Dr Umi Khattab

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Dr Umi Khattab


Teaching areas

  • Media Communication Theory and Research
  • Public Relations Theory and Method
  • Public Relations and News
  • Public Campaigns
  • New Media Audiences
  • Asian Media Cultures and Diaspora

Research areas

  • change campaigns and national identity
  • public relations and news
  • media and diaspora in Southeast Asia
  • refugee and asylum seeker discourses and narratives in the Australian region
  • new media audiences


Prior to joining the University of the Sunshine Coast, Umi Khattab taught and researched at the University of Melbourne where she coordinated the honours and postgraduate diploma program in media communication for almost seven years.

Umi was associate professor in communication from 1999–2003 and 2009–2011 while teaching and researching at national and regional universities in Malaysia for almost 20 years.

Umi obtained her higher education from a range of academic settings majoring in media communication and public relations.

While teaching in Malaysia, Umi wrote as a columnist for Malaysia’s mainstream English language newspaper, The New Straits Times, and continues to freelance. Some of her writings contributed to public debates and to a rethinking of social and educational policies in the country.

In recognition of her work, Umi was invited by the Malaysian Press Institute (MPI) as a national panel judge for the 2010/11 National Journalism Award.

With two colleagues, Umi recently signed a contract with Oxford University Press (OUP) for a book titled ‘Public Relations: Contemporary Perspectives’ to be completed in October 2016. At the same time, Umi is working on a proposal for a second book project on ‘Media and Race’ to be submitted to Peter Lang publishers.

Umi has actively worked in academic associations such as the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) where she served as co-chair of the Audience Section in 2002–2005 and was elected in the 2015 Montreal conference as Vice-chair of the Diaspora and Media Working Party. Umi also works actively in professional associations such as the Institute of Public Relations Malaysia (IPRM) where she is a member of the National Education Committee for Public Relations.

Umi has been leading and coordinating the Public Relations program at USC since 2012. In this capacity, she has been appointed as a member of the Tier 1 and 2 Public Relations Industry Advisory Panels. Umi was recently appointed as a member of the ‘Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Knowledges and Perspectives in Curriculum Working Party’. She is as well a member of USC’s Postgraduate Research Scholarship Selection Panel (PGRS). Umi was a nominee for the 2014 Sunshine Coast Multicultural Award.

Umi has been appointed as a full member of USC’s Indigenous Studies Research Cluster. She is currently working with a team of transdisciplinary researchers on Human–Dingo interaction led by Dr Clare Archer-Lean. She worked earlier with Bronwyn Stevens on a faculty seed grant project she led on refugee and asylum seeker policies and discourses in the Australian region.

While working in Malaysia, Umi engaged with the University of Nottingham Malaysia campus (UNMC) in a global collaborative project facilitating European knowledge transfer to Malaysian public universities.

Professional memberships

  • Australia and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA) — Individual member 2003–2015
  • Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) — Senior professional member 2003–2005; and 2012–2015; National Education committee member 2014
  • International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR), Individual member 1990–2003, Institutional member 2003–2007, Co-chair Audience and Reception Studies Section 2002–2005; elected in the 2002 Barcelona conference; Vice-chair of the Diaspora and Media Working Party elected in the 2015 Montreal conference
  • Institute of Public Relations Malaysia (IPRM) — Life member 1988–current


  • Gold Award, 2011 Research and Innovation Competition, University Malaysia Sabah (UMS), in recognition of her work on ‘Media, Identity and Change’
  • Bronze Award, 2011 Research and Innovation Competition, University Malaysia Sabah (UMS)

Potential research projects for HDR and Honours students

  • Public campaigns, change and national identity
  • Critical social theory and public relations
  • Global crises and humanitarian public relations
  • Global citizenship
  • Media and diaspora
  • Asian new(s) media theory and practice
  • New media audiences

Research grants

Project name Investigators Funding body Year Focus
The Iconic Dingo:  Valuing their Future on K'gari–Fraser Island Clare Archer-Lean and Umi Khattab Department of Science Information Technology Innovation and the Arts, Queensland (A$27,000) 2015–2016 A trans-disciplinary project led by Clare Archer-Lean. The project aims to interpret existing K’Gari-Fraser Island visitor and human-dingo interaction and understand how public and private agencies communicate messages about the dingo to all stakeholders and how stakeholders receive and act on those messages. The research identifies socio-cultural values that underpin planning for communications.
Refugee and Asylum Seeker Issues in the Australian Region:  Border Policing and Media Framing Umi Khattab University of the Sunshine Coast (Faculty seed Research Grant Award) 2013 The project comparatively examines the refugee and asylum seeker issues in the Australian region looking at approaches, policies, discourses and mediatised representations  
Kita 1Malaysia: Media and the (Re) Construction of Identity — a Case Study of Youth in Sabah. Umi Khattab (Chief Investigator), Saat Awang Damit and Suzineh Suhamdin (Partner Investigators) Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia Award 2010–2012 The project examines mass media discourses on Malaysia’s national identity transformation campaign and the ways in which audiences ‘read’ and interpret the constructed images, using Sabah as a case to engage with wider theoretical debates on global media and national identities  
European Union Knowledge Transfer Chief Investigator: Prof. Sayed Azam-Ali, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus Partner Institution Investigators: public universities and private sectors in Malaysia Represented University Malaysia Sabah (UMS), as a partner in the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC) research project 2010–2012 Research project on European knowledge transfer to Malaysian higher education sector  

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