- Course: PhD Media and Communication
- PhD title: Public Activism Online in Russia: Citizens’ Participation in Web-based Interactive Political Debate in the Context of Civil Society Development and Transition to Democracy
- Year of graduation: 2011
- Nationality: Belarusian
- Job title: Associate Professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities
- Company: Kaunas University of Technology in Lithuania
Why did you choose to study your PhD at the University of Leeds?
I happened to come to the University of Leeds because Professor Stephen Coleman – who generously agreed to be my PhD supervisor when he was still with the Oxford Internet Institute – moved to Leeds. It was my overriding objective to learn from Professor Coleman which I hopefully did.
Tell us about the opportunities you took advantage of at Leeds.
I tried to exploit literally every single opportunity I had, ranging from excellent PhD workshops explaining dos and don’ts when studying a PhD, to very informative research seminars and participatory PhD conferences organised by the School, and benefitting from the riches of the University library.
How has your experience of studying a PhD helped you in your career?
Without Leeds I would not have become a member of the programme committees of major international conferences in the field of digital democracy and governance; I would not be invited by the Tallinn University of Technology to teach Masters students on e-Participation; I would not be in demand for consultancy jobs offered by the European Commission and the United Nations.
What advice would you give to future PhD students?
My advice would be just do it and you will never regret. This is a top-notch School on a world scale. Now I know it when I meet PhD graduates from other places who might even be a bit jealous in private. And try to study under Professor Coleman’s supervision, if you can convince him, of course, and if so – be prepared to study hard.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
It all started when I listened to Professor Coleman’s lecture about internet and democracy at the Central European University in Budapest in 2003. The hall was full. And while I was also involved in internet and governance related international projects, I realised how little I actually knew.
After the lecture I approached him just to say ‘thank you for a very interesting lecture’ and exchange business cards. But what I heard bothered me and I eventually I decided on a radical change when Professor Coleman agreed to supervise me. I hesitated a lot before taking this decision, to be honest, because that meant quitting a comfortable and well-paid job with a respectful international organisation and embark on the unknown. Because I was a bureaucrat and practitioner in Internet-related areas who did not know whether what I was doing was the right thing to do, I decided that I needed to learn.
Now I know that it was the right decision. Those five years I lived in Leeds – not just studied at the university – were really the happiest and satisfying years in my life. It is not that I am simply happy to get a degree (which is true) and always underline proudly from which university, studying at Leeds meant moving forward in science and life which is in my view far more valuable that just moving up the career ladder.