Merrilee Hughes graduated from UBC Journalism in 2001. After graduation Merilee spent some time freelancing before returning to her roots at UBC. She taught in the UBC medical program, worked as the research coordinator studying online health and was the grant facilitator at the School of Nursing. Now Hughes works with a Movember-funded project at UBC.
Can you tell us a bit about your current role?
I am currently on a one-year secondment as the Research Network Manager of a national Movember-funded Men’s Depression & Suicide Network based at UBC. I am developing knowledge translation strategies across our five intervention projects tailored for men experiencing or at risk of depression and/or suicidal ideation.
How did your j-school experience help you transition into a career?
While I only stayed in traditional journalism for a short while, doing freelance magazine and community newspaper writing as well as a short stint with a production company, I found that returning to the field of health research with a journalism degree to compliment my bench science background was hugely valuable. A stronger narrative arc to my technical writing helped to bring my research communications alive.
Of the lessons you learned at UBC, which has proven to be the most valuable?
I found that a graduate education in journalism radically expanded the relevance of my health science background. Being able to quickly engage with experts on diverse topics, synthesize and condense the core story, and produce compelling content across a variety of mediums has marked a profound change in the direction of my career.
What’s been the piece of work you’ve produced of which you’re most proud?
I still save the newspaper and magazine clippings as well as the old VHS tapes of my first foray into television news, but I think some of my proudest work has been in shaping print and video research proposals that inspire confidence and financial commitment from the peer-review committees. The first time I worked on a grant that was successful in securing over one million dollars for a research project was very satisfying.
Would you recommend the j-school?
Yes, and I would recommend it to those who may be aspiring to something beyond what is traditionally considered journalism (with a capital “J”). Having a graduate level journalism program that cultivates the specialized interests and expertise that students brings to the program, allows for a more individualized career trajectory than might be possible elsewhere.