Alumni Spotlight : Tanya Pobuda

Meet Tanya Pobuda, an MPC alumna pursuing her PhD at Ryerson.

By: Andreea Mihai, MPC2017

Image of Tanya Pobouda
Tanya Pobuda explores educational games. Credit: Andreea Mihai, MPC2017

You’re an MPC grad with industry experience as both a journalist and a communication professional and you’re currently pursuing a PhD in Communication and Culture at Ryerson University. What led you to this point in your career?

Getting a Master’s degree was always something I meant to do. I was beginning to see more jobs that required a Master’s degree so I thought it was finally time to make the investment. I had to tear my basement storage room apart looking for old school essays to support the application. I found one that was written on an old Apple 512K (a little clue about how long I’ve been out of school). As it turns out, I really loved Ryerson, so I decided to stick around for the PhD.

Your MRP considered how educational games can help nursing students learn and prepare for real life situations. Can you tell us a bit more about your research?

I did a contract a while ago at Toronto Public Health that I enjoyed, and got interested in how healthcare and public health training was delivered. I believe that when you combine resonant messaging, visuals and sound with interactivity, you have an extremely powerful communicative tool. That’s the magic of digital games. Games can make you feel happy, sad, frustrated, elated, scared, proud.

I found these two incredible learning games created by visionary nursing educators at George Brown, Centennial and Ryerson, and the production team at Chang School. One, Post-Op Pediatric Clinical Simulation, was about caring for a post-operative child who has just had his appendix out. The second game, Therapeutic Communication and Mental Health Assessment: A Home Visit, was about visiting the boy’s mom after the surgery because she seems stressed and scared.

I watched two teenage boys fighting over a mouse for a chance to play A Home Visit at a conference, and I knew I needed to study these games. My MRP focused on how the games were made and whether they included design aspects as are contained in a framework created by Dr. Leonard Annetta, a Taft Distinguished Professor, and serious game maker himself.

How did your MRP influence the research you’re hoping to do in your PhD?

I’m still studying learning games but not strictly those in healthcare. I am interested in how these serious games can produce positive emotions that enhance information retention and achievement of learning outcomes. In particular, the capacity to teach prosocial behaviours, and potentially expand empathy using virtual reality persuasive video games or games that are designed to promote personal reflection and introspection.

How did the MPC program prepare you for doing the PhD?

The theory course taught by Dr. Jean Mason is an absolute lifesaver right now, I am so glad I never missed a class and did all of my readings. Dr. John Shiga’s cross-cultural course about different cultural ways of knowing is something I think about a lot too. It reminded us how important it is to think and act with care and informed empathy for others in everything we do as communicators.


Board game or video game?

Don’t make me choose… right now I’m so busy, I just sneak in a game of Qwixx, a dice game, or a German game called (boringly) The Game, a card game, just before a quick meal with my partner.

Tea or coffee?

The Aeropress Pilot coffee my partner makes me every morning.

Favorite place to eat in Toronto?

There are so many good places. Right now we are really fond of Burgers’ Priest, Stockyards, La Cubana, Hamaru Sushi and Abbott Pub at Yonge and Lawrence.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t know how to do something? Google it. (Or go to Ryerson).