Upcoming Ph.D. Graduate Student Spotlight: Chikondi Khangamwa

Published: March 6, 2023 Author: Paige Reagan

Chikondi Khangamwa is an upcoming Ph.D. graduate from Malawi. The following is a Q&A to learn about his time and work at OHIO.

PR: Please introduce yourself.
CK: My name is Chikondi Khangamwa, but most of my friends call me Chiko. I recently defended my dissertation for a Ph.D. in mass communication, and I will be graduating this May.

PR: What made you choose Ohio University?
CK: My story with Ohio University is an interesting one. While working for the United Nations agency for children (UNICEF), I was sent to Ohio University for a two-week training. Once I got back in a classroom, I instantly made up my mind to apply for a master’s degree in Communication and Development. I was lucky to be admitted, and I have gone on to have this amazing relationship with OHIO that has culminated in a Ph.D.

PR: Why did you decide to go into media?
CK: I decided to go into media because it was a natural extension of my experience working in social marketing, as well as social and behavior change. Media was at the center of these experiences, especially radio and television, as well as social media, which was in its early days at the time.

PR: Why did you want to further your education?
CK: I wanted to further my education because I discovered through interactions with experts and scholars in my field that I had many deficiencies, and I would not call myself an expert in the field without a deep mastery of the theories and literature that was central to my field. I can confidently say that I made the right decision, and whatever the future holds, I believe I have made a very important investment in my career.

PR: What did you do your Ph.D. dissertation on?
CK: My dissertation focuses on the role of media audiences during public health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Media has been a very important tool for promoting public health practices, and I would go further to say that it was the only tool in the early days of the pandemic when there was no vaccine or therapeutics of any kind, and we all relied on communication. However, that came with its own challenges including debates on the efficacy of masking, and later on, questions about vaccination itself. These are issues that are communicative in nature, and I wanted to learn how the media interacts with audiences to address some of these issues.

PR: What made you choose that area of research?
CK: I chose this area of research because I had experience working on public health emergencies during my time with UNICEF, and I could foresee that pandemics will only increase in the near future. The coming of COVID-19 vindicated that belief. The world had experienced the Ebola epidemic, which thankfully did not spread beyond west Africa, then there were SARS epidemics in Asia and the Zika epidemic in Latin America, before COVID-19. Media played a very important role in all these outbreaks, and I believe this will continue to be the case in any future pandemics.

PR: How did you end up at the job you are at now?
CK: I ended up in my current position initially as part of my scholarship, but I absolutely love teaching, and my experiences so far have been absolutely amazing. I am now working as an adjunct, and I cherish the experience of working with some of the sharpest minds in Ohio and further afield.

PR: What advice do you have for current MDIA students and graduate students?
CK: My advice is "do not focus on the certificate, focus on the knowledge and skills." I strongly believe that the certificate/degree is simply a by-product of your successful application to learning new skills and acquiring knowledge. I get the feeling that sometimes students focus on doing the bare minimum to earn a certificate, but I think that with such an attitude, you cannot become the best version of your professional self. 

PR: Is there anything else that you would like to share about yourself and your work?
CK: I come from Malawi, which is a small country in Southeast Africa, where opportunities are generally limited, and therefore I have always believed in maximizing all opportunities that come my way. Whether I will remain in the academia, or go back to development work, I will always be a lifelong learner. I am a scholar practitioner, and my work will always straddle the academic and development worlds.