Media Department graduates first PhD student

14 Jul 2020

Nelson Obinna Omenugha has successfully defended his PhD dissertation. Hailing from Nnobi, Nigeria, Nelson is the first student to complete the doctoral degree in XJTLU’s recently established Department of Media and Communication.

Nelson’s thesis examines how Nigerian newspaper managers have been responding to the urgent challenges posed by new media technologies.

Nelson’s viva took place online due to the Covid-19 outbreak. He communicated with the examiners from his home in Nigeria.

Different from both the Chinese and Western contexts, the ‘disruptive’ impacts of new media appear to be strengthening rather than weakening the newspapers in Nigeria, Nelson concludes in his thesis. The newspapers have become more creative and ethical, thereby vitalizing factual, investigative and analytical reporting.

Nelson’s thesis recommends that Nigerian newspapers keep pace with the technological innovations driving today’s newspaper industry, while boldly considering responses that he argues have worked elsewhere, including co-operatives, mergers and conglomeration.

“Nelson’s work localizes important trends in newspaper management and development for Nigeria and thus his work will have a significant impact on the country’s mediascape,” said Senior Associate Professor Holger Briel, Nelson’s PhD supervisor.

“He has also developed a new theory, intertwining technology and social developments in novel and important ways,” Briel added.

Nelson celebrating with his parents after passing the viva

Nelson said he had “always desired to be a global leader and an agent for social change, with expertise in academic, business project management and stakeholder engagement.” To achieve his life goal, attaining a PhD felt imperative.

After attaining his BA degree in Nigeria and two Master’s degrees in Europe, Nelson wanted to take his PhD in another part of the world. “I eventually settled on China because of its rich culture, advanced learning technologies and robust business opportunities,” he said.

When Nelson first contacted Holger Briel about applying for a PhD, Nelson perceived great warmth from him.

“I could literally feel the support and commitment of the university towards its students from my online interactions with Holger. Therefore, I felt that my scholarship would blossom and my dream of a PhD would be better achieved at XJTLU,” Nelson said.

Nelson also chose XJTLU “because of its serene environment and the multidisciplinary approach to researching and learning,” he said.

Challenges and support

While working towards his PhD Nelson faced various challenges, such as feelings of loneliness, stress due to looming deadlines, funding and time management issues, and concerns about the future. But he managed to keep his head high and remain pro-active.

“I had an enriching experience conducting research, co-learning and undertaking teaching assistance work,” he said.

Nelson said he greatly benefited from Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo’s support and resources, as well as drawing inspiration from his mother, who earned her PhD at a much older age, amidst family distractions.

“So, looking back to the whole doctoral journey, I would say that it was not a piece of cake and I never expected it to be so,” Nelson said. He succeeded in part because he felt supported by his family, benefactors, supervisors and the Department.

Family background

Nelson comes from a family that prioritizes education. His father Michael trained as a medical doctor in Poland, supported by a scholarship from the Nigerian government. He is a doctor in Nigeria’s countryside.

Nelson’s mother Kate attained her PhD at the University of Gloucestershire and is Nigeria’s second female professor of mass communication, Nelson said. His grandfather was a school teacher who invested in the education of Nelson’s mother and her siblings.

During his undergraduate study at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nelson was active in the student union, which represents the interests of over 33,000 students. At the age of only 19 he was elected its president.

Nelson later attained two Master’s Degrees: Strategic Marketing Communications at the University of Greenwich, and International Marketing Communication Strategy at the France Business School (ESCEM) in Poitiers.

Nelson with his father after passing his viva

Nelson’s future

“With a PhD in the bag,” Nelson said he can now truly aim for the peak of his envisioned career.

Nelson is currently in Nigeria, where he is involved in green living and renewable energy projects. He also participates in community development advocacy and a youth organization that is committed to a new social order and a prosperous Nigeria.

Focusing on social entrepreneurship, he works to impact his local community with research, project management and leadership.

Dr. Nelson Obinna Omenugha

By Yanning Huang, photos courtesy of Nelson Obinna Omenugha, edited by Tabe Bergman

14 Jul 2020