allow the knowledge gained to yield fruits in their life even as he commended the empowerment given to less privileged students, describing it as a unique initiative by the department and called on other departments to emulate that.

Also speaking, Dean Faculty of Social Sciences, Prof Uche Nwogwugwu said the programme was an intercourse between the students and professionals where the key players of the industry orientate and mentor students on what they would face after school.

Meanwhile, founder of Beyond Community Care Foundation (BECCAF), Chief Dennis Ezebuilo, said the partnership with the department was geared towards galvanizing and training students through mentorship to have a successful career after graduation.

Chief Ezebuilo who was represented by Onuora Aninwobodo, said the organization strives to reduce poverty, enhance rural development and ensure overall development of the country through skill acquisition and sound education. He warned the students against not taking seriously the invaluable opportunity the event offered to them, as some before them did not get such opportunity. He expressed the hope that the organisation would have for more opportunities to partner with the university in future.

Panelists and other media/Communication experts who spoke at the event offered words of encouragement to the students as well as introduced to them the secrets that established them as standout figures in the media and communication industry.

Barr. Valentine Obienyem, Media Adviser to former Anambra state Governor, Mr Peter Obi, spoke on the importance of journalism, adding that its practice could be used to influence the society. He encouraged the mass communication students to build their capacities at early stage of their lives and try to be vast in different fields to have robust careers.

Former Managing Director of Champion Newspapers, Chief Emmanuel Agu, led the students through tasks of newswriting and warned them not to be distracted in their journalism career.

Chief Agu charged them to be focused in their dream of impacting lives through journalism and challenged them to subject themselves to be mentored on the rudiments of the job.

He described journalism as an influential profession and urged students to influence their immediate environments through the practice. He called on them to be versatile such that they know little about everything.

Also Speaking, Kasie Abone, a marketing analyst at ThisDay newspaper urged the students, especially potential female journalists among them, to remain focused in pursuit of their career goals. She spoke of the opportunities of wide travels one gets in the profession if one knows his or her onions.

Another panelist and Head of Punch newspaper investigative desk, Tessy Igomu, urged the students to be intentional and deliberate about what they want to do in the field. She advised them to strive to carve a niche for themselves, adding that such could only be achieved through diligence and hard work.

Contributing, General Manager, Kpakpando Media Group, Monic Okechukwu, said communication students must cultivate sound knowledge and character. Hence, they must eschew pomposity as journalists are known to be simple to attract good relationship with the public.

She warned aspiring female journalists to desist from indecent dressing, stressing that it can hamper their opportunity in the profession as the public are guided by what they see.

Mr. Kenneth Eseni, an experienced broadcast journalist, encouraged upcoming practitioners to give room for discipline, especially as it relates to time, reminding them that time is of huge essence in the job.

While urging them to acquire evolving media skills, he reminded that being multi-tasked would make them robust and dynamic on the job.

Lending his voice, Onyebuchi VON Nwadukwe, a presenter and producer at Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), encouraged the students to strive in creating platforms for themselves by looking at what is obtainable in order to do something different.

He challenged them to create their own content while maintaining the status quo, as such would mark them out among their peers.

Also, Callistus Ofonye, an SSA to Enugu State Governor on Electronic Media, said mass communication students should identify what they desire to become and back it up with zeal, interest and determination.

Speaking to our reporter, a lecturer in the UNIZIK Mass Communication Department, Prof Chinyere Stella Okunna, described the event as the best that has happened to the students of the department in recent years as exposure to the realities in the media and communication profession was massive. She requested that every effort must be put in place to ensure the Town and Gown series becomes part of the Faculty of Media and Communication studies about to take off on the university as it has proved to be very educative.

Meanwhile, the local organizing committee (LOC) chairman and lecturer at the department, Dr. Odogwu Emeka Odogwu, said the students were encouraged by such gathering and urged them to make good use of what they learnt to develop themselves. He thanked the guests for their time and commitment which, he said, will have impact on the students and praised his committee members for their uncommon dedication.

Odogwu, who until coming into UNIZIK has practised as a reporter, correspondent, editor and blogger, thanked the HOD, Prof Uzochukwu, for the opportunity to serve and Prof Okunna for her advice and praised her for her mentorship legacy as evident in the accolades she got from many of the guests and resource persons who passed through her as a communication teacher.

The president of the Association of Mass Communication Students (ASOMACS), Emmanuel Nginikanma, who gave vote of thanks, said the students were full of praises for the department for the maiden Town & Gown event, appealing for more empowerment for the students in that regard.

His predecessor, Comrade Kingsley Chinedu, who spoke to our reporter, said he was overwhelmed by the success of the event, stating that it availed students a rare opportunity to rub minds with key players in the field of their study. He said the event would be highly beneficial to the students and will help close the gap between classroom and industry where they hope to practise.

Other students including Clara Obi, McDonald Chigoziem Ogunedo, Pearl Amobi , Perpetual Nwekelundu, Jennifer Okonkwo, Ogbule Gift, Mercy Ifeanyi, and Chioma Nnanna, all praised the event and described it as a huge opportunity to learn more.

They said the success stories of some of the practitioners had encouraged them to contribute their quota in society through the media and communication profession.

The 10 persons empowered by the Department in partnership with Beyond Community Care foundation (BECCAF) included two physically challenged persons and others who learnt one skill or the other during the long stay at home occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic but lacked capital to start up a business after graduation from the department.

Items received by the beneficiaries included a special phone for the blind, a wheel chair, sewing machine, barbing equipment, tiling machine, hairdressing equipment, and bakery equipment among others.

Speaking on behalf of other beneficiaries, a student living with disability who got a brand new wheel chair, Miss Chidimma Nwadialu, said it was her first time of seeing that a department in the university actually caring for her students in this way. She thanked the Head of Department, Prof Chinwe Uzochukwu, for partnering Beyond Community Care Foundation for the Town and Gown series which brought about smiles on their faces.

Eberi Will, 100 level student of the department performed a spoken word poetry.

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