Friday, November 21, 2014

Scholars Reflect on Success of SUSI and Post-Institute Activities

By Kate Hiller

The Study of the US Institute (SUSI) on Journalism and Media has called Athens, Ohio its home base for the last five years. Offered in the summer, this program brings 18 scholars from 18 different countries to the United States to experience journalism, media and culture. From visiting media outlets in Atlanta, Georgia the District of Columbia and San Francisco, to seeing a unique sector of American culture by visiting the Amish in Holmes County, Ohio, last summer’s SUSI scholars had a full schedule of travel and experiences – not to mention lectures and workshops designed to share journalistic practices and perspectives cross-culturally.

An annual federal grant from the US Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs totaling more than $280,000 makes it all possible. For the SUSI Journalism and Media program, this cost covers all travel, study tours, lodging, meals and incidentals and entertainment for the scholars, and allows a “book allowance” of several hundred dollars so that scholars can take educational material back to their countries.  

Not every school is handed this grant, however. The Institute for International Journalism (IIJ) at Ohio University applied for the opportunity to host scholars and organize the program. Once received, if everything ran smoothly the first year, the IIJ has renewed the grant for two three-year cycles, Associate Professor, Mary Rogus said. After the first three years, OU reapplied and received the grant again, which was automatically allotted to the school for three years. 

There are a total of nine different SUSI programs, which according to the State Department’s website, “promote a better understanding of the people, institutions, and culture of the United States among foreign students, teachers, and scholars.”

Rogus has been the Academic Director for the SUSI Journalism and Media program since Ohio University originally received the prestigious ECA grant five years ago. Her job entails putting together programming for the scholars, including everything that happens on OU’s campus, setting up trips to Cleveland and Amish country, and traveling with the scholars while they are stateside.

“The goal is to kind of build a global community of scholars,” she said. “That’s really what it’s all about, to expose them to America but also to share on a global scale knowledge and understanding. These people (are) educators, people who are going to be influencing the next generations in their countries.”

And build a global community it does.

“There are two very beneficial aspects to the SUSI experience,” Radu Meza, a 2014 SUSI scholar from Romania, said in an email. “The first would be the opportunity to visit US media institutions (both big and small) and the other is the wonderful experience of meeting with journalism educators from all over the world, establishing connections that may lead to future collaborations.”

After the SUSI program, Meza spent some time teaching in a graduate summer school in France through a partnership with his university, Paris 8 University, Westminster University and Pompeu Fabra University.

“Both in the lectures that I taught in the international graduate summer school in France and also in some of my courses which I’m teaching this semester, I’ve incorporated some of the content from the SUSI program,” he said. “More specifically, other than my direct experience with US media institutions, I’ve added some more information about the US media system (as delivered by prof. Mary Rogus) and also about media economics (as delivered by prof. Hugh Martin).”

Other SUSI scholars have also been utilizing their experiences in the program back home.

Aruna Lokuliyana, a 2014 scholar from Sri Lanka, has used some of the cultural experiences to describe and compare cultural similarities in the United States with those in Sri Lanka.

“(The) SUSI program has created a great environment to share and develop our mutual experiences related to our own country media and academic experiences with each other, and it was a very rare opportunity to me,” he said.

Though the semester started almost immediately after Lorna Chacón-Martínez’s return to Costa Rica, where she is currently teaching two courses and doing research for a new documentary.

She also coordinated with the US Embassy to arrange for her students to participate in two press conferences for the embassy.

“I was honored to be selected,” Seyf Mohamed, a scholar from Tunisia, said. “Now I have friends from around the globe with whom I am currently getting in touch on a regular basis working on various projects. Also, having new friends and meeting distinguished people was highly important to me as a scholar and a media practitioner.”

Since last summer’s program, Med has been working on a new curriculum to be taught next semester and a research article.

Lionel Brossi, a professor at the University of Chile, has been using his experiences and connections from the 2014 SUSI program a lot since returning to his country.

“I have modified the syllabus of my course of Intercultural Communication,” he wrote in an email. “Thanks to my research collaborator Dr. Yea Wen Chen, I could access to new bibliography and the syllabus of her course, from which I took some great ideas to implement.”

Among the handful of SUSI scholars from last summer who responded to email requests for information, a common idea was that, outside of lectures, the cultural tours were some of the best experiences for the scholars.

Surprisingly, though some of the bigger stops on the trip were also mentioned, the most talked about visit wasn’t to the District of Columbia or San Francisco, but to Holmes County, OH.

“What I find most interesting is to watch the scholars in Amish country,” Rogus said. “It’s so different from any of their impressions about America and Americans. It’s just this wonderful, pleasant surprise. I don’t know if it’s just that it’s totally not what they expect to find in America, but it’s just something that they really like and appreciate.”

Though media and cultural exposure and experiences were very important to the scholars, personal interactions and networking were equally, if not more, important for last year’s scholars.

“The most beneficial part of the program was meeting the faculties from OU and I hope the academic communication will continue in the future,” Shashwati Goswami, a scholar from India, said. “And the next best was to meet the other scholars from various parts of the world which enriched my knowledge of their socio-economic situation as well as the situation of media in their countries. The experience would not have been possible without SUSI.”

Friday, November 14, 2014

Remembering WWI in Europe

Growing up in the United States, you learn throughout your childhood about World War II. I’ve done a class project that required me to speak to a living witness of the war. I’ve read countless books and have seen numerous movies romanticizing The Greatest Generation. I’ve tried for countless hours without avail to make sense of the horrors of the Holocaust. I’ve memorized battle maps and names of WWII generals.

WWII was arguably the most influential war of recent times. It changed everything, and we still see its effects. But WWII couldn’t have happened had WWI not have happened. However, I have spent much less time learning about the First World War. I remember reading All Quiet on the Western Front in a high school history class. I remember spending just one lesson of a collegiate WWII class learning about WWI. I know a little about trench warfare and the introduction of modern weaponry. But that’s about it.
The Nov. 11 Memorial Ceremony at Menin Gate
draws thousands of visitors every year.

This isn’t exactly shocking. Like other countries, the United States educates its youth about the historical events that shaped its people. While we lost thousands of young people in WWI, it was nothing compared the American deaths in WWII. The United States entered WWI three years after the fighting had begun, and less than a year before it would end. Therefore, most Americans felt the destruction for a shorter period of time than the other Allied powers.

While one can’t generalize that WWI was “worse,” for Europeans, they were involved in the fighting much longer than Americans. The war started and ended in Europe. Millions of soldiers and civilians were killed in some of the harshest conditions imaginable. While America arose out of World War I as a budding superpower, the entire map of Europe was redrawn, power was redistributed, and millions of families were never the same.

Knowing all of this before moving to Belgium, I was still amazed and impressed by the respect paid here for those who lost their lives during WWI. There are memorials, museums and cemeteries everywhere. Whether you’re in a big city like Antwerp or in the Flemish countryside, you’ll pass dozens of WWI graveyards. They include the graves of not only Belgian soldiers, but other allies and German soldiers as well. The cemeteries are maintained beautifully. The graves look brand new and the landscapes are always fresh and green. Locals even “adopt,” graves for upkeep, despite having no direct relation to the deceased.

November 11 is a very poignant day for remembering WWI, as the war ended that day nearly a century ago. I was lucky enough to attend the Menin Gate Memorial Ceremony in Ypres, Belgium, which draws large crowds every November 11. The ceremony is a tradition that actually takes place every single night. Think about that. Every night service members from the area proceed through the street into the Menin Gate, to honor those who have fallen almost 100 years ago. On November 11 however, the ceremony also includes prominent politicians, nobility from around Europe, and crowds of people from all over the world.

Procession at Menin Gate Memorial Ceremony
The procession is completed, speeches and prayers are given, the bagpipes are played and much more. I will never forget the haunting chanting, “We will remember them. We will remember them.” It was absolutely beautiful.
What makes all of this so special is that WWI ended almost 100 years ago, and all the veterans have passed away. This means that thousands of Belgians and other Europeans go out of their way to honor a generation that is entirely gone. The majority of today’s young people have never met a WWI vet, but still appreciate their services and honor them out of tradition. It’s not just Belgians either. During weekend trips to England, the Netherlands and Germany, I saw the same graveyards and memorials.

It’s poignant as well to be able to stand on the actual battlefields themselves. There are numerous historical sites that are still provincial and agricultural. Some fields look exactly as you’d imagine them to look during WWI. To this day, farmers still find old boots and army helmets in their land.

I have never experienced such mourning and honor for the veterans of WWI. It is truly magnificent. While the history of it is extremely interesting, what I’ve learned the most from this is respect and remembrance. I hope we all can do the same for the next generations of veterans once they leave us completely.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

It's a Woman's World

By: Zainab Kandeh 
Produced & Edited By: Olivia Harlow
At only 43 years old the United Arab Emirates may be one of the newest countries on the map but when it comes to empowering women they stand at the front of the line.

In September of 2014, Major Miriam Al Mansouri became the first female fighter pilot to fly an F-16 fighter jet in the UAE when she led an air strike against ISIL. While Major Al Mansouri’s achievement may open doors for more women in the military her success is a testament to the many successes enjoyed by women in the UAE.
© TheNational UAE
The UAE holds one of the world’s highest literacy rates for women, host women in high-ranking positions including government roles and advocates for the equal treatment of men and women. Though women have been called the backbone of society, popular media portrayals often cast a shadow over the advancement of women in the Middle East and often illustrate a story of oppression.
Words of Wisdom
Legal Consultant and co-founder of the Women Lawyers Group Middle East, Raya Abu Gulal said that while it is heartbreaking to here such misconceptions, it is important for people to remember that no one place is alike, especially in the Middle East.

“The world should understand that women in the Arab world have accomplished a lot,” Abu Gulal said. “First of all, women from the Middle East are different and they are not all the same. Different countries in the Middle East have different traditions and interpretation of religious matters.”
Islam and the veil that many women wear has also contributed to the notion that women in the Middle East are oppressed, however, Applied Communication Chair of the Higher Colleges of Technology’s Dubai Women’s College, Nada Altaher, said she hopes that people will learn to view the veil in another manner.
“I know that my veil sends different messages,” Altaher said.  “I am covering my head but I am not covering my mind.  Whatever I am wearing does not represent my personality and my thinking and who I am as a person. Despite all the differences, I think at the end of the day we’re all human and we should not be prejudice.”
Diversity and Opportunity
Boosting a population of over five million, the UAE is predominantly made up of expatriates.  According to the CIA, only 19 percent of the total populations are Emirati while Arab, Iranian, South Asian and other expatriates make up the majority of the population. Rich in more resources than just oil, the UAE is becoming a country of opportunity for expatriates looking for new experiences.

Australia native and Head of Corporate Communications at Supreme Group, Carissa Crowley, said that she very much appreciates the diversity that the UAE has to offer as well as the opportunities.
“Women occupy some very leading positions in the government,” Crowley said. “There’s a lot of female CEOs here and they’re very respected and I am not just talking about Emirati CEOs. There are a lot of Arab CEOs and Western CEOs in good positions and I think the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, he really pushes women to be entrepreneurs and he pushes them to hold management positions. I think from a business perspective the [UAE] is full of opportunity. If you come here and you have education and ambition you can really make something. There’s a lot of government support for businesses to survive and to thrive.”
You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile
© Mina Liccione
One entrepreneur thriving from her business plan to bring joy to others is Dubai’s first lady of comedy, Mina Liccione. A native of New York City, Liccione, moved to Dubai in 2008 and soon after she and her husband opened the first comedy and urban arts school, Dubomedy Arts, in the Middle East and North African region. Though at first the idea of comedy was not well received after much persistence and determination, Liccione’s dream to help others smile has paid off. A multitalented artist and instructor, Liccione said that one of her greatest duties comes from empowering women through comedy.

“I was able to create the first comedy and urban arts school in the MENA Region and use my love for comedy as a tool to bring people of diverse cultural, religious and financial backgrounds together for a laugh all while empowering women’s comedic voices,” Liccione said. “I took a leap of faith in moving here because I believed I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to build something meaningful. It’s not very often that women get a chance to talk about their flaws, and mistakes, in public. We naturally want to show our best self to the world. Comedy allows us to be honest and laugh about it!”
The Sky Is Not The Limit
Empowering one another is a common goal that many women in the UAE share. Assistant Manager of Knowledge Management, Hanan Al Muhairi, founded an organization called Arybana to do just that. In what translates to, Our Right to Ride, Arybana originally began as a female horse riding team but has now grown to become an non-profit organization focused on enriching the UAE community especially on Women’s issues.

Proud of her heritage as an Emirati woman, Al Muhairi said that with the great accomplishments that women in the UAE have made the future can only continue to get brighter.
© Hana Al Muhairi
“The UAE as a country has given women so many support that women now are lawyers, doctors, directors and even government ministers,” Al Muhairi said. “I would say nothing is impossible for Emirati women. If they have strong will and determination, for us, the sky is not the limit.”

Coffee in the Clouds and the Life Worth Living

By: Chad Weisman
Produced & Edited By: Zainab Kandeh

Kfir Shoshana shows up to Coffee Annan long before the first tour buses and day-trippers glide up the side of Mt. Bental to look eastward over the Valley of Tears. He flicks on the lights in the wood-paneled shop, warms up the espresso machines, grinds up the beans, and “make the bakery. [sic]”

“Like heaven,” says Shoshana, the manager of the mountaintop cafe. “When you get up in the morning, you can see the clouds—a clear view.”

Coffee Annan translates into English as ‘Coffee in the Clouds.’ It is a play upon the name of the former U.N. Secretary General
Clouds and Conflict
Mt. Bental is less than 2 miles west of the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) Zone, a buffer between Syria and Israel on the eastern cusp of the Golan Heights. Tourists on Bental can hear the clamor of explosions, and see the roiling clouds of smoke hovering over distant Damascus, where civil war has raged for the last three and a half years.The peak’s Arabic name, “Jabal al-Gharam,” translates into English as “Mountain of Lust,” and reflects a roundly divergent perspective on the place. Lush vegetation extends across the Valley of Tears, which was the site of a major tank battle of the Yom Kippur War. The greenery ends abruptly at the Syrian border.

© CiF Watch
“It is very nice to work here, but we hope that the border will be quiet sometime soon,” said Shoshana.

Two days earlier, Israel shot down a Syrian plane as it entered airspace over the Northeastern Golan Heights. The employees of Coffee Annan were too busy working to witness the altercation firsthand.

“We hear the bomb, we go outside, we see the cloud of smoke,” Shoshana said with a kind of offhand stoicism; he is adept at describing a situation without painting a picture.

“It is a little bit disturb,” he said. “We hear the bombs all the time. We don’t afraid because we have a good army, but we hear all the time bombs. It is disturb to hear the war.”

It is quite amazing the resilience of Israelis,” said Gili Houpt, a tour guide from New Jersey, who has summited Mt. Bental many times since moving to Israel in 2010. “When there’s an air raid siren, they run to the bomb-shelter, but a few minutes later—after the ‘all clear’—they go out and continue with their lives.”

There are no monuments on Mt. Bental—at least not to any individual. In October 1973, after being attacked on the holiest day of the Hebrew calendar, 3,000 Israeli troops faced 28,000 Syrians in the Valley of Tears. It is estimated that the 100 Israeli tanks in operation were outnumbered 12-to-1. By emerging victorious—at a tremendous human cost on both sides—Israel retained control of the Golan Heights, a source of freshwater and defense from Syrian and Lebanese rocket-fire.
Scattered around the mountaintop are scraps from the wreckage of ruined weaponry, since converted into large works of art—presented as emblems of continuous renewal. The trenches used during the Yom Kippur War remain, and tourists can pace among the scattered silhouettes of posturing cutout soldiers fashioned from recycled metal, all while enjoying a hot latte or espresso.

“It’s not just a historical place,” said Houpt. “It’s also a place of tourism, and in Israel every place of tourism is also connected with the history; the history of Israel cannot be separated from the military aspect.”

Home is Where The Heart Feels Safe
© Coffee Anan Restaurant

Coffee Annan is owned and operated by Kibbutz Merom Golan, an agricultural-industrial settlement replete with a “Resort Village…suitable for couples and families.” Merom Golan was founded in July 1967, shortly after the Six-Day War. Residents cultivate a range of crops including apples, pears, kiwi, cherries, and mangos. The kibbutz also farms livestock, and houses Bental Industries, which supplies “power and motion components… for industrial applications, defense, and aviation platforms,” like Boeing, I.B.M., and the Israeli Defense Force.
The kibbutz is classified as an illegal settlement under Article 49 of the Geneva Convention. Israel opts instead to term the settlements in the Golan, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem ‘administered territories,’ thereby denying the declaration of the international community.
Merom Golan resident Joanne Klein, a British transplant working for the kibbutz’s tourism department, is proud to live in Merom Golan. “It’s a small community,” she said. “We have a great life. We have four seasons... It’s an amazing part of the country to live in.”

Klein resents the international community’s classification of her home.

“The U.N. is a waste of space,” she said. “Syrians have been killing their own people for the last three years, Iran is trying to make a bomb and kill us… The U.N. has not done anything to solve serious problems, but when Israel defends itself because Hamas has been sending bombs… then the U.N. has to investigate.”

Much of Kfir Shoshana’s family lives in Beersheba, in the northern Negev. When the city came under rocket fire from Gaza this summer, he feared for them, but was forced to focus on the day-to-day operation of Coffee Annan.

“It can be pretty hard in the land of Israel,” he said. “Sometimes it’s difficult to open this place—to bring the water, to bring electricity. Sometimes it snows; we have winter here. It is not a normal place, but this is what I like.”

Kfir served in the I.D.F. from 1997-2001, fighting in the Second Intifada in 2000-2001. His children live with him and his wife on the kibbutz.
“We’re just living our lives,” says Joanne Klein. “We get up in the morning, we take our kids to school, we work; it’s just like anywhere else. We only worry about the other side because it affects our lives. We don’t affect their lives. One week a bomb was sent over our neighborhood, and my children had to run from it. I know of no reason why a child should ever have to live through that.”

The Young Victims
Five hundred thirteen children are estimated to have died in Gaza between July 8 and August 26, 2014 during “Operation Protective Edge,” Israel’s most recent campaign in the exclave region.

On October 22, a Palestinian terrorist killed a 3-month-old American infant named Chaya Zissel by vehicular homicide. Her death came only 6 days after West Bank youth Bahaa Badr, 13, was shot and killed by IDF on October 16 outside of Ramallah. Badr was only 3 years younger than East Jerusalem teen Muhammed Abu Kdheir, 16, who was burned alive on July 2 to avenge the kidnapping of three Israeli teens—Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gilad Shaer, 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19—who were killed on the morning of June 12 while hitchhiking to their homes.