Last Friday we graduate students in IU’s Department of Telecommunications were spoiled as famous media scholars Henry Jenkins and Mimi Ito treated us to one of the most amazing brownbag discussions I’ve witnessed. Though they had events planned across campus all day, including individual talks in the afternoon, they sat together in the morning in front of a packed room full of undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and even some staff members and discussed the series of events leading them to accomplish the professional successes both of them have had. Both Mimi and Henry are self-described outsiders in various institutions they’ve worked in in the past and enjoy the freedom that they have now to do work without worrying much about pressures that institutional or diciplinary forces can often apply. They cautioned us though, suggesting that the path they took is not necessarily for everyone. Ito, especially, offered great advice stating that when you go outside of the safety of the usual academic professional trajectory, you must be very careful to maintain professional relationships. They are what sustains you, she says. She pointed to the importance of building a solid, widespread and diverse professional social network. Ito also advised us to be helpful and participate in conversations where you have something to add. Being nice to people is important, according to Jenkins, especially when you’re making public comments.
In short, hearing about their careers and philosophies about managing life and work pressures was reinvigorating. They are both surprisingly down to earth, helpful and it was easy to see from them that they are just being themselves, doing what they love to do and doing it very, very well.