SPOTLIGHT: Dr. Nahon-Serfaty


Meet Dr. Isaac Nahon-Serfaty, an associate professor in the communications department at the University of Ottawa. He is a well spoken, and most certainly well educated man, passionate about public relations, and sharing both his knowledge and personal experiences with the communications students of uOttawa. Originating from Venezuela, he began his postsecondary studies at Communicación Social Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, where he received his Bachelors in communications. Furthering his studies, he continued on to the University of Montreal, Canada. It was in Montreal that he earned both his Masters in Communication Sciences, and his Ph.D. in Communications. Before his arrival at uOttawa, he had been working in Miami, Florida, as a Healthcare Practice Chair for Latin America, at the Public Relations agency BursonMarsteller.

Hoping to continue his career teaching in Canada, he found a position at the University of Ottawa, starting in 2007 and continuing to today. Expanding on his field of studies, professor Nahon-Serfaty’s fields of interest include health
communications, public relations, institutional communication and international
communication. The current focus in his research is in health communications, focusing on public discourse on health and illness, and how the discourses of some conditions are affecting the relationships between patients and providers. For his own research, professor Nahon-Serfaty stated that he works with the Nongovernment
and patient organizations he is researching directly. For students who don’t necessarily have this opportunity for their own research projects, he suggests following methods presented in lectures, as well as using the programs provided by the university.

To get to know more about Dr. Nahon-Serfaty’s other research (English-language pieces), I suggest reading:

* Multicultural, Multiethnic, and Multifaith Communication, an editorial in the Canadian edition of the Global Media Journal. Highlighting how communication can be found within culture, ethnicity and religion.,%20nahonserfaty,%20and%20ahmed.pdf
* Connecting the Micro and Macro Approaches: Cultural Stakes in Health Communication (2009), further examination of the role and importance of health communication.

If you yourself are in the Public Relations or Communications department at uOttawa, you might find yourself with Dr. Isaac Nahon-Serfaty as your professor in the courses CMN3144 Public Relations, CMN4144 Advanced Public Relations Seminar, or CMN4500 Thèmes choisis (média ou organisationnel).

* CMN3144 focuses on the use of public relations in society, examining both practical and theoretical aspects.
* CMN4144 develops on the practical application of public relations, using particular techniques and strategies.
* CMN4500 Thèmes choisis (média ou organisationnel); examines certain problems that occur within communications.

Within the past few years professor Nahon-Serfaty has noticed an increase in student interest within the Public Relations program at uOttawa. From his own perspective, he believes this increase is occurring due to the university’s enlarged emphasis on PR and the coordination between the French and English PR programs at the university. By continuing collaboration and other initiatives, he predicts expanded interest will continue. To add to the expansion and increase student interest himself, he invited a professor from Miami to come to uOttawa and collaborate with him during one of the courses he taught this summer. This change of pace, giving his students additional insight into the field from another professor, adding to what they were already gaining from the course.

In addition to the guest he brought in for his summer course, what you might find different in a class with Dr. Isaac Nahon-Serfaty, in comparison to your other communications courses, is his focus on real world case studies, and the personal experiences he uses and expands on during lectures. He also likes to keep his students interested by teaching them how to be critical, as well as showing them how public relations can be used both socially and ethically in the new and constantly changing challenges within the PR world. If he were to leave anything behind at uOttawa, it would be for his students to have grasped the critical
aspect of PR, seeing that it is a fascinating and constantly changing profession, different even from when he began himself.

For tips on how PR students can get involved outside of the classroom, Dr. Nahon-Serfaty suggests attending communications and public relations events, engage yourself with the community and become familiar with potential future employers. He began working within communications when he was 18 years old. Another way of getting involved, besides volunteering with uOPRA of course, is joining the Canadian Public Relations Society in Ottawa. Students can find out more about signing up with CPRSOttawa via the following link:

During our interview, professor Nahon-Serfaty also stressed the importance of social media within the PR world. Twitter, just being one example of a form of constant media and news updates, helps those within communications to stay connected and aware of changes. While he uses twitter for personal use, professor Nahon-Serfaty suggests that students follow french communications professor @LucDupont. Reminding students that the biggest challenge in PR is to stay up-to-date, therefore it is best to use the methods we have easily available to us to stay informed and updated. Finally, an excuse to check your twitter while
you’re studying!

For additional insight on how to be successful after graduation, Dr. Nahon-Serfaty
suggests that those who develop a certain expertise, whether by obtaining a masters or Ph.D in a particular area of communications, or only working in one field, usually do very well in Public Relations. Being “international” also helps. By “being international”, he means making yourself more diverse by learning other languages, becoming involved in international events and social issues (what a great “excuse” to travel!), and overall expanding your horizons. By doing so, you could open up a lot of opportunities for yourself postgraduation. A success story being seen in Isaac Nahon-Serfaty himself, being fluent in Spanish, English and French, and making his way from Venezuela to Canada. Overall, he emphasizes that Public Relations is an industry that is forever changing, and the best way
to stay on top is to keep up!

Written by: Jocelyn Courneya

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