A former Business Today editor is now a communication professor in the United States, after graduating with a doctorate in a record three years. Dr James Ndone, who worked as Business Today editor for three years, graduated in May this year from Missouri School of Journalism, one of the best journalism schools in the world. He is now an assistant professor at Coastal Carolina University (South Carolina).
“I loved the pressure of being at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism,” said Dr Ndone. “You are always on your toes – striving to meet conference deadlines, the demands of the program, and at the same time, teaching undergraduate students or working as a research assistant.”
Dr Ndone, who started off as intern at Business Today in 2012, left Business Today for a short stint at the Mission for Essential Drugs and Supplies (MEDS), where he was as in-charge of communications. He moved to the US in 2015 to pursue his master’s at Illinois State University.
“It is during my master’s program at Illinois State University that I discovered my passion for teaching,” he adds. “The ability to see my students grow and become confident public speakers made me realize I could transform the lives of students.”
Dr Ndone took a gap year after his master’s degree before starting his doctorate studies. He got a job as a lecturer at his alma mater, Illinois State. “I taught at Illinois State as I was trying to figure out my life. The little boy was telling me to go back to the industry, while another part was telling me to go back to school and get my doctorate.”
He adds: “I got admitted at the University of Missouri (Mizzou), my dream school. Little did I know the elephant that was waiting for me at Mizzou. I spent my first semester at Missouri’s School of Journalism trying to figure out what I wanted to do as a PhD student. Being a journalism school, I was not sure if I should study something in journalism or strategic communication.”
Dr Ndone says he had worked in both PR and journalism making it “hard for me to choose what to pursue between journalism and PR-related doctorate.”
With the help of mentor at Mizzou, he discovered his passion. “The best advice I got in my entire school life was from Dr Margaret Duffy, a strategic communication professor, who was my advisor at Mizzou. She told me to do what I love and that is how I discovered I loved working in PR and decided to pursue something related to PR,” notes Ndone, who is now a crisis communications researcher.
Crisis communication is a branch of PR that mainly focuses on bad times in organizations. A good example is the Boeing’s plane crash and how the then Boeing CEO, Mr Dennis Muilenburg, was not forthcoming with information about the crises.
Dr Ndone’s research explores the role of emotions in crises. He says that this is a novel area that needs to be explored so that crisis spokespeople can display the right emotions for publics to believe them.
‘I want to grow as both a crisis communication scholar and teacher and become one of the big dogs in crisis communication research.’
On writing his dissertation during the COVID-era, Dr Ndone notes that it was both a blessing and a curse. “With the lockdowns and businesses closing, I was able to lock myself in my apartment and get writing done,” he says. “At the same time, teaching via Zoom, holding meetings via Zoom, and being unable to have face-to-face meetings with members of my cohort was hard for me.”
After graduating in May this year, Dr Ndone plans to continue building his teaching and research portfolio. “I just started working in August and the transition from a full-time student to an assistant professor is still new to me. Luckily enough, I have cordial and supportive colleagues who are making it seamless,” he notes.
Scholar and Teacher
“My colleagues at Coastal are extremely nice people. Right from the interviewing period to the first day I met some of them for lunch, I knew I made the right choice. They even helped me get a place to stay, considering I was coming from a different state, and I needed information about places to live.”
Dr Ndone is currently teaching both undergraduate and master’s level classes in communication at Coastal Carolina University. “I want to grow as both a crisis communication scholar and teacher and become one of the big dogs in crisis communication research,” he says.