Producer, Q + A, TVNZ
Bachelor of Communication Studies in Journalism
She would recommend the Bachelor of Communication Studies to anyone interested in media, says AUT communication studies alumna Irra Lee.
“Graduating from AUT means you come out future-proof. You complete your degree with some of the hard skills you’ll need for the changing world, as well as the soft skills and the adaptability to keep developing. The skills you gain in class translate to real-life practice or at least give you a base from which to build your skills. You also gain life-long friends while studying, and the academic staff have a great depth of knowledge.”
Being able to experience life as a journalist was one of the highlights of her studies, says Irra who was the editor of Te Waha Nui, the newspaper run by AUT journalism students.
“All third-year journalism students go through a series of what’s known as a ‘Newsday’ as part of one of the core courses. Every Wednesday, the media centre on the AUT City Campus is transformed into a fully functional newsroom that the journalism students run. I was very fortunate to be part of a tight-knit cohort of journalism students, and it was great spending the day feeling like we’re actual journalists already.”
From press gallery to TVNZ
Irra is passionate about getting people, especially young people, involved in our democracy. One of the highlights of her final year at AUT was being chosen as part of a team of 20 Youth Press Gallery journalists, selected from around the country for the 2019 Youth Parliament.
“The six-month programme focused on strengthening youth voices by helping to make Parliament accessible to more people, and I was able to cover the proceedings of Youth Parliament in Wellington. Following that experience in a pilot two-month internship programme, I spent some time in the Press Gallery in Parliament putting together The House podcast on RNZ. I think it's really important people understand how our laws are made and how it can affect our lives.”
She has since joined TVNZ, first working as a digital reporter before being offered the role of producer for TVNZ's political and current affairs programme Q + A.
“My role as a digital reporter emerged out of the two-week internship I completed as part of my journalism degree. I'm now working as a producer on Q + A, and am really enjoying my job and love the people I get to work with.”
Advice for other students
Irra, who graduated at the end of 2019, has some great advice for other students.
“Make friends with your tutors and lecturers – get to know the area they’re researching and the work they’ve done in the past. They have such a wealth of knowledge and networks that they’re more than happy to connect you with. It might even lead to your next opportunity. I’d also recommend upskilling yourself outside of what’s taught in class, as that gives you a competitive edge when job hunting.”
Be aware that university coursework isn’t like NCEA, says Irra who was awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Significant Student Scholarship to support her studies.
“The concepts you cover at university aren’t spoon-fed to you, you don’t get chances to re-submit, you generally don’t get exemplars of past work, and assessments are a lot more unpredictable.
“It’s important to balance your time studying and working with time with family and friends. Five years down the line, you’re going to remember the moments you spent having a good time with others. You’re not going to remember that time you stayed at home writing an essay.”