Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Beyond Cultural Boundaries

By Agnes Jacob-Nepomuceno, Philippines (SUSI scholar 2014)
“The ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and moments of convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and moments of controversy.”
 – Martin Luther King Jr.
If the renowned icon of American Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., had lived his life of service for others as a key player in advancing equality between white and black people during his time, “ he played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of African –American citizens in the South and other areas of United States from the mid 1950s to 1968,” (; everyone in the present time is also called to fulfill same noble mission of  Luther, who received Nobel Peace Price in 1964, by bravely standing up for equality and truth in order to bring order and peace in a world that is beset with gigantic issues, challenges, conflicts that come in various shapes and sizes.

My journey for this 5-week cultural study; I owe much to the United States of America through the Scholarship for the United States Institute for Journalism and Media is a fulfillment of a dream of achieving the pinnacle of professional growth and competence as an educator, journalist, and broadcaster working for a premiere state-run university serving a region of six provinces, a developing and yet promising progressive nation, the Philippines.

The SUSI 2014 PROGRAM is full-packed with a series of holistic academic activities and cultural exposure that tickled the intellectual minds and expanded the band of interest and excitement of scholars from across 18 countries; a world representation of carefully selected media professionals from Russia, Costa Rica, Zambia, Hong Kong, Finland, Australia, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, India, Romania, Sri Lanka, Kuwait, Sudan, Malawi, Tunisia, Chile, and Philippines. A gathering of brilliant professionals with distinct cultural background and unique personality is one of the outstanding achievement by the U.S. an icon of democracy and the host of SUSI scholarship by being instrumental in forming and bringing together a group of scholars; thus provided a network of cultural sharing of opportunities for future collaboration in dyad forms; either by formal association (professional ties) and informal (continuing friendship) in a wired world or by actual visits to the member countries of the program.

Certainly the SUSI program provided the scholars with an exponential growth of knowledge; a wisdom that is strongly built and embedded in everyone´s memory and heart; oozing out with enthusiasm of going back to one´s country and transfer and share the information and experiences gained to hundreds of young minds eagerly awaiting for their comeback.

The scholarship administrator, Ohio University through the International Institute of Journalism, has been successful in bringing to the session room a number of practically experienced and seasoned media practitioners and educators who definitely rocked the intellectual bank of scholars who were passionate to learn newest inputs on media practices in America vis-à-vis educational thoughts and practices that would help the scholars further understand their deeper and significant roles in training and preparing youths who will be tomorrow´s builder of informed society and keeper and guardians of the crucial role and place of media in the world.

The 2014 SUSI SUMMER days rolled by smoothly from day 1 to the last 10 days as of the writing of this piece before the conclusion of the 5-week exchange visit program. On academic note, theories and practical applications made during the long hours of session were found to be mind-boggling, physically challenging, and yet intellectually satisfying. To research enthusiasts, the teachings and discussions on rigors of research was helpful, inspiring and challenging not to mention the role play activity that served as wake-up call particularly on seeing the realities that universities must adapt to in teaching Journalism and MEDIA. That students in communication schools must not only be led towards mastery of domestic issues that occur in one´s country but must go beyond borders and understand international issues that affect the world in its entirety. Certainly, lessons on international relations, laws, politics, economics, and ethics must be seriously taught to maintain the communication competence of media personalities as reliable sources of information by the people and whose sensitive news performance is crucial in shaping the decision-making and action of every man.

The Director of Ohio University, International Institute of Journalism (IIJ), Dr. Yusuf Kalyango, fanned the intellectual pressure among the scholars by assigning Peace Conflict Cases among four (4) small groups.  The task required peaceful resolution of conflicts, which along the process of brainstorming challenged each individual’s take on the issues. But giving PEACE a chance consequently made the system’s theory work with the activity, which placed   greater emphasis on the premise that “the whole is better than its parts.”

On a lighter note, if the term justifies it so, the task to handle the CASE STUDY CONFLICT activity was assigned to me by Dr. K.  And while I was also required to present my own country’s peace conflict issue, a 40 years old armed conflict in the Philippines (available by email: When Martin Luther King’s struggled in his time to realize his dreams for racial emancipation, through his historical speech, I HAVE A DREAM, all of us have our own share of LONG WALK TO FREEDOM AND PEACE.
 “….and when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”  (Full text, I Have a Dream Speech:
When I was made to experience with the real working of PEACE CONFLICT, by placing me in a challenging role, which, of course, required studying the two different peace issues that the SUSI scholars were also dealing with.  Paradoxically, I was really fighting a personal peace disturbance issue on the same day and exact hours of the scholars’ role-play, when my hometown was being hit by a super typhoon that had its strong landfall in the very city where I live. And when worries further snowballed when electricity and communication services were downed by furious winds and heavy rains.  But life-threatening and personal issues back home didn’t have to stand in the way.  The show must go on and in the end; it did turn out well.

Thus:  “The ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and moments of convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and moments of controversy,” really made sense to me at the very moment when I had to perform my special task as a CASE STUDY MANAGER for the given activity.

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