Why do an RMIT Media and Communication Masters?

Presentation to prospective Masters students Tuesday 19 October

Graeme Simsion; Harold Mitchell; Robert Thompson; Alisa Bowen; Brendan McClements; Brad Haylock; Simon Rose. Do any of you know any of these people?

Graeme Simsion is, of course, the best selling author of the Rosie Project and the Rosie Effect – the first of which won the 2012 Victorian Premier’s Award prize for an unpublished novel. He has subsequently sold the film rights and is working on the script.

Harold Mitchell AC has been Australia’s most successful media buyer building up Mitchell and Partners and then selling the business for hundreds of millions of dollars. He is also a noted philanthropist and his Mitchell Foundation supports many causes.

Robert Thompson is the Chief Executive of NewsCorp the publishing arm of the Murdoch empire and is in charge of – among other things The London Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Sunday Times, The Times Literary Supplement, the Australian and all the Murdoch tabloids here and in the UK.

Alisa Bowen is one of the world’s leading digital media experts. She worked at Thompson Reuters for some years; was head hunted to head up all the Wall Street Journal digital operations; and then returned to Australia to head all of NewsCorp’s highly successful digital operations.

Whenever you go to a major event in Victoria you are enjoying some of the work of Brendan McClements who has worked on projects as diverse as the Cricket World Cup, the Commonwealth Games, The Grand Prix (we won’t hold that against him) and a host of cultural and other events.

Associate Professor Brad Haylock is the head of a new RMIT program the Master of Communication Design. He’s a renowned designer, artist and publisher; the founding editor of Surpllus, an independent publishing house that focusses on the dissemination of critical and speculative practices across art, design and architecture. He has recently designed and published such titles as Impresario: Paul Taylor, The Melbourne Years, 1981–1984, and Making Worlds: Art and Science Fiction.

Simon Rose is a current student who has just taken a leave of absence from his RMIT Master of Media course to undertake an Indigenous Factual Researcher Internship with Blackfella Films. The competitive Indigenous Factual Researcher Internship, an initiative supported by Film Victoria’s Screen Skills supports initiatives and the SBS Traineeship Program.

In an interview with Film Victoria Simon said: “When I first saw the position advertised I was so excited at the many possibilities the role presented. I would have the chance to work with Blackfella Films. A team who are so experienced in Indigenous content and who have produced award-winning work.

“Now that I’ve started my internship, I’m thrilled to be at Blackfella Films and working with producers, directors, writers, cast and crew who are passionate and committed to exploring factual Indigenous content in this country,” he said.

All these people have two things in common: first they are highly successful in their chosen careers; and, second they are graduates of RMIT University. Not every graduate will be as successful as each of them. Few will probably end up as rich as Harold Mitchell. But every graduate – from undergraduate to post graduate – has the benefit of having attended a University which has combined, in a very distinctive way, academic excellence with first rate practical training which equips them for successful careers.

You wouldn’t be here tonight if you didn’t already realise the potential significance of a Masters to your career. But if you will forgive me for a moment I will just mention some of the terrific advantages they provide as well as some very specific advantages the School provides.

First, in today’s competitive world a bachelor’s degree is often not enough. Increasingly employers, when scrutinising CVs, are looking for more than just an undergraduate degree. You might retort that there are a few people around – like Bill Gates – who actually dropped out of the undergraduate world and went on to be rather successful. But these are statistical anomalies – the rest of us need an extra edge from something like a Masters.

Second, each of the industries the School prepares students for look for both specialist skills plus the ability to work across diverse fields in which communication activities often blend knowledge and practices from a variety of areas. The industries – media, communications, film, books and writing, PR, journalism – will employ some graduates from non-specialist courses but this tends to be the exception.

But they also look very favourably on potential employees who can combine a degree in any area – from law, social sciences, science or the humanities – with a Masters degree such as the ones the school offers. More importantly they look very favourably on potential employees who combine the inter-disciplinary skills and knowledge the School provides.

Third, even if you have done a specialist undergrad degree in journalism or advertising or one of the other School disciplines you increasingly need greater depth to your knowledge if your career is going to develop. Most importantly you need to learn more about how to learn more so that you can constantly upgrade and adapt your capabilities to a rapidly changing work environment. A Masters degree is a critical part of that.

Fourth, there are some very practical advantages. The reality is that there are two dimensions to personal success – your abilities and your networks. When I attended university – some 50 years ago – there were only three degree granting institutions in Melbourne. University of Melbourne had just 12,000 students, Monash fewer and Latrobe fewer still. The places were small enough for you to get to know an awful lot of people. Indeed, it would be a rare day when I walk down Collins Street – or night when I attend a concert – that I don’t run into someone I went to university with.

That sort of network is harder to establish today and that makes the cohort you go through a Masters Course with more important – it forms a networking foundation stone which will be useful for decades to come.

Lastly I know some of you will be worrying about your work life balance – the pressure at work, pressure at home, too many things to do, too many people to see. So it’s natural when you are thinking about a Masters to think for just a moment whether it will be too hard, too inconvenient too demanding. There might be nights when you would much rather go out with friends than attend a lecture or workshop.

But I have two answers to that. Doing a Masters can be fun – because discovering new things, new people and new knowledge is fun and very rewarding.

But more importantly the decisions we make about our careers when they are first developing – when we think about the investments we need to make to get better returns from our careers and our lives – are the decisions which will be key to your success in the years and decades again.

I can honestly say that over the years I deeply regret some of the parties I went to– and how I ended up after – but as a whole I never regretted a course I took or a qualification I got as investments in my career.