New faculty spotlight: Dr. Bruce Mutsvairo, School of Communication and Journalism
Interview by Elizabeth Phillips | Student Writer | College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University
Bruce Mutsvairo is a new professor in the School of Communication and Journalism. He has spent time all over the world studying, writing, and conducting research. In my interview with him, below, Mutsvairo shares his world travels and his impressions of Auburn, and the Southeast U.S.
Where are you from?
Tough question. I consider both Zimbabwe and the Netherlands as home. Zimbabwe because my family came from there and Netherlands became an adopted homeland of ours.
What made you interested in journalism?
When I was young, my father used to send me to buy the newspaper. So, on my way, I would read. I didn’t want to go and get it but maybe as a way to fight back, I would read it. Then as I read the stories, my interest in journalism grew.
What is your favorite thing about journalism?
Two things: I think journalism is about knowing what makes you unique, that is, the ability to see what many journalists cannot see, the ability to spot the difference between fact and fiction or news and gossip. The fact that everyone is talking about it doesn’t make something newsworthy. I think that is what makes it interesting, the opportunity to probe. I enjoy spotting the angle that everyone else is missing. I also like to travel and I think journalism allows you to travel to different places in the world and learn about certain cultures and values.
What kind of research do you do?
My research focuses mostly on how the development of journalism and social media use combine to advance democracy especially in developing countries. As I mentioned, I am really interested in news stories, and now because generally many people say having access to digital technologies make it easier for people to voice their opinions. I want to know the extent to which this is actually true. My research shows that it is not always entirely true especially in parts of the world where the digital divide reigns supreme. In the West, we sometimes take it for granted that in other parts of the world, not everyone has access to the Internet. And of course, it’s important to note that even among those with access to digital technologies, not all of them are active politically. Much of this research is qualitative, it involves talking to people.
What brought you to Auburn?
The U.S. has always been a place I wanted to work in academia, especially at a research university like Auburn. I was looking for jobs in the U.S., but I told myself I would only go to an R1 university. Auburn is quite well-known outside the US. So I thought, “I am going to apply at Auburn.” I applied and the rest is history.
Are you working on a project here at Auburn currently?
There are a few projects going on. For example, I have just returned from Zimbabwe, where I interviewed 16 women leaders in the country over the Christmas break asking them to discuss how social media platforms were giving them a voice against male dominance. I am now busy writing the report assigned by HIVOS, which is a Dutch international development agency. HIVOS asked me to be the lead researcher on the project, which will also involve four other countries namely Lebanon, Jordan, Zambia and Malawi.
What do you like about Auburn?
Well, the people are nice. I think that’s what you are going to hear from a lot of people. People here just make you feel right at home. I don’t feel alienated or discriminated. I just feel like I am in the right place at the moment.
What classes do you teach?
I am teaching Newswriting and a special course, International Perspectives in Mass Communication.
Do you have any advice for liberal arts students in general?
I believe that if anyone is interested in international affairs like I am, having a second or even a third language is very important even if you are not fluent. It’s something that makes you unique because many people in general do not speak more than one language. The best advice I got as a kid was just to leave your comfort zone and look for something that challenges you. Moving out of your comfort zone allows you to learn lots about who you are and how you deal with challenges if you encounter any. When you go to a different country, upon return you can offer new perspectives and more dimensions than someone who has remained within their comfort zone.
What’s your favorite place you have ever been?
That is very difficult, I just went to New Orleans and I really liked it. The people were nice. The food was amazing. The culture seemed almost European. It’s hard for me to say my favorite place, but I think New Orleans will certainly be one of them.
Last Updated: January 24, 2020