UA Alumnus Shares Journalism Career Insight With Students

May 4, 2016

Azhar Abdul-Salam spoke about freedom of the press issues in Singapore in Nancy Sharkey's class "Principles of Journalism."
Azhar Abdul-Salam, a UA journalism and communication alumnus from Singapore, recently finished a 10-day visit to Tucson, where he met with students and professors and shared his experience working in sports journalism.

Abdul-Salam graduated from the UA in 1994 and took only three years to complete his double major. After graduation, Azhar, who calls himself a "sports junkie," returned to Singapore and worked in sports journalism. He was a producer and studio director of ESPN STAR Sports, a producer and director for World Sports Group and an executive producer for Adinkrae Productions.

The jobs held a certain amount of glamour — travel, all-access passes to high-profile sporting events and interviews with sports stars.

"I had my fanboy moments, but I had to act cool," Abdul-Salam said. "It was really fun."

In 2000, Abdul-Salam earned a master's degree in mass communication from Nanyang Technological University.

Since 2003, Abdul-Salam has been a lecturer and is now the manager, which is like the "chair," of the mass media management program in the School of Business Management at Nanyang Polytechnic. The program teaches students journalism as well as marketing, because in Singapore — which has become a media hub — companies "need students who are not just adept at writing and filming but also at being able to support the business side of things," Abdul-Salam said.

Abdul-Salam uses his industry connections to get hands-on reporting experience for the students in the program. His department signed a memorandum of understanding with Fox Sports for students to write and produce stories for events such as golf championships and the Singapore Grand Prix.

Abdul-Salam credits the UA for influencing his teaching philosophy.

"The classes I took made a deep impression on me," Abdul-Salam said. "So much so that when I went into academia, I copied the way the professors taught and the passion that they had."

In 1992, Abdul-Salam was a student in the advanced reporting class taught by Susan Knight, an associate professor of practice in the School of Journalism.

Azhar Abdul-Salam met with a number of faculty from the UA. He is pictured with former classmate Sarah Tully; Jacqueline Sharkey, former head of the School of Journalism; and Susan Knight, associate professor of journalism. Azhar and Tully were co-editors-in-chief of El Independiente, a publication produced by UA journalism students during the early 1990s.

"He had a good intellect and developed excellent reporting and writing skills. We’ve been able to stay in touch as faculty colleagues for years now," Knight said.

"Azhar was generous with his time while he was here, and our students had opportunities to engage with him on so many levels, one on one, in small groups and in classes," she said. "Their conversations covered a gamut, from freedom of the press issues to sports coverage in Asia, and from UA traditions to the way Wildcat alumni network around the world."

Abdul-Salam also met John Paul Jones III, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, when Jones visited UA alumni in Singapore a few years ago. When Jones learned about Abdul-Salam's background in sports journalism, he invited him to come speak to students in the Sports and Society Program in the School of Sociology.

Abdul-Salam's trip to Tucson, sponsored by Nanyang Polytechnic, gave him the opportunity to learn more about the UA journalism program and to share his expertise with students.

"It was a treat for students in the Sports and Society Program to hear Azhar talk about his experience working in sports journalism internationally," said Al Bergesen, director of the School of Sociology.

Azhar Abdul-Salam met with J.P. Jones, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Abdul-Salam said he also learned a great deal. "It's always great to see what other people are doing and to pick up the best practices," he said.

The visit also was an opportunity to reconnect with his beloved alma mater.

"I am such a big Wildcat fan," Abdul-Salam said. "It was so hard after graduation when I went back home to get news about the Cats. But now I follow the Cats on Twitter."