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A Look at Communication Technologies and the Refugee Crisis with Professor Dana Janbek

When Dana Janbek was only 17 years old, she left her home country of Jordan to come study in the United States. With only two red bags packed to the brim with her belongings and little knowledge of what her new home of Louisville, Kentucky held, she set out on the next chapter of her life.

Now a new mass lecturer at Boston University, Janbek has come a long way since she stepped off that plane. With a Ph.D. in Communications from the University of Miami, she has spent most of her career in research and more recently teaching.

While studying in Miami, she focused her research on terrorism and the Internet and understanding how terrorists used the media to communicate their messages, agendas and political achievements.

“At the time using the Internet for terrorism was a relatively new phenomenon,” says Janbek, who published her dissertation in 2010. “When the Internet started becoming a mass medium, many terrorist organizations started relying on the Internet to communicate their perspective of the world and their political achievements and their political goals and images and videos to reach donors and recruits.”

While pursuing her bachelor’s degree at Spalding University and her master’s degree in political science with an emphasis on international relations at the University of Louisville, Janbek was working with immigrant communities. After graduating, she worked at the Embassy of Jordan in D.C. for 3 years.

More recently, Janbek has for the past six years focused her research on how refugee groups — particularly Syrian refugees — have relied on communication technologies such as cell phones during and after their migration. Currently, she is working on a book trying to tell the migration story as authentically as possible by interviewing refugees themselves and government officials and religious and non-government organizations also involved.

“We try to study the topic from multiple perspectives,” Janbek says, “because before you learn about the use of communication technologies you have to learn about the refugee crisis.”

Aside from her research, Janbek has also received two Plank Center Fellowships allowing her to work at corporate communication offices for both JetBlue and Johnson & Johnson. With the ability to further her understanding of the field of communications, Janbek says she has been able to incorporate that information back to her research and the classroom.

Originally a computer science major, Janbek decided to study communications instead because she realized she enjoyed being with people more.

“I always think of communication as telling a story and being really good at telling that story,” Janbek says. “It is all about lifelong learning; you are formally a student for a few years in your life but you are always a student of the field.”

Teaching was another surprise that came to her. She had originally believed she would do research full time but was required to teach a course every semester during her Ph.D. program and learned to love it.

“It just shows that you really never know where life will take you” Janbek, who taught 10 years at Lasell College before coming to BU.

The advice she’d give to aspiring Communications students? Janbek says to be constantly curious and being able to tell a story.


“I always think of communication as telling a story and being really good at telling that story,” Janbek says. “And if you develop that sense of curiosity, you will find your career and you will find what your passion is.”


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I'm a sophomore at Boston University studying journalism and public health.
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