Seyoum Alemu at George Washington University

Unity University, Cox Center Representatives Outline Outcomes of Two-Year Collaboration

A summer of collaborative activity between Unity University College in Ethiopia and the University of Georgia culminated in August with a presentation by representatives of both academic units in a meeting in Washington.

Seyoum Alemu, a professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at Unity, and Dr. Lee B. Becker, a professor in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, told academics from around the world that they had accomplished much in their collaboration, but that the efforts were hampered by a number of persistent problems as well.

Among the accomplishments, the pair said, was development of a new curriculum for a degree program in journalism by Unity, creation of a web product for Unity's School of Journalism and Communication, and a strengthening of Unity's outreach program to include instruction for working communication professions.

The collaborative efforts were made more difficult, the pair said, by persistent problems of communication resulting largely from the inadequacy of the communication infrastructure of Ethiopia, by turnover in the leadership and staff of the journalism program at Unity, and by a lack of support in Ethiopia for a free and independent media system. The program also lacked adequate funding for equipment and was adversely affected by instability of the educational and training policy of Ethiopia, they said.

The presentation was to Synergy in Development 2003, the fifth annual meeting of partners in projects funded by the Association Liaison Office for University Cooperation in Development (ALO). The meeting was held August 6 to 8 at the Fairmont Hotel in Washington.

The presentation by Prof. Alemu and Dr. Becker was at the end of a flourish of activities that included travel to the U.S. by Dr. Eyayu Lulseged, academic vice president of Unity, and Prof. Seyoum Alemu, a faculty member in the School of Journalism and Communication at Unity, and travel to Ethiopia by Dr. Melinda Robins of Emerson College.

These activities were undertaken as the wrap-up of a two-year collaboration between Unity and the University of Georgia supported by a grant from with funding from USAID.

The project at the University of Georgia is housed in the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, a unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. Dr. Becker is director of the Cox Center.

Dr. Eyayu, who oversees the whole academic operation of Unity, spent two weeks in late June and early July visiting with academic and media leaders in Georgia and Washington, D.C. Included were visits to Piedmont College's campuses in Athens and Demorest, Georgia, Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, American University in Washington, and the University of Georgia. At Piedmont, Clark Atlanta, and American, Dr. Eyayu met with journalism faculty and toured the facilities.

At the University of Georgia, Dr. Eyayu met with Grady College Dean John Soloski and Associate Dean Dean Krugman as well as with the heads of the Journalism Department and the Advertising and Public Relations Department. He also Visited the Department of Management in the Terry College of Business and met with Dr. Akinloye Ojo and Dr. Lioga Moshi at theAfrican Studies Institute.

Dr. Eyayu also was interviewed by Dr. Ojo for the program, African Perspectives, which is broadcast byWUGA radio. During the interview, Dr. Eyayu talked about the work of Unity and about the collaboration with the Cox Center and the Grady College.

Dr. Eyayu also visited the UGA independent student daily,The Red & Black, the Athens Banner-Herald, the daily newspaper serving Athens, and CNN in Atlanta. At CNN, Dr. Eyayu had the opportunity to meet with the staff of the African desk and discuss coverage of Africa.

In Washington, Dr. Eyayu visited theVoice of America, where he met those responsible for the broadcast services for Ethiopia, and the <.

"Everything is dependent on the government in Ethiopia," Dr. Eyayu told Dr. John Doolittle of the School of Communication at American University. "It is important to have independent institutions like Unity University College."

"We are developing this program (in journalism) not because it is profitable," Dr. Eyayu told Andrew Cohen at theInternational Center for Journalists, "but because there is a need."

Dr. Robins, an associate professor in the Department of Journalism at Emerson College in Boston, spent three weeks at Unity in July teaching a short course on civic journalism and helping to finalize the curriculum for the new bachelor's degree.

The trip was the last of a series of trips made over the two-year project by Dr. Robins, Dr. Elizabeth Roushanzamir of the Grady College, and Dr. Becker to help the school strengthen its journalism curriculum. Unity University College is the first independent institution of higher education in Ethiopia, and the first non-governmental school to offer a diploma in journalism. During the course of the project, that two-year diploma program was converted to a three-year degree program.

In the short course, Dr. Robins introduced students to the concept of civic journalism and discussed its importance to building civil society. Students were sent into the field to do a "civic map" of various neighborhoods, focusing on the problems and aspirations of ordinary people rather than information from government officials.

Each student worked on a story idea, obtaining background information and interviewing sources. Stories ranged from the personal tales of prostitutes to a unique Orthodox Church music school for destitute kindergartners. At the end of the project, students laid out and pasted up a four-page publication called "Our Addis."

On previous visits, the team from the Cox Center taught short courses to journalism professionals on such topics as media management, student-centered learning, communication with text and visuals, and the basics of design and layout. They also gave lectures and led discussions in ongoing classes on news reporting and writing, interviewing, and advertising design and copywriting. In addition, they worked with Unity faculty to discuss program development and with administrators in applying for funding from outside sources to support the journalism program.

Dr. Robins has traveled and worked extensively in Africa. She was a newspaper journalist and a government public information specialist before earning her doctorate in the Grady College at the University of Georgia. Her dissertation work in Tanzania was supported by the Cox Center.

Seyoum Alemu, who teaches radio journalism at Unity, spent nearly three weeks in the U.S. in late July and early August. During that time, he visited the University of Georgia, attended the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in Kansas City, and attended theALO Synergy meeting in Washington.

While at the University of Georgia, Prof. Alemu observed in classes, met with faculty and students, visited the student daily, The Red & Black, and toured the facilities of the Grady College and the University, paying particular attention to the laboratories used to teach broadcast journalism. Prof. Alemu also attended a budget meeting at the local daily, the Athens Banner-Herald, and visited the news operation of Southern Broadcasting in Athens.

Dr. Roushanzamir and Cox Center Research Assistant Nancy Mace presented Prof. Alemu a working copy of the web page they had designed for the School of Journalism and Communication at Unity and explained how these resources can be used to allow students the opportunity to create print and broadcast web products.

At the meeting in Kansas City, Prof. Alemu attended sessions on a wide range of topics, including several focusing on broadcast journalism. The meeting brings together journalism educators from around the country for discussion of research and teaching issues in various phases of journalism. The conference also hosts a book display, where Dr. Alemu selected texts that were ordered for Unity as part of the ALO project.

Prior to the ALO meeting in Washington, Prof. Alemu visited George Washington University, American University, and Howard University, where he met with broadcast journalism faculty members and toured the facilities used to teach broadcast students. He also visited the Voice of America.

Prof. Alemu said he was surprised and impressed with the equipment available to students in the journalism programs he visited. "I visited CNN. I visited American University. If you think quality-wise, both are the same. It surprised me in the sense that whatever available recent equipment is in the country, it is in the schools."

In the presentation at the >ALO meeting in Washington, Prof. Alemu and Dr. Becker said the collaboration between Unity and the Grady College had provided the "faculty and the leadership at Unity new ways of looking at professional education." They also said that the Grady College had gained, through the insights of learning about the challenges facing Unity and Ethiopia.

"The Cox Center is committed to continue to work with Unity University College," Dr. Becker said, indicating that the Center would seek funding to assist with future collaborations.