Following Your Passions: An Interview with IIC Alumni Meghan Sobel
By Maureen Maloney, International & Intercultural Communication
Featured in the Fall 2016 issue of the Media, Film & Journalism Studies newsletter, Perspectives.
"Really take the chances to follow your passion." That's Meghan Sobel's advice for current IIC students, and she knows a thing or two about doing just that. After completing the IIC program, she took a job that she didn't feel passionate about. Realizing that the job wasn't fulfilling, she quit and went to Thailand with an anti-trafficking organization, afterward taking a consultancy position with the state department in Malawi.
"When I quit this job to go to Thailand I was not going to make any money, and I didn't know how this was going to work or how I'm going to pay my student loans. But I knew that I wasn't following my passion and I wasn't doing any good for the world in this job, so I took the jump and I think it's probably the best decision that I've made."
Meghan returned to the US eventually, earned her PhD in journalism at UNC Chapel Hill, and is now in her second year as Assistant Professor at Regis University. "I always want to have a mix between teaching and research and practice, and always staying active in the field." She teaches a mixture of classes in Public Relations, Global Communications and Human Rights, and is helping create new tracks in the Department of Communication. She also serves on the Communications Board of AfricAid, and is creating a Communication track within the Masters of Development Practice program at the Posner Center.
When asked why she was first attracted to the IIC program, Meghan explained that she was drawn to the linkage between media and international studies, especially the focus on human rights. "I would say it was in the IIC program that I really solidified that's what I wanted to do in life, and there was a way I could merge these interests between communications and human rights in a track other than working in the communications position at a human rights organization. I've always been interested in research and teaching and practice... It was really in IIC that I realized I could bring all of those things together and have a career that incorporates all of that."
It was a human trafficking course in the Korbel School of International Studies that launched her down the path of studying media and human trafficking. She is currently writing a book based on her dissertation that looks at the role of media framing in sex trafficking coverage in Thailand. The book will compare how sex trafficking is covered in the media between Thailand and the U.S., including interviews with anti-trafficking activists, survivors of trafficking, consensual prostitutes and journalists to better understand how and why trafficking is covered in certain ways.
What other advice does Meghan have for IIC students? She emphasizes the transformative experiences of the travel learning courses she took while at DU, and encourages students to take advantage of international learning opportunities. "Don't let money be an obstacle...bug [the university] for scholarships to make it happen." She also advises maintaining the friendships you make in IIC, as her own friendships continuously inspire her. "Usually people that go to IIC have a passion for social change and a passion for the world and things happening in the world. They're not content just sitting back and letting things happen, they want to be part of it."