So this is your first day of journalism school

As director of the UBC Graduate School of Journalism, I was privileged to deliver some opening remarks on the first day of the new academic year to our 38 new students. Here are those remarks:

It is a pleasure to welcome you all to the Graduate School of Journalism at UBC, on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Musqueam people. I’ve have the opportunity to talk to some of you already, and I look forward to getting to know you all.

I remember my first day at the graduate journalism school at City University in London. It was exhilarating, bewildering and just a little bit terrifying all at the same time. As I met my fellow students, I was in awe of their background and accomplishments.

Some of you may be feeling the same way today. That’s normal. The first day of journalism school is supposed to be exhilarating, bewildering and just a little bit terrifying. But remember this. You were all hand-picked by us to be here. You are all here for a reason. You deserve to be here.

We are proud of the mix — we always seek to have a diverse student body that can bring different life experiences and perspectives to the work of journalism. This year we have incoming students from Austria, Brazil, China, Colombia, the Gambia, the UK and the US — and a few from Canada too.

You are joining what I would argue is the best school of journalism in Canada and among the best in the world, at one of the top universities globally.

Future knowledge leaders

As you walked into the room, you may have noticed the wall of awards. They are a sign of the national and international recognition of the work of our students.

During their time at the school, they have produced award-wining documentary, multimedia and social media projects. By the time you graduate, we hope that your name will be up on that wall too.

As a school, our aim is to graduate students who understand the evolving media environment and use journalistic practices to contribute to public discourse across all forms of media.

We look to you as future knowledge leaders. No pressure then. Knowledge leaders who can, individually and collectively, take advantage of the transformative and disruptive nature of the digital economy to bring about meaningful change.

The courses we offer reflect our focus on preparing students who can thrive in a digital world. In your first year, you will learn to tell stories across media in Integrated Journalism, our core foundation course led by Prof Kathryn Gretsinger. One week you’ll be working on a story for radio, the next on a story on Instagram. As a journalist today, it is vital to be able to navigate an evolving media world.

This is a place where we encourage you to try new things, to investigate, to experiment and to innovate. To find your voice and make it heard.

You’ll be able to explore your passions here. Maybe you’re interested in taking our Reporting in Indigenous Communities course with Prof Duncan McCue. Or take the Decoding Social Media course I teach, that brings together journalism and business students. Perhaps learn more about science communication in our Anthropology of Science and Technology course with Prof Candis Callison. Or cover important and under-reported global issues in our International Reporting course.

We are fortunate to have a faculty who amongst the top in their field. They will introduce themselves in a minute. But just listen to the range of research under way at the school — data journalism, gender and the media, mental health, public engagement with science and the environment, social media and activism — and opportunities for you to work as research assistants on these projects.

This is the community you are now a part of. Thank you.