Emi Sasagawa graduated in 2015 and works for UBC as a Digital Communications Specialist at the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology.
Prior to coming to the School of Journalism, she spent a decade living in Latin America, Europe and Asia.
During her time at the school, Sasagawa was a student in the International Reporting Program reporting on the award-winning project Out of the Shadows and was the recipient of the Rafe Mair Award for Excellence in Journalism. Upon graduation she was awarded the News21 fellowship; investigating marijuana legalization in America.
Her work has been published in the Washington Post, The Tyee, Megaphone Magazine, Huffington Post Canada and AlterNet.
How did your j-school experience help you transition into your career?
When I graduated from the journalism program at UBC I was open to exploring career options that existed outside of journalism. This was because I felt the jobs that were available to me as a young reporter didn’t provide the financial stability I needed after two years paying for graduate school. Still, my experience at the j-school shaped my experience in the job market. I soon learned how valuable and desirable the skills I learned while in the program were to people recruiting young professionals — skills that included proficiency in social media analysis and production of digital content as well as ability to work under tight deadlines and under a lot of pressure. Within a couple of weeks of applying to a range of jobs, I had three offers for full-time positions at three very different companies.
I chose to accept UBC’s offer of employment and was lucky to be given a lot of freedom within my service unit to try new things. I pushed for the production of multimedia content and character-driven storytelling — and we’ve seen great improvement in how our audience interacts with our content. Today I occupy a new position within the unit, a position that was created after our success with producing more versatile digital content.
Of the lessons you learned at UBC Journalism, which one has proven to be the most valuable?
I think the most important thing I’ve learned while in the program is the role of a storyteller in the act of telling a story. Sometimes journalists try to hold on to the illusion that we can maintain a distance and remain strictly observers. Unfortunately, the truth is that storytellers are never just observers. As reporters we are, at the very least, observing participants. What we do and don’t do, it matters. Unasked questions, unphotographed stills and unrecorded shots — these are choices we make in every moment that determine the final story. To understand that is to recognize our responsibility as reporters with the weight and humility necessary to continue to explore new avenues for telling old and new stories.
Is there anything else you would like our prospective students to know? Any word of advice?
Do your research before you come to UBC. It’s easy to assume that when you get here you will have plenty of time to figure things out — and you will have some room to shape your experience as you progress in the program — but time flies. It really helps to know which classes you are interested in taking and how you plan to use your experience in the j-school to further you career.