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Former Humphrey Fellow returns to ASU Cronkite School for doctorate degree

Portrait of Elira Canga.

Cronkite PhD student Elira Canga. Courtesy photo

February 23, 2024

Elira Canga arrived at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication a couple of years ago ready to expand her perspective on journalism and pursue opportunities she would never find in Albania.

However, her experience at the Cronkite School as a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow left such an indelible impression that it inspired her to return once she finished the fellowship.

Canga is now pursuing her PhD at the Cronkite School with a focus on political and health communication, and the impact of disinformation in both fields. 

“I have an interest in enhancing media literacy through quality journalism but also public empowerment,” she said.

Canga returned to ASU after serving in the Humphrey Fellowship, a 10-month program designed to bring accomplished international mid-career professionals to the United States to study leadership and build professional affiliations. Canga joined the Humphrey Fellowship as part of its 2021–22 cohort after working for more than a decade as a journalist and media project manager in her home country.

She previously worked as a reporter for the BBC in Albanian, the Albanian Telegraphic Agency and Gazeta Shqiptare before moving to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe as a media project manager.

Canga applied for the Humphrey Fellowship because she wanted to address some of the challenges journalists faced in her country, such as freedom of the press and poor working conditions, she said.

“At that point, I had been a journalist for 11 years and as a media developer for 10 others, and while it was a great experience, I was able to scope the flaws,” she said.

As a Humphrey Fellow, her research focused on strategic communication as she looked to build on her previous journalism and management experience. Some of the fellows in the program who already had their doctorate degrees encouraged Canga to pursue her PhD.

Canga was also inspired by one of her Cronkite professors.

“She said to us, ‘Each one of you has four careers; don’t stop in the first or second,’ This really clicked with me as exploring is key,” she said.

Canga enjoys teaching journalism, which allows her to incorporate her reporting and editing experience. But she also wants to pursue research opportunities as she continues her studies and enters the next stage of her career.

“I am here because I believe that a combination of teaching and research in the fields I am really interested in — journalism, communication, mis- and disinformation — would be where I see myself in the future,” she said.

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