Zak Dabbag and Ryan Unger
Journalism and public relations are ripe with entrepreneurial opportunities, stressed students at Northwestern University in Qatar in a roundtable this week with founders of Punchkick Interactive, a pioneering mobile content and marketing firm.
Students turned the perception of media as a stagnant field on its head, saying that disruptive changes in digital communication are creating unprecedented opportunity for innovative thinkers.Attending NU-Qhas helped them stay ahead of developments in themedia sector, such as the growing use of mobile technology innewsgathering and marketing.
“We’ve been discovering that we can reinvent these fields and be creative in pursuing entrepreneurial activities,” said RivildaRaviraj, a journalism student at NU-Q. “Even in journalism, we areencouraged to go out and put together broadcast reports using our phones, to report through social media, and to explore other unconventional ways of getting the story out.”
Dr. Everette Dennis, dean and CEO of NU-Q, noted that one of NU-Q’s goals is to expose students to “the whole landscape of digital communications, from the grand theories of convergence to the hands-on working experience of digital media pioneers.”
Students found inspiration in the stories of guest speakersZack Dabbas and Ryan Unger, who foundedPunchkick Interactive while undergoing the rigors of law school. The two young entrepreneurs encouraged students to explore ways to break ground in what they described as a ‘flourishing media market’ in Qatar.
“There is so much room for creativity and expansion on the idea of mobile applications in Qatar, especially where government organizations use ‘apps’ to engage with their public, and many people here own two or three mobile phones,” said Dabbag.
“You should keep your eyes set on the distant horizons, find a niche that is not too saturated and give it your best,” he advised the students.
Zahed Bata, a communication major, is already planning to develop mobile applications for public awareness campaigns. “There are a lot of mobile apps that people use every day and their life is much better off for it. I would like to use what I learn at NU-Q to develop similar applications that influence a positive change in society.”
“NU-Q curricula, faculty and facilities develop the most important skills students need in their fields, but engaging with young entrepreneurs like Dabbag and Ungar is the best way to convey principles of passion, confidence, and persistence that are needed for entrepreneurship,” Dennis added.
In addition to offering journalism programs with a practical approach, NU-Q offers courses in public relations and marketing to prepare leaders and innovators in the media industry. Entrepreneurship features heavily in student preparation, as evidenced bythree alumni--Rasha Khaled, Shannon Farhoud and Ashlene Ramadan-- wholaunched their own online digital production company as graduating seniors last March.