Ali Rae with her colleagues at Al Jazeera English in London
Ali Rae with her colleagues at Al Jazeera English in London

When people think about Communication for Social Change (CSC), few associate it with the media network Al Jazeera. But, CSC Masters alumni Ali Rae says, “I think the discipline is widely adaptive. The shows I currently work for could be considered in the realm of social change because they both analyse and dissect the political, social and cultural undercurrents of global issues.”

Ali is currently working for Al Jazeera English (AJE) in London as a digital producer across two programmes. About working for AJE she says, “I feel really lucky to get the opportunity to work for one of the world's biggest media networks – especially one with a proven commitment to ‘giving a voice to the voiceless’. The teams are incredibly diverse – not only in terms of nationalities, but in experience too!”

“I work across the two main programmes based out of London - AJE's media analysis show The Listening Post and Head to Head, a production that is filmed in Oxford in front of a live audience, with the host Mehdi Hasan interviewing high profile speakers about big issues of our time. As the digital producer for both shows I support the online presence of each show - website, web extras videos, photography, social media, show previews etc.”

“Every day I am learning. The Listening Post is a weekly media review show that casts a critical eye over not just what gets reported, but how it gets reported. The team is constantly talking about different media issues across the globe: from the Ukraine to Turkey, Tunisia, to Argentina. The lead producers hold an incredible amount of knowledge and I am constantly surprised how much media manipulation is happening in all corners of the globe.”

“Head to Head on the other hand is a show dedicated to interviewing high profile speakers on controversial issues – for example, renowned scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins; Viviane Reding, the former Vice President of the European Commission and Iraq's former National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie.

“Like any new job, when you start out, you often think "I could never do that" - but I love the sense of fulfilment that comes from challenging yourself outside your comfort zone.”

“In the future, I want to combine my multimedia skills with my passion for development. I still look back at Communication for Social Change as where I would like to be involved in, perhaps going on to do a PhD to further work in this area. Shedding light on issues that are often forgotten - or purposefully disguised by those in power - is my real passion.”

When asked the most valuable thing she learnt from the Masters Ali says, “critical analysis, the importance of thorough research and having a global perspective. Lots of journalists work on important stories every day but I think understanding the international connection between issues is extremely important these days.”

Ali Rae with her Masters thesis from LSEAli has worked hard to get where she is now. After completing her CSC Masters in June 2013, she received a Rotary Global Grant scholarship, which enabled her to undertake a second Masters at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in Anthropology and Development Management. Ali says, “I was one of 22 scholars from across the globe selected to come to London to study for the year. I was extremely honoured to receive the award and be amongst students studying everything from governance to tropical diseases.”

“During my time there I joined LSE's Global Brigade team and travelled with 14 other postgraduate students to Ghana on a microfinance project, and towards the end of my degree I also attend the inaugural Hands on the Balkans Seminar in Serbia & Kosovo - a project supported by the Greek government that helped emerging professionals to discuss regional development issues.”

Upon graduation, Ali was also the recipient of LSE's Lucy Mair prize for the best Anthropology and Development thesis. “It was totally unexpected! Anthropology is a new academic realm for me and I initially felt out of my depth reading so much theory I wasn't familiar with.”

Having now completed two Masters at different institutions, Ali has three pieces of sage advice for those currently undertaking postgraduate study:

1) Apply for internships, conferences, weekend seminars - now is the chance! Funding an issue? Ask your school, faculty or the university for support. You would be surprised how often financial support is given out. Don't see any experience opportunities on offer? Make your own. When applying for opportunities in the future, there might just be that one bit of experience that sets you apart from the others.

2) Choose a thesis topic you are passionate about. I almost changed my thesis topic because I thought my LSE academic advisors didn’t find it interesting. Feeling disheartened, I then went and contacted several different academics from different faculties who I knew were more passionate about my research area. A fifteen minute coffee session with one during summer break reinvigorated me and I ended up doing well on my thesis because I was passionate about the issue. So just because your topic may not be your supervisor’s area of expertise or passion - just make sure it’s yours!

3) When writing anything - especially a thesis - make sure the methodology is simple and to the point. Too many people think they are writing a big ground breaking or revolutionary piece and end up biting off more than they can chew. My advice - keep it simple, clean and to the point.

About her dreams and ambitions from here Ali says, “At this stage, I just want to continue to gain any international experience, challenge myself and see what comes! I’m contemplating doing a PhD with multimedia element to it, but for now my partner and I are just happy see what opportunities arise for us.”


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