EGP: Dr Samuel Martin-Barbero, at the beginning of your academic studies your mind was more set on Contemporary History, Sociology, Journalism and Management.
How come then you are now studying higher education organisations and investigating curricular innovation, young talent, social values and the future of universities?
M-B: I would say that to become an educator is much more related to a spirit, to a vocation, to a dream, and the fact that I studied something different to what I do right now has much more to do with the kind of influences I have had and the kind of life experiences I've gone through over the last 15 years of intense academic management. So, I would say, it actually comes from practice. It comes from the desire to want to rebuild a higher education sensitivity that goes beyond many of the presumptions and expectations of policymakers and businesses. So, it's part of my own attitude of openness, orientation towards action and strong curiosity for knowledge discovery that I have deployed as a result of several senior management responsibilities. From this standpoint, it is not hard to reach the innovative reconfiguring and redesigning of academic programmes and alternative ways of producing content together with format, languages and social impact approaches in a wide variety of disciplines. Probably, thanks to my humanistic mentality, I have been trying to meet that challenge.
EGP: You are specifically interested in a good HR management approach for the future, i.e., talent management. In that context you have written a very interesting article for our latest log that addresses Liberal Arts.
How would you put Liberal Arts in relation to talent management?
M-B: There was a time in history where HR management did not take place as such, where the person, the human being, probably wasn’t at the centre of the theory. Production, consumption, corporations, shareholders and profits were much more important. But nowadays, we are surrounded by a new pressure, cultural adaptions, social demands, demographic extension and basic interests defended by civil society and organized by advocacy groups (and even some political parties). We are not part of an economic equation any longer; rather a voice, citizen, voter and obviously, human-beings beyond items of production. So that's why I am basically interested in going deeper into the understanding of talent in educational settings and transformational management from a more interdisciplinary perspective. There is clearly a need to elevate the liberal arts and sciences tradition above other industrial-oriented and technical and functional careers. We still need thinkers and not merely doers.
EGP: Today, you showed an interest in our Transcultural Caravan poster and, by chance, I read your article about you advising students to make the most of their life experiences by means of international immersion programmes. As this is something that is organised at ZU..
what would you recommend these students? Our students?
M-B: I would recommend they do what we offer our students at University Camilo José Cela (Madrid, Spain): namely to visit countries without carrying their stereotypes, clichés and prejudices. Try to open up to the insertion of additional values, customs, senses, spirituality, diversity and even uncertainty, starting by learning closely the historical and social traits, the language and the cultural traits that make the journey a unique one. That’s what we try to do and that seems to be very similar to the Zeppelin University approach through a project-based learning method, away from the comfort zone of Europe.
EGP: Dr Martín-Barbero, among many other board memberships you hold or have held, you were a member of the Global Agenda Council and Informed Societies that is part of the World Economic Forum. Within this circle, you consider rising ethical standards in the media.
What are your worries in this context and what are your ideas?
What are the topics you addressed as a member of the Informed Societies and the Knowledge Advisory Board within the World Economic Forum when asked to shape a good future?
M-B: Some years ago, I served as an external supervisor on two different groups, media and universities together with other academics and practitioners from all over the world. One of the conclusions to be transferred to today’s reality is actually the need for preventing the curse of fake news. It's not only about how the media should be transformed but about how public opinion should be responsible for cultivating another way of getting informed, proactively (and not reactively) double fact-checking of sources of information. We have lived for - I would say much of the 20th century based on mass audience perspectives and a mass media monologue. Print media, TV and radio as main broadcasters have shaped our minds as mass audiences until the internet interrupted their ecosystem and then provoked the uprising of the people. The reader became a writer; the viewer a producer and the listener a speaker. Anyone well versed in using social networks is free to become an opinion leader. Currently, the traditional dominance of mainstream and official agenda setters has disappeared, but sadly enough this phenomenon hasn’t restricted the entrance into and conquest of a new propaganda territory in certain parts of the world. Truth is still in clear danger as always, but ultimately trust is an asset we need to preserve.
EGP: In addition to all the above mentioned, you are also a member of the international advisory board of the academic journal Journalism & Mass Communication Educator and you hold a PhD in Communication (summa cum laude) plus a Master’s degree in Journalism.
Thus, as an absolute specialist in the very field of journalism – what question would you put to yourself as the final question?
M-B: I learned under a paradigm that doesn`t apply to the present. I didn't cover public relations, marketing nor advertising. There was an absolutely vertical conception of knowledge and practice while the profession of journalism was running very quickly towards the integration of wisdom, experience and practice. Curriculum reform, renewal and update was needed, but no university applied this in Spain until very recently, which actually came to be my objective during my long years working for IE University and IE Business School. A cross-disciplinary manner, through a Liberal Arts and Sciences Approach to knowledge, values and practice is actually the best contribution that any academic institution can do for the good of journalism.
EGP. Finally, do you have any message for the Zeppelin University students?
M-B: Life is not about being hired, promoted and well compensated just after graduating. Life is about taking the best decisions that are humanly possible for us, as individuals and for others under any given or difficult circumstances. Life is about retaining integrity, wisdom and applying values in a significant form, enjoying every minute of it as a life-long learner. Agoras such as Zeppelin University with their extraordinary faculty body are clearly at the forefront of leadership towards this positive creation and change in higher education.
EGP: Thank you very much for this interesting conversation!
On May 16, 2019 Dr Samuel Martín-Barbero, Rector of University Camilo José Cela (Spain), visited Professor Josef Wieland as a follow up to his visit to Spain earlier this year. Professor Martín-Barbero originally graduated in Contemporary History, Sociology, Journalism and Management. Evelyn Countess Pachta, Manager External Realations and Communication at the Leadership Excellence Institute Zeppelin | LEIZ (EGP) interviewed Dr Martín-Barbero (M-B) on that occasion.