Bachelor of Arts

Graduate Achiever - Mitchell Hobbs

Two weeks into his job as the then prime minister Julia Gillard's PR man in her Victorian electorate of Lalor, Mitchell Hobbs found himself sitting next to the PM in a government car advising her on how she should approach radio heavy Alan Jones.

The University Of Newcastle lecturer, who had not long completed his PhD at Newcastle when he joined Gillard's entourage in January 2011, had been immersing himself in the intrigue of Australian politics for years. And he was in his element.

He brought with him a heady mix of research-fuelled "arrogance" – his word – and PR inexperience.

 "I really had to pinch myself," he laughs. 

He speaks of his former boss in the most glowing terms, describing Julia Gillard as compassionate and intelligent.

"She is very warm, she never lost her temper, was never fazed or rattled," he says.

"She always acknowledged the people she worked with and had amazing leadership skills.

"There was an order and purpose to everything she did.

"And she really does knit,'' he affirms after witnessing her presenting a handmade baby gift to a staff member.

Mitchell HobbsWhen Mitchell's partner was offered a job at a big Sydney law firm the decision was made to head back East after only a year with the PM.

And so it is that he is back teaching and researching in Newcastle.

Mitchell grew up in Albury-Wodonga and did a Bachelor of Arts at La Trobe University majoring in Sociology, Politics and Psychology.

His PhD in Sociology was awarded by the University of Newcastle in 2010 with his doctoral dissertation, Paper Cuts: Media Bias, the Iraq War and the Politics of Rupert Murdoch, lauded for its contribution to media sociology and communication studies.

"It was a massive commitment," Mitchell reflects on his PhD, adding that one of the highlights of this period was presenting a conference paper at the University of Auckland in 2008.

"It was an exciting time, to be among scholars and intellectuals from around the world. There was a smorgasbord of ideas," he enthuses.

Such passion is now passed on to Mitchell's students at Newcastle, and he says he, too, stands to gain from the experience.

"Einstein said, 'You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandparents'. Well, the same applies to undergrads," he says.

"Teaching is a great way to consolidate and refine your thinking."

Mitchell regards himself as somewhat of an "intellectual mercenary", having taught for Communications, Cultural Studies, and now Sociology with a specific focus on the media and politics.

"A large part of it is inspiring students and giving them problem-solving abilities," he says, adding that is supremely satisfying to "see the penny drop" in his first-year Sociology classes.

Having been a student not so long ago, Mitchell's message to prospective undergrads is clear and simple.

"Challenge yourself; you will only get out of university what you put in.

"Your knowledge will expand and you must treat what you don't know as a problem-solving exercise.

"Push yourself. In first-year uni my, and my housemates', motto was the Daft Punk-inspired Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.''

There was a friendly rivalry that meant good grades were posted on the lounge room walls as a challenge to the others.

Mitchell also stresses the importance of "embracing the other side" of uni life.

"I even joined the ultimate Frisbee club when I was a student. I love that uni still has these things. It enriches the experience.

"You will start to find people who are interested in the same things. The friends you make during study will be friends for life.

"It all helped me grow intellectually."

Aside from teaching, Mitchell's research continues in earnest.

His primary focus in the short term will be on media power and its ability to affect politics, society and culture, aided by the proliferation of modern-day platforms.